Wilson Kipsang celebrates after winning the 2014 NYC Marathon (© Getty Images)
The average of Wilson Kipsang’s ten fastest marathon races lies at an impressive 2:04:40. His personal best of 2:03:13 ranks him joint fourth all-time. We sit down with Mr. Consistency.
SPIKES: Wilson, you are one of the most consistent guys on the marathon scene – how do you keep up such a high standard?
Wilson Kipsang: The only way that I manage to be consistent is lots of experience in training and racing. I really know the kind of preparation that I need to run the same time, so I don’t have to change too much.
[It's about] analysing each and every race you have done, look at the good points and where you can improve on those areas to come close to the same performances.
SPIKES: How do you manage your body when you have a bad race?
Wilson Kipsang: I am self-coached, so for me I mostly analyse my form from previous trainings and the previous [race] performances. Then I try to go back and make it more interesting the next session, so it doesn’t become too much repetition.
During practice weeks, when I see that it isn’t going very well, I look what should I increase, what should I reduce? So if you are in a position to analyse your previous performance, you will find you will become more content.
SPIKES: Do you find it hard to keep yourself motivated without a coach keeping tabs?
Wilson Kipsang: In training I find that all sessions are important – the build-up, the speed work, the endurance. All of the sessions combined lead to a good race. And the most important thing is how you combine those sessions to produce a good time and to perform consistently.
I am not very aggressive in training, I like to take it easy. I always tell them [the other guys in the group] ‘we don’t compete in training, we compete in the race’.
SPIKES: You made your marathon debut in spring 2010 and ran 2:04:57 that same year in Frankfurt. Now you’ve got a serious number of marathons under your belt. How would you say things have changed since then?
Wilson Kipsang: Nothing has really changed. It was only a bit early by then, that particular marathon [in Frankfurt] I was still new to the road racing scene.
Now I have run 15 maybe 16 marathons, so now you will find that the kind of approach with training and everything you just feel that you are more confident. You don’t fear the running. You are just ready to compete. You don’t feel the nerves anymore.
SPIKES: Is there a point in the race when your mindset changes, where you feel you have to push harder?
Wilson Kipsang: It depends on how I feel. Sometimes, if you’re feeling strong, then you can keep changing the speed over the last few kilometers.
But for me, I do a lot of research on various issues; training, other performances, split times. For example with split times I know it when I am running world record pace [laughs]. 5k, I’ll know that’s world record pace, 10k, I’ll know that’s world record pace.
I don’t look at my heart rate, I just feel it. Not during the race and not in training. I just listen to my body. That’s the most important thing.
SPIKES: So once you finish a race, is there anything you like to treat yourself to?
Wilson Kipsang: The one thing I normally look forward to after a big race is a break from the normal routine. You see, we’d be waking up, run, training, so it is nice to take some time and do your own things, no training, just breakfast and doing other activities. Just rest and break up that routine. I’d be taking some time, check my other businesses, visit some friends.
SPIKES: If you had to give someone who’s not as experienced as you are some advice on how to tackle the 42.2km distance, what would it be?
Wilson Kipsang: It’s such a long way, but for someone who is really just starting or running a marathon for the first time, I’d say just to imagine all you’re doing is try and run a personal best.
Exercise some patience. Sometimes in marathons you feel strong, but do not run too fast, always remember you still have a long way to go. Always remember to fuel your body along the way, really be patient and above everything: be confident, believe in yourself that you can do it.