True Phenom: The Incredible Story Of Silas Kiplagat, Who Ran 3:29.27 For 1,500m In His First European Race Ever At Age 20
Kiplagat Never Even Ran In HS And Only Started Training Just Over Two Years Ago
By Mutwiri Mutuota for IAAF Focus on Athletes Project
August 26, 2010
(Editor's Note: Earlier this week, LetsRun.com received the following profile of the world's leading 1,500 man in 2010 Silas Kiplagat. A lot of people have been wondering where he came from. The profile details his remarkable story. The profile was written prior to the 2010 African championships as part of the IAAF Focus on Athletes Project which was started in 2001 "as Focus on Africans, stemming from the observation that African athletes, while increasingly dominant in distance running, remained largely anonymous to the Western media." Now the IAAF Focus on Athletes Project has expanded to include athletes not from Western Europe or North America. We at LetsRun.com have been attempting to highlight the personalities and incredible stories of some of the African distance stars so they are no longer viewed as just Kenyans or Ethiopians. Until today, we did not know the IAAF Focus on Athletes homepage exists. Check it out. Thanks to the IAAF and Mutwiri Mutuota for letting us use this piece.
By coincidence, Kiplagat trains with another athlete we profile last year, Sammy Kitwara: "The Best Runner You've Never Heard Of" (Sammy burst on the road scene last year winning over $100,000) under the tutelage of former world record holder in the steeplechase Moses Kiptanui. Kitwara's Focus on Athlete's Project profile is here).
Silas Kiplagat Stats
Few athletes if any have made a grander entrance into 1,500 metres running than Silas Kiplagat.
Competing in his first ever grand prix race in the three and three quarter lap race, Kiplagat clocked the tenth fastest time of all time (3:29.27) to win the 1,500 metres race at the Monaco Grad Prix on 20 July.
It was just not that he won, but the way he kicked for home with 250 metres to go chasing down Augustine Choge and Amine Laalou down the final straight to register the fastest time in the world in four years and improve his PB by five seconds.
But if the world of athletics was surprised, the confident young man wasn't. Kenyan athletes are usually reserved but confidence radiates through the man.
"I knew I was in great shape and I knew I could run that fast," he said after that race. "My coach was a three time world champion and I also train with athletes like Ezekiel Kemboi (World steeplechase champion) and Sammy Kitwara who have faith in me and as such give me confidence to believe in myself."
The third born in a family of six, Kiplagat was born in Siboh Village and went to Tot Primary school when he completed his studies in 2003. The following year he joined Chebara high school for his secondary school education graduating in 2007.
Incredibly, Kiplagat did not run at all when in high school, instead, he was a keen football player honing his skills as a striker with a soft spot for Leo Messi, "I loved football and would play as a forward. My favourite teams are Argentina and Manchester United."
If anything, his life dream was to become a soldier: "I wanted to join the army and serve my country as a soldier but the opportunity did not happen."
Neighbor Sammy Kitwara Inspired Kiplagat To Train In 2008
Upon completing his education, Kiplagat started training in the aftermath of the 2008 post election violence inspired by close friend and neighbour Sammy Kitwara.
"Kitwara saw me training at home and took a liking to me offering to take me with him to Eldoret where I would live with him as I continued training. He is my role model and I owe my career to him because he brought me from nowhere to where I am now believing in me when I was starting out."
It was while training in the company of Kitwara that former three times world champion Moses Kiptanui who coaches Kitwara spotted him training and advised him on which races to concentrate on.
"I wanted to run 10,000 metres and half marathon like Kitwara and so was doing training suited to long distances but Kiptanui told me that I should move to 1,500 metres pointing out that I had a lot of speed."
Two months after Kiptanui's advice and tutelage, Kiplagat made his debut on the local circuit at the Athletics Kenya meet in Kakamega in a seasonal best time of 3:39.1 in April. The following month claimed his maiden win in the distance in Eldoret winning in 3:45 to finish ahead of Nicholas Kemboi and Joseph Ebuya.
Bad luck struck in the form of an ankle injury that would rule him out of the national championships. He resumed running setting a PB of 28:00 in 10K in Tillburg in September.
A week later, he was in Rotterdam for the half marathon where he helped set pace for his friend and mentor Kitwara who went on to win in 58:58 - new PB.
"That Kitwara ran 58:58 in Rotterdam and we were sleeping with him in the same room, eating the same food and training together was a huge motivation as he kept telling me that if he could do it why not me? It was great encouragement," says Kiplagat.
Kiplagat started 2010 by running cross country on the advice of his coach.
"The coach had advised me to run in the cross country so as to build on my endurance by loading as much as I could saying that it would help me later on in the season as I worked on my speed."
A second place finish at the Prisons Championships and 17th position at the National Cross Country Championships on 20 February was followed by a tenth place finish at a 10K race in Puerto Rico on 1 March.
Kiplagat made his comeback on the track on March 20 winning the 1,500 metres at the AK meet in Nyeri. He then came second in Nakuru (3:40.9) before winning the Prisons title at their championships in 3:41.1.
A second place finish behind Olympic champion Asbel Kiprop (3:34.28) at the national Championships on 26 June saw him book a place in the African Athletics Championships squad.
It was also at the national championships that he met Gianni Demadonna who promptly added him onto his stable.
3:29 In His First European Track Race
Having impressed on home soil, Demadonna sought to give him much needed experience of running in an international meet. "I was supposed to run in Tangier, Morocco before going to Monaco but AK refused saying I should only run in Monaco."
And so on he left for the principality, "It would be my first 1,500 metres in Europe and my concentration was on the race as I wanted to prove that I can do it."
With Kemboi and Kitwara as training mates, advice was in plenty. "They told me that the track would be faster, that I would be able to run a good time explaining what to expect and how to react to different situations."
In the race, Kiplagat kept his cards close to his chest, "I was studying how the other athletes were running because they are more experienced while I was making my debut."
And then with 250 metres to go, Kiplagat launched his attack, "My coach tells me that I should kick from 250 metres and when we reached that point, I made my move. I knew I would catch Choge because he was slowing down," he adds with a smile. (More on that race here, it's the race American Andrew Wheating ran 3:30)
But was he really expecting to run 3:29?
"I was not expecting it because my manager had told me that running under 3:32 would be fine but I promised him that I would do my best and keep up with the leaders."
Now that he is in the top ten in the all time best, Kiplagat plans to go one better.
"My running 3:29 tells me that I can run better and I want to try run 3:26 in Brussels or Rieti. I know its possible because even Bernard Lagat was telling me that I can make it so I will definitely try and see if I can get close to the record."
But before world record attempts, there is the small matter of the African title where he will be up against Kiprop who is the odds on favourite.
"Saturday's final will be like an Olympics final but I believe in myself. Asbel is the favourite but then again, everyone said he would win in Berlin but he didn't so it will be very tough and everyone will have a chance to win."
Note: Silas placed "only" 4th in the African 1,500m final. Then he followed that up with a disappointing 6th in the mile at Crystal Palace in London. Since then he is back to his winning ways with a win in 3:30.61 in Berlin last Sunday and a 3:35.50 win in Lille, France on Tuesday. On Sunday in Rieti, Italy Kiplagat will have his hangs full in what we think is perhaps the best 1,500m field in Europe this year. He'll square off against Olympic champ Asbel Kiprop for the first time in Europe and World 1,500m champ Yusuf Kamel, amongst others.
1,500 metres: 3:39.27 (2010)
10K 28:00 (2009)
Career Progression: 1,500m - 2009-3:39.1 ; 2010-3:29.27
Athletics Championships (1,500m)
2010 1st MonacoGrand Prix (1,500m)
2010 1st ISATF Berlin (1,500m)