MOSORIOT, Kenya – Feet clap on an empty road after sunrise on Sunday, 15 days after the 126th Boston Marathon. Benson Kipruto, a Kenyan runner, is doing miles in the small town of Mosoriot, past a rusty blue arch on the border of Nandi County, known as the Fountain of Champions.
His mouth is slightly open and sweaty lines from the sharp bones of his cheeks are the salty remnants of his exertion. The 5-foot, 7-foot-long runner, who is 5 feet tall, is silent looking forward for 18 miles, following a view. On Monday, Kipruto will try to do a strange feat: win the second consecutive Boston Marathon title in this fastest field in the history of the race. Only 10 men have won behind Boston, and in 2008 Kenyan Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot has not been a repeat champion.
Cypriot, 31, of Geoffrey Kamworor of Kenya, two-time New York City Marathon Champion, Birhanu Legese of Ethiopia, the third fastest marathon in history and two-time Boston Marathon winner Lelisa Desisa, also of Ethiopia, will be next. .
No one is more surprised than Cyprus.
In the October 2021 race, Kipruto took the lead at the 23rd kilometer and ran without competing to win the famous race, which he crossed the finish line 46 seconds ahead of Ethiopian Lemi Berhanu.
“Maybe this could be my day,” Kipruto thought. In 2019 he hoped to do better than his 10th place in his debut in Boston. Maybe he could be found on the podium, he thought. Winning really was a violent change of pace for an athlete who didn’t think he could make a career out of running at one time.
As a member of Nandi, the sub-tribe of Kalenjin, Cyprus was not sure if he could be included in his previous legends, like Ibrahim Hussein, the first Kenyan to win the Boston Marathon in 1988 and twice in 1991 and 1992. Eliud Kipchoge, who has won the world marathon record and twice the Olympic gold medal, is also from Nandi.
Kipruto grew up in Tolilet, a remote village in the North Rift of Kenya, where he spent many lives on a small farm where his family ate and sold corn and beans. Cyprus was one year old when his father died. At times, his mother struggled to feed Cyprus and his four siblings.
Sometimes Cyprus would only go to school in the middle of the week because it was all his mother could afford. When possible, 8-year-olds would walk up to 10 miles a day, mixing githeri lunch, corn, and beans. He spent his afternoons working on the farm with his siblings, and half a mile away carrying two 10-gallon jugs of water from a river for drinking and cooking.
At the age of 16, Cyprus encouraged his science teacher, who doubled as a gym teacher, to try his hand at cross-country skiing. Kipruto joined the team and proved to be a decent runner, but not necessarily outstanding.
Kipruto wanted a career in sports journalism, not a competitive race, but could not pursue his studies. So he worked on the farm and opened a small kiosk where he sold sugar, fresh milk and bar of soap, along with the vegetables he grew. For a few months Cyprus lived on a monthly shilling of 5,000 shillings (the equivalent of $ 43), which barely covered his basic needs. The successful months earned $ 80 for Kipruto.
And he kept running.
For two years, he rarely missed 6 a.m., up to 15 miles, in Koiban, his hometown of Nandi County, before working 12 hours a day. He always ran alone, which he did for sheer pleasure. If he had the money, Kipruto would buy a pair of used shoes for a few dollars and train on them for a few months.
He became a professional runner and was invited to a 12-kilometer training run until he was invited to study the future of the sport of Cyprus. He was able to continue with the team, and encouraged his friends to consider moving to Kapsabet, the home of some of the world’s top elite training camps, in search of a coach. Cyprus returned to his kiosk and sat down alone, “Can I do it?”
“Yes. It’s competitive, ”Kipruto said. “But I was aware that what was coming would not be easy.”
He was inspired by the success of one of his brothers who made a career in the sport. After his older brother, Dickson Chumba, won the Tokyo Marathon twice and once saw him in Chicago, Kipruto decided to bet on himself.
He left his kiosk and moved to Kapsabet, the capital of Nandi County, in 2015. A few months later, he joined the 2 Running Club, a team formed by Italian running coach Claudio Berardelli. In 2016 he became a professional runner, running the Athens Marathon, his first distance race, finishing in second place. Since then, Kipruto has won three of the nine marathons he has taken part in, including Prague in 2021 and Toronto in 2018, where he set a personal record of 2 hours and 5 minutes.
“He’s taking a little more risks,” Berardelli says. “A few years ago, I was always concerned that it was too conservative. Make the minimum necessary to achieve it. You won’t find out much about yourself unless you take a little risk. ‘
And he found a lot when he ran away with a victory in the 2021 Boston Marathon, an achievement that gave his community a chance to return in a way he didn’t think was impossible.
“The more successful we are, the more blessed we are when we return to society, the less fortunate. That’s where we come from, ”Kipruto said. He hopes to be a role model for others; he accepts school fees from three students in his hometown and often makes donations to his church.
“Others are following in our footsteps. They see how we behave, ”he said.
After all, this encourages Cyprus to be on the starting line: to build a bright future, not only for his family, but also for those who live a life he once had. “He’ll come,” he would often say to himself in long runs before the sun came out.
“It’s going to be tough,” he said before the Boston Marathon. “But I’m well prepared, on my feet and head.”