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Kelai puts marathon title on the line in Glasgow

15 July 2014, 11:27

Nairobi - Chances of an average athlete breaking into the Kenya team and competing at a global event as remote as scaling the Everest with bare feet.

Not many come up and go on to conquer the world was like the case of John Ekiru Kelai, the Commonwealth Games marathon champion.

Kelai got his first cap at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi, India and at 39, he is aware his approach to the top of the cliff is gaining speed.

"As a defending champion, everyone is focusing on how to defeat me, but due to my good preparations at the moment, I do hope that I will retain the title to become the first Kenyan to defend marathon gold medal," he said Monday in Iten.

"I know all eyes for Kenya are watching me. Our opponents will be training their guns on my run and like any race, surprises are many. But that is what make some train even harder. I always know that to win is not easy, but defending your fort at the top is even harder," said Kelai, who set his personal best of 2:09:09 for the distance at the 2005 edition of the Eindhoven Marathon, where he finished fourth.

Certainly the Club Games, which starts from July 23 - August 3, just like the Olympics, don't come around every other year and it is every athlete's dream to win a medal on the world's biggest sporting stage.

But more often than not the great sportsmen go on too long, take one stride too many, one punch more than is good for them. Kelai, the Casablanca Marathon Champion, is keen not to push his body through this barrier.

Kelai is also the captain of Glasgow bound marathon team that is currently camping at the high altitude town of Iten for their training.

"It is not every day that an athlete gets the chance to represent this country in long distance twice in row. I am humbled by the trust the coaches have in me. Now it is up to me to put in my best and see if the performance will be good enough to win the race," he said.

Kelai will join the legends like Paul Tergat and Douglas Wakiihuri to win back to back gold medal in the Club Games, should he conquer the opposition in Glasgow. He will be the first Kenyan marathoner to defend the title.

Unlike the ordinary big city marathons, competing in international championships is very difficult, especially the shorter circuit with sharp corners that organisers come up with to restrict the event to minimal disturbance to traffic. It is a challenge Kelai is certain, he will chalk up in his wide strides.

Uganda, Jamaica, England, U.S., Australia and Canada are the biggest challenge that Kenyan will face on the track.

Kenya topped the athletics medal table in Delhi in 2010 ahead of Australia and England with a total of 29 medals, including 11 gold, 10 silver and eight bronze.

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