By Paul Gains
Although his best time is almost eight minutes slower than the course record, Uganda’s Moses Kipsiro is expected to challenge a contingent of Ethiopian runners at the Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon May 28.
The 30-year old three-time Commonwealth Champion (5,000m/10,000m) has been a major force on the track for the past decade but has had his share of troubles.
At the 2008 Olympics, he missed the medal podium by one place. In London four years later, he fell during the Olympic 10,000m final and wound up a disappointed 10th. But it was only a year ago that he turned his attention to the marathon recording his personal best time (2:14:18) at the 2016 New York Marathon where he finished 7th. Now he is preparing to show the athletics world what he is really capable of in the classic distance.
"So far I have only run two marathons and so I am still learning the event," he says from his training base in Kaptagat, Kenya. "On my debut in Hamburg (April 2016) I was on 2:06 pace until deep into the race, when my body started to shut down.
"I found out after that I was suffering from malaria at the time. New York was a more tactical race early on and also a harder course. But after New York I know now that I am capable of a good marathon."
Hamburg was not the first time he has been debilitated by disease. During the 2011 European track season, he couldn't explain the fatigue he was feeling during races nor his poor performances. Despite a personal best 5,000m time of 12:50.72 he was finishing well down in the field and on point of collapse. Only later did blood tests reveal he had been suffering from both malaria and typhoid.
"I did train hard for my two previous marathons. I do feel I learned from those experiences and now I am ready to show my best at the marathon distance," he says. "My training is going very well. I am really pleased to have had a sustained period of no injuries, which has been the biggest issue for me the past few years.
"I train in a combination of being around my home in Kapchorwa, Uganda, and at the PACE training camp in Kaptagat, Kenya. When in Uganda I have a group of guys who assist me and when in Kaptagat I train with fellow PACE athletes such as (Kenyans) Mark Kiptoo, Micah Kogo and Emmanuel Bett."
Kipsiro was introduced to PACE Management Director Ricky Simms, who also manages Usain Bolt and Mo Farah by fellow Ugandan Boniface Kiprop. That was at the 2005 IAAF World Cross-Country Championships where he finished 21st in the junior race. Within a year of working with Simms, he won the coveted African 10,000m title.
Under Simms’ direction Kipsiro moved to England during the summer track season where he trained with Mo Farah, among others.
"Moses and Mo trained together a lot together between 2005 and 2011," Simms recalls. "They were in very similar shape before the 2008 Olympic Games when Moses placed 4th. Ahead of the 2012 Olympic Games I expected Moses to medal but he fell badly in the 10,000m and hurt his shoulder."’
These days his marathon program is overseen by Mike Skinner, a British international runner who works for PACE. At the 2015 Delhi Half Marathon Kipsiro ran 60:41, an indicator that he has enormous potential at the full marathon distance.
Two years ago, Kipsiro found himself embroiled in controversy when several young Ugandan girls came to him and complained they had been sexually assaulted by a national coach. Kipsiro exposed the coach leading to his arrest and subsequent incarceration. The situation became very intense for Kipsiro as he received threatening emails.
Like many East African runners, Kipsiro feels an obligation to help out his family members - he is one of nine boys and four girls born in the Bukwo district in Uganda. They grew up making a modest living with a small farm. But when he was a young boy cattle rustlers from a rival tribe raided their farm and stole the cattle. With his first earnings as a runner he bought cattle for the family.
Now he has his own family and must plan for the future because he doesn’t know how much longer he will earn money from running.
"I am married and I have three girls. The first born is 7 years, the second born 4 years and third born 2 years," he reveals. When I have some time to relax I like to spend it on my farm. I plant maize and also look after my cows.
"I also spend time working on my business interests. I have a construction business and also a timber business. When my running career has finished these will be to where I switch my attention."
Although his days of competing on the track are mostly behind him, he still remains ambitious.
"My goal is always to do my best in my next race," Kipsiro reveals. "So for me right now I am focused on running a great race in Ottawa. Then, after that, we shall see what options I have and long term I still see Tokyo 2020 as a realistic target for me."