Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Richard Kiplagat on Kenyan Elections: Part 3 of 3

In this final installment of our interview about the post-election violence in Kenya, Richard Kiplagat talks about the role of Kenyan runners in helping to reunify their country.

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Intro photos by Toby Tanser. Intro music by Nick+Gerald. Outro music by Amaryoni.

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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Christopher Cheboiboch: “I’m waiting for a big day in Boston”

Christpher Cheboiboch is a full-time resident of Iten, where KIMbia’s Kenya camp is located. He runs a primary academy and owns businesses in the town, including Iten’s only gas station. On Monday, he’ll attempt to improve upon his second-place finish at the 20002 Boston Marathon.

Christopher Cheboiboch before the 2007 Chicago Marathon. You’re a resident of Iten and a business owner there. How was that affected by the post-election violence?
After December, it was really hard for everyone in Kenya for the next two months.

Did you close your academy?
We opened late by two weeks, because we could not take any chances. Once we resumed, everything was okay.

Were any of your properties or businesses targeted by the rioters?
No. If you talk with people all the time and are nice with them in your dealings, then you will be okay. In Iten, none of my colleagues or me were targeted. Iten is mostly Kalenjin, so things were not too bad for me in Iten.

How was your training affected?
At first you’re asking yourself, “What is going to happen tomorrow?” You see that people are rioting, that roads are being blocked and people are very angry about the stolen rights after voting for a change. I can say we were lucky in Iten because the KIMbia group, we have a camp there, and my home is there, so I was fortunate that my family was close. I was staying in my house and then in the morning would meet the guys for training. It would worry us—what might happen today?

Some runners were accused of helping to fund the violence, because they’re known to have more money than a lot of people. Were you ever accused of that, given that you’re a business owner in Iten, you have the academy there and so on?
Clearly that was a very bad thing. To me, as a person, I never thought those guys would do such a thing. These are the people who are well off in Eldoret. Why would they try to make things worse? To me, nobody accused me by name. But still, if people say athletes are providing money for these things, then some people might think that about me.

Since you’ve come to Boulder, what have you heard about what’s going in Kenya?
Every day I have to go and see what’s going on. I call my family every day to make sure they are okay. Things are much better than they were in January, but I hear that in the last few days, there have been a few problems again. People are still worried about what will happen.

How do you feel about your fitness compared to before other marathons?
I think I can say for a marathon, the most important thing is to have run all the training sessions. One thing I’m happy about for myself is I trained and did not get any injuries. I’m waiting for a big day in Boston. I know we will have strong guys. I have to run my own race, because you never know what will come in a marathon. I have in my mind that the person who will come through will be the best man on the day.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

James Koskei: “We came together as athletes”

On Monday, James Koskei will try to better his fourth-place finish at last year’s Boston Marathon. In December, James won the Dallas White Rock Marathon, and then returned home to Kenya. Soon after, the country erupted into post-election violence.

James Koskei at the 2007 Boston Marathon.Where were you when the violence started?
I was at home in Eldoret. I had planned to go to Iten on January 15th, but things at home were very bad. You could not move from one place to another because of a lot of vandals. I went to Iten in the middle of February.

When you were home, how was your training affected?
It was affected a lot. I could not train because of all the violence. I had to stay at home with my kids.

You weren’t able to train at all?
No. I started training only when I went to Iten.

Then how do you feel about your fitness for this marathon compared to before other marathons?
Once I got to Iten I was very serious about my training. I think I will be okay for the marathon. I was maybe two weeks late arriving in Iten, but I was able to train very hard in Iten and perhaps recover what was lost when I could not train in Eldoret.

You’re in the armed forces. Were you required to do anything as a member of the armed forces while the violence was going on?
We had to go to military training camps and stay there for some few days. That was on January 5th. Then they released us, but I had to get permission from them to go and train in Iten. The armed forces are good because we never get involved with political problems in Kenya. We were trying to tell people to stay calm.

Once you got to Iten, did you and other athletes talk about the role of athletes in helping to unify the country?
Yes. Lornah Kiplagat and some others arranged a race for peace in Iten, in February and also in March, to tell people to do away with the violence. We were telling them to turn to peace, and we came together as athletes from many tribes to show them how they should come together as Kenyans.

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Monday, April 14, 2008

Richard Kiplagat on Kenyan Violence: Part 2 of 3

In this interview, Richard Kiplagat describes how his and his KIMbia teammates’ training was affected by Kenya’s post-election violence. Richard also speculates on how the violence will affect Kenyans’ performances during the spring and summer roadracing season. (The interview was recorded on April 7. Since then, it’s been confirmed that Stephen Kiogora will not run Boston on Monday, because of losing too much training time during the violence earlier this year.)

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Photos courtesy of Toby Tanser. Music by Nick+Gerald.

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Monday, April 14, 2008

Timothy Cherigat: “It’s all about having a strong mind”

Like almost all Kenyan runners, Timothy Cherigat was in Kenya when the post-election violence started in late December and early January. Between training sessions recently, the 2004 Boston Marathon champion talked about his preparations for Monday’s race in light of recent developments at home.

Timothy CherigatWhere were you when the violence started?
I was already at the training camp in Iten. This was good because travel was very, very dangerous.

Were other KIMbia runners affected by the dangerous travel conditions?
Yes, there were guys who could not make it to Iten because the roads were closed. They could not travel safely. Stephen Kiogora could not come to Iten to train with us because he is from another tribe. He is not Kalenjin and it would have been dangerous for him to travel to Iten.

How was your training affected?
At times we could not train at all because we didn’t know what would happen next. We had to pay attention to what the politicians were saying to see what might happen next. We were lucky because nothing really bad happened to us, but you did not know what might happen from day to day, and this is what really affected the training. At first, for the first few days, we could not train at all. It was just too dangerous. Some days we could train only once, very early in the morning. This uncertainty went on for most of January.

Usually, manager Tom Ratcliffe and coach Dieter Hogen come over to Kenya during your winter training. This year, they couldn’t.
Yes, every year before, they come and help with our training. They support us morally and they solve any problems we have. That was not the case this time. It was much harder. We heard from coach Dieter daily. Most of the time he was calling. When he could not call, he would text us.

Could you eat your normal training diet?
Most of the stores in Iten were closed during the worst time, for most of January. We ate what we could find. Some days it was safe to travel, but then when demonstrations were called for, roadblocks would be set up. Then it was not safe to travel to search for food.

Given all that, how do you feel about your fitness for Boston?
The training has been pretty good since all the violence stopped. There were really those three weeks in January when the training was really affected. For the marathon, it’s all about having a strong mind and believing in yourself.

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