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Navneet Singh, Hindustan Times
September 27, 2012
The impact of the economic slowdown has been widespread. It has eroded Kenya's traditional export of tea, tourism and horticulture. But the financial turmoil, it seems, has hardly affected the running industry in the East African nation. Running activity, says Kenyan Ezekiel Chebii Kiptoo, is big business back home. "It's growing," is Ezekiel's quick response when asked about the depth of running culture in his country.

Ezekiel is among several runners from East African nations, including Ethiopia, who are here in the Capital to compete in Sunday's Airtel Delhi half marathon. The Kenyan says his country is like a 'bottomless pit', where runners who are several steps down the ladder, emerge comfortable winner in events across the globe.

"Runners from my country are a major attraction in races across the world. They also sweep the top positions," he says of Kenya's vast pool of resources.

Like several of his predecessors, Ezekiel too is grabbing every single opportunity to make money on the road-running circuit across the globe.  The road to the top for this 21-year-old talent had been quite challenging. After putting in three years of hard training, he clocked 13 minutes 32 seconds in a 5,000m track race in 2007. He got an invitation to compete outside Kenya only in 2010, indicating the depth of talent there. That, too, the race directors limited him to three-four races in a calendar year.

Rich dividends
Perhaps, because of the urge to climb further up the ladder and get more lucrative offers, Ezekiel stepped up his training regimen. It paid rich dividends. This year, he became a member of sub-60 minute club for the half marathon. It also helped him set a new course record (59:05) for 21km in the French city of Lille in the first week of September, and earn more money. Encourage by his recent success, Ezekiel wants to focus more on half marathons. "Winning purse is bigger in longer races," is his logic behind competing in Delhi.