By Joe Battaglia
(C) 2014 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved
May 10, 2014
PRAGUE — As a young, aspiring runner in Kenya, Moses Mosop had no intention of sticking with the other guys in his age group. He was always thinking bigger.
“We were training for cross-country,” Mosop recalled. “I was a junior runner and supposed to run with the juniors. But I insisted to go with the seniors and [finished] ahead of all of them. That is when they called me ‘Big Engine.'”
Mosop has certainly lived up to his moniker, winning 10,000m bronze at the 2005 World Championships and silver at the 2007 World Cross-Country Championships, recording personal-bests of 12:54.46 in the 5000m and 26:49.55 in the 10,000m on the track, and running 2:03:06, the second-fastest marathon time in history, in his debut at the distance in Boston in 2011. He also set world records at 25,000m and 30,000m in 2011.
But while he has produced three sub-2:06 finishes in his four career marathons, the ‘Big Engine’ comes here as the headliner in the men’s field for the 20th Volkswagen Prague International Marathon looking for a much-needed tune-up.
The 28-year-old was originally slated for the Boston Marathon on April 21, but was forced to scratch from the race when he developed an injury to his right knee and later another in his left calf while training in Kenya, setbacks which cost him nearly three weeks of training.
“My goal for Sunday is to see how my body responds because it has been a long time since I could run very well because of the injuries,” Mosop said. “I could not go to Boston but I decided with my manager, ‘Let me go to Prague and I will see what the outcome is and how it responds in Prague.’ Up to now, I would say my body is not yet 100 percent. I’m about 80 percent, so I am expecting to run nice and hope everything is well.”
Mosop said the right knee injury that has crippled his training actually occurred somewhat innocuously. He was training on unpaved road in Eldoret in January of 2013. While rounding a hairpin turn onto a decline at 3:02-per-kilometer pace during a 35-kilometer workout, he felt a tweak. He finished the workout and continued to train on the leg as there did not seem to be any lingering effects.
But according to his coach, Renato Canova, that molehill injury grew into a troublesome mountain he Mosop has yet to overcome.
“When you have something begin to go really wrong it usually starts from something that wasn’t really bad,” Canova told Race Results Weekly. “You don’t feel anything that would make you stop completely because you can half-train, you can train at 60 or 70 percent of intensity. But continuing this, the chain of motion becomes not completely correct. After two months, (Mosop) didn’t feel anything but he started limping. That is why we canceled his competition to begin the season.
“That is difficult for this type of athlete because to not run a marathon means losing a lot of money. Whenever an athlete is in a situation where they are hitting the gym and doing things to continue just to save the season, they can never reach the level that is good for them.”
Despite missing considerable training time, Mosop made it to the starting line of the Chicago Marathon on October 13, 2013, but labored to finish in eighth place –Canova said Mosop essentially jogged the last seven kilometers due to a hamstring niggle– in 2:11:19.
Mosop resumed training during the winter with an eye on returning to Boston, but was still was not right physically. It required him not only to make a change of racing plans, but also adjust his training.
“The body goes out of balance, which is the real problem,” Canova said. “I told Moses ‘I don’t give you any plan. We will organize training but you go out and run for yourself. The most important thing is to put in your mind that you have to go to the gym, you have to go with the physio,’ which is something he doesn’t like. ‘By doing this, you can once again create the right balance in all of the parts of your body.'”
Mosop feels like he has, at least, taken this minor step in getting back to his old self. The determining factor, however, will be how his body responds in the race on Sunday, something he admits to be concerned about.
“I am worried,” he said. “When you are at the top and you come down, it’s not good. When you are at the top, you have to maintain spirit where you are.”
Mosop, who trained for this race with Wilson Chebet, Sammy Kitwara and occasionally world-record-holder Wilson Kipsang, will be paced in the race by Peter Kirui, who won the Sportisimo Prague Half-Marathon in a personal-best 59:24 last month. He said if his body holds up, he is capable of running 2:06. Canova agreed, but cautioned that how Mosop comes out of the race physically will be more telling than his time, and will ultimately dictate the next steps in the 28-year-old’s comeback.
“If everything is okay after the race, the plan that we have is to have a sort period, maybe half of June and July, with two or three competitions in the United States at about 10 or 15 kilometers because he needs to rebuild speed,” Canova said. “The last specific training he did was 30 days after running 2:03:06 in Boston for when he broke the 30-K world record in Eugene. At that time, on the track in Iten, he ran [intervals] 18 times one kilometer with 1:20 recovery. The first was 2:45, 16 times was 2:42, the last was 2:36. We need to rebuild, maybe not these exact conditions because it was really unbelievable, but something like four times 3000 meters in 8:25 at altitude, otherwise he won’t be competitive.”
Canova added that under these ideal circumstances, and with no further injury derailments, he does not see any reason why Mosop could not return to 2:05 form by the fall marathon season. To get back on legitimate schedule to challenge the world record, Mosop believes he would need an additional six to seven months of uninterrupted training.
While he estimates that injuries have set him back over a year, Mosop remains positive that that the ‘Big Engine’ will once again be running full steam ahead soon.
“It’s not easy,” Mosop said. “There are a lot of challenges, but I believe I will overcome them.”
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