The TATA Steel Kolkatta 25k will see some formidable elite runners on the track. Capt Seshadri Sreenivasan, profiles two of the top runners who will be running with you this year. 

The top runners in the male and female categories are Kenenisa Bekele from Ethiopia and Helah Kiprop from Kenya respecitively.

The master of track, road and cross country- Bekele

And now the marathon too!

Kenenisa Bekele was born on June 13, 1982 in Ethiopia, famed for its long distance runners. Starting as a junior in cross country, in 2001, he outran the pack at the IAAF World Junior Cross Country championships, beating the existing time by 33 seconds. He never had to look back. Later the same year, he broke the 3,000 m world junior record in Brussels and won gold at the 15 k road race in the Netherlands, establishing himself as the master on all three surfaces. He dominated the cross country running scene for a full five years, from 2002 to 2006, winning the short and long course events, unmatched by any other runner before or since. His tally of 19 medals in the junior and senior events established him as the true master of cross country.

At the age of 32, when most runners would be contemplating retirement, Kenenisa made his marathon debut in Paris in April 2014, bettering the course record as well as the time for a debut marathon, beating the performances of legends like countryman Gebrselassie and current greats Wanjiru and Tergat.  A persistent Achilles tendon injury forced him out of competition during 2015, but he returned to competition at the 2016 London Marathon. Running at way below 100% fitness, he finished third in a time of 2:06:36 behind Eluid Kipchoge and Stanley Biwott. During this gruelling race, already hampered by injury, his designated pacemakers further added to his woes by using up his drinks at five refreshment stations. In the Berlin Marathon of 2016, he timed in at 2:03:03, the second fastest marathon ever run and a personal best for himself.

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The secrets to Kenenisa’s running ability are his long strides, high cadence and superb running style. His acceleration over the last lap is legendary, at times covering the final 400 m in a little over 50 seconds and the last 200 m in as low as 24 seconds. His low weight reinforces the theory of focussing on calorific quality than on quantity. Having been born in a village in the mountains, he also had a natural advantage of practising in a rarefied atmosphere. Bekele had an explosive ‘kick’, the result of fast paced training, consisting of a series of intense runs, broken by short periods of rest. Running hard uphill and recovering on the down slope equipped him with tremendous stamina and endurance.

When not beating the world in marathons, he is busy in Addis Ababa, constructing a hotel and a stadium to help the younger generation of Ethiopians train in world class facilities. Kenenisa now comes to the TS25K Kolkata, as the current world and Olympic record holder over the 5,000m and 10,000 m.

No half measures

21.1 km. 67:39 minutes. 42.2 km. 2:27:29 hours.

Helah Kiprop Jelagat, Kenya’s leading woman distance runner found her calling in road racing after a few attempts on the track. Born on April 7, 1985, she began her training with Italian athletics club GS Valsugana Trentino, winning her first 10 km road race in 2005 in 32:55. Her half marathon debut at Lille in September the same year, saw her finish on the podium, in third place in 74:02. The year 2007 saw her earn successes in the 15 km road race and she won the Tuskys Wareng Cross Country in her home country, Kenya, in 2008.

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Kiprop’s performances started improving after 2009, when she clinched a series of road victories, competing in the half marathon and 10k races. 2010 was a year of second place finishes, mainly in Europe, with a personal best of 32:20 in the Odele 10k, while 2011 was a year of almost nil participation.

The Berlin Half Marathon 2012 saw her return to competitive athletics, the year she travelled to South America for the first time for the Bogota Half Marathon. November found her in India for the first time, for the Delhi Half Marathon, in which she finished a close third. The following year, her creditable performances in the Egmond and RAK Half marathons and her win in the Berlin Half Marathon, earned her an invite to her first full marathon in Berlin. She debuted with a time of 2:28:02 which earned her fourth place and kickstarted her foray into the 42.2. The year ended with another visit to India, with a gold in the Kochi Half Marathon.

Her first full marathon came in Seoul, where she ran her best time of 2:27:29, fighting for top spot over the last few kilometres against her rival Ashu Kasim. She is back in India for her third race, the TSK25 Kolkata, this December.

Helah Kiprop is coached by her husband David Marus, who is an acknowledged expert on nutrition and running. Helah’s trains at Iten in Kenya, often spending her off season outside. Her farm provides with her with all her training requirements; she even has her own cow that provides her with milk.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

Capt Seshadri Sreenivasan is a former armed forces officer with over 30 years experience in marketing. He also a consulting editor with a leading publishing house. He is a co-author of the best selling biography of astronaut Sunita Williams

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