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Mutai ready for World Cross Championships

Geoffrey Mutai

Geoffrey Mutai

Winning at the event rated as the toughest cross-country race on the planet brings with it excess baggage of expectation at the subsequent World Cross Country Championships.

Eliud Kipchoge (2004 and 2005), Moses Masai (2006), Gideon Ngatuny (2008), Moses Mosop (2007 and 2009) and Paul Tanui last year have all captured the imagination of the distance running world by topping the senior men 12km race of the IAAF Permit/KCB National Cross Country Championships.

They arrived at the Mombasa, Edinburgh, Amman and Poland World Cross editions with the favourite tag affixed in their luggage only to leave there without the main prize. It took Joseph Ebuya, third place at last year’s event to finally break the decade long race individual gold duck in Poland last year.

In Geoffrey Mutai, the winner of Saturday’s show stopper at Nairobi’s Uhuru Garden however, the recent trend of local winners failing to crow at the World Cross could come to an end at the March 20 global showdown in Spain.

Dominant victory

His dominant 44 second victory over an equally potent Matthew Kisorio was a throwback to the days when John Ngugi (1986), Paul Tergat (1992, 1995, 1996 and 2000), William Sigei (1993 and 1994) signalled what was to come at the ensuing World Cross.

“I won today and it looked easy but it was a tough race and in the end, it was all about the tactics,” Mutai humbly offered as a mark of respect to the quality field he had reduced to rubble in 34:35.0. They could not claim it was not coming. At the last KCB/AK weekend cross meeting in Iten on January 8, Mutai breezed the course in 37:05.3, 47 seconds ahead of Philemon Rono (37:52.3) who finished fourth on Saturday to earn his place in the national team.

A week later at the Kenya Police championships (January 15), Mutai once again led Rono to the altar with the timers returning 37:26.0 against 37:51.6, a 25 second advantage.

To get a rough idea of how enormous Mutai’s winning margins are, Kenenisa Bekele, the record Ethiopian World Cross senior champion bagged his sixth title in Edinburgh with a close three-second lead against Leonard Komon (34:38 versus 34:41).

Elite field

Mutai, 29, has established himself as on of the best all round athlete. In addition to his Rotterdam effort that was only bettered by a second (2:04:54) by Patrick Makau, Mutai won the lucrative Ras Al Khaimah half in a fast 59:43, took Sotokoto Safari Marathon, raced 27:33.83 in attitude for bronze in 10000m at African Championships, finished runner-up (2:05:10) again to Makau at Berlin Marathon before closing his 2010 with victory at the Delhi Half in a blistering 58:38 in November.

Having been named in the Punta Umbria World Cross team, Mutai is also lined-up for the April 18 Boston Marathon where he has been named at the elite field. “I want to make the most out of my career in the time when I will be in top shape. My training programme is quite different from what others do since I work to keep in shape for many events,” he said.

It is for this reason that he asked Athletics Kenya (AK) to give him leave from the national team’s training camp so that his unique training regime at his Iten base is not disrupted. Speaking to FeverPitch yesterday, AK general secretary poured cold water on Mutai’s request saying, “It’s impossible, that can never happen. Cross Country is a team sport and he must report to camp like all others on Thursday. We have trained great cross country runners like Tergat and Ngugi in Kigari and we do not want to set precedent with Mutai as other athletes will want the same and that will not foster team work.”

source TheStandard

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