By Paul Gains
Kip Kangogo will open his 2016 racing campaign at the prestigious Banque Scotia 21k de Montréal - a Canada Running Series event - on Sunday April 24th.
The Kenyan-born distance runner has become one of this country’s best. He is the reigning Canadian Half Marathon champion having won the title at the 2015 Scotiabank Calgary Half Marathon. He beat Canadian Olympian Reid Coolsaet by eleven seconds on that day.
Another winter has passed in Lethbridge, Alberta, where Kangogo has lived since graduating from the University of Lethbridge, and he looks forward to lining up in Montréal’s Parc Jean Drapeau. Being a favourite, the race will offer him the chance to score maximum points and chase the CRS overall title which he won in 2013. He was the 2014 CRS runner up finishing just 9 points behind two time Canadian Olympian Eric Gillis.
"I think my training is coming along nicely but you cannot say until you get in a competitive race," says the 36 year old runner. "But it’s coming along.
"The winter this year wasn’t too bad. You couldn't really call it winter because it wasn't too bad. That was nice. I did most of my runs outside. I never went on my treadmill this winter. It gets windy in Lethbridge but, other than that, it was good."
For the past two years he has been coached by Rick Mannen, who has been responsible for Krista DuChene’s success. DuChene is expected to represent Canada in the Rio Olympics marathon. A year ago Kangogo improved his marathon personal best time to 2:15:26 at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon and so has nothing but good things to say about his coach.
"Rick is very good," Kangogo says. "He can get you into 10k shape, he can get you into half marathon shape and marathon shape.
"He is always studying you, he wants to know how you are feeling, how the body is responding. You will always get that feedback and then you will receive training according to how it fits you. It has always been a good relationship with him and I like it."
At the moment Kangogo runs around 200 kilometres a week, sometimes as much as 240km, but will reduce that mileage for Montréal. Since his wife Florida is studying biochemistry at the University of Lethbridge and he is the primary caregiver during daytime, he must sometimes run at 5:30 a.m. or wait until she returns from classes. It’s all part of raising a family, he acknowledges.
Kangogo calls the Montréal race a ‘litmus test’ as he still harbours the intention of running a spring marathon. His best time for the half marathon distance is 1:03:22 from the 2011 Scotiabank Vancouver Half Marathon. That time doesn’t appear on Canadian rankings since he was not yet a Canadian citizen. That honour was bestowed upon him in April 2014 and ranks alongside the birth of his daughter Emma in his lifetime highlights.
"It’s meaningful to me. When I first came to Canada I wanted to be Canadian because I fell in love with the people of this land and their values and how they approach life," he says quietly. "And it’s peaceful. I knew for sure I want to call this home.
"I wrote my citizenship test at 10:30 in the morning and then I was invited for the swearing in ceremony at 2 pm. My wife was writing an exam. So I called her and told her the ceremony has to be at 2 pm so all of us have to be there. Emma was there, my brother, my sister, it was special. It was like getting married again."
Last summer Kangogo proudly represented Canada at the Pan American Games in Toronto finishing 9th in the oppressive heat. Today his brother Edmond and sister Florence also live with him and his family which helps retain their Kenyan roots. It is an atmosphere they clearly enjoy.
"There is a special Kenyan dish called Chapati and we make Chapati and beef stew for special occasions," he explains. "And Ugali is a more staple food in the evening. My daughter likes that. She is always saying 'Daddy we have to cook Ugali.'
"We speak Swahili and we speak Kalenjin, which is my native language, and we speak English so nothing is lost. Emma she is different, she speaks English most of the time and some Swahili - a little bit."
It has been nearly four years since Kangogo was last in Kenya. He would like to take Emma back for a visit in a few years, when she is older and will probably remember more about the trip. Until then Kangogo continues to seek personal best performances on the roads knowing he is nearing the end of his racing career.
As he prepares for the Banque Scotia 21k de Montréal he doesn’t know or, for that matter, care who else is in the field. The overriding goal will be to race to his full potential and if fast times and podium finishes are the result then so be it.
Leading the pack of podium contenders is Toronto’s Sami Jibril who notably chased Eric Gillis around this course in 2014 to claim the Canadian championship silver medal. Jibril ran a personal best of 1:04:30 in Houston on January 17th of this year.
Amongst the Quebec contingent is Anthony Larouche who sports a decent personal best for the distance of 1:07:47 which he ran at the Philadelphia Half Marathon last November.
For More Information and to Register: CanadaRunningSeries.com.