You are the coach of Moses Mosop and Abel Kirui. How do you manage to train the two at the same time?
I train alot of people, but I don't train them together at the same time. You can put top athletes together only if they have a marathon in the same time period, but not the same marathon! In that scenario, one can help the other. A large part of the training is based on the individual, and each has his own plan.
My philosophy is this: It is not the athlete who follows the training program, but rather the training program which follows the athlete. I build the plan for the athletes and then I make adjustments. For example, Wilson Kipsang always followed a training program based on three sessions a day. This is something which I follow in the building up phase, but not in the 'specific' period. Having said that, Wilson Kipsang has a need to run three times a day in his group of more than 60 runners.
After one month, during the 'specific' phase of the training program, in a group with the best runners, he came to see me and told me that the others in the group were complaining, that he was leaving them on their own, and that they felt abandoned. Keep in mind that Wilson Kipsang has a house in Iten, he built a church for the community in Iten, and he also built a big hotel in Iten. All his life is in Iten, his future is in Iten, and it is important for him to maintain that kind of relationship with the Iten community. He is really a leader. We have to change in order to accommodate his needs. In the case of Mosos Mosop, for example, he left to go to Nairobi, to the Ngong hills area. Now he wants to return to Eldoret.
Was it a mistake for Mosop to go and train and live in Ngong hills?
I don't like Ngong. We cannot choose different training courses there. It is much hotter than Eldoret, and there is a lot of wind. Every 5-6 days, I came from Eldoret to follow his sessions, but there was always wind. Running with the wind in front of him, he used a lot of endurance, but he completely lost his capacity to change pace!
This was no longer the Moses of Eugene when he beat the 30km world record. How he has understood that he needs to come back to Eldoret for his top training sessions.
Aside from Abel Kirui, Moses Mosop, Wilson Kipsang - which other runners are you looking after?
Abel trains with Jonathan Mayo who can run 2.04'56' - compared to before arriving in the group when he could only run 2.12'. We also have Gilbert Kirui, and several runners in the 2.06' - 2.07' time frame. David Barmasai and Robert Cheruiyot. We also have a new runner - Ismael Bushendish. I am sure he will run 2.04' in his first marathon. We do not select runners. We don't need to go to the competitions to select runners. The best ones have friends, and they come training with us, and that is the best way to see what they are worth.
What about the female group?
80% of the women train in Iten. Mary Keitany, Florence Kiplagat, Edna Kiplagat, Lucie Kabo, Lydia Cheromei, Sharon Cherop. The only exception to this is Prisca Cheptoo who trains in Kapsabet. For the women, training is much easier. Each woman has two male pacers. We can control the exact pace they need to run. There are not really any big groups for the women. The ratio is one woman athlete for 30 male athletes.
With the fantastic times that Kenyans are posting now, there is more talk about drugs. What are your thoughts on this delicate subject?
Some managers (of athletes) put their runners into any and all kinds of races, but after two years they are washed out! It's not a problem, because there is another athlete or athletes who can take over from the 'fried' athlete. This, for me, is not the right way to go about things. This is not the right method. Me, I train runners, because I like to achieve results. I do not receive a percentage of the prize money, whether they win or not. So tell all the managers the same thing: "it is not for you to decide which competions the athletes will take part in." The plan is my plan. The training is training for competition. There is only one objective which is known. This is not the usual way the training is done in Kenya, where the Kenyan coaches always make their runners train very hard, and then when the athletes are in shape they call the managers to ask them to find a competition for the runners. I don't do that.
Was Moses Mosop's training plan before the 2011 Boston marathon the best training plan, taking into account his performance?
There is never a perfect training plan! Never! For example, when Moses came back from the Paris half marathon, he heard that the brother of his father had passed away. He did not run for one week to prepare for the funeral. This was not part of the plan.
When someone mentions that Ryan Hall takes off one day each week, my reaction to that is that I never plan, in advance, the days off that my athletes take. You never know how many days off you will need in Kenya, and you cannot plan them in advance because they happen by accident, because of small injuries, and other situations. Last year in the two months before the World Championships Abel Kirui had 17 days off! And one month before the championships I wanted to call the Kenyan Federation to take him off the team! We have to make adjustments for alll those situations, which change so much in Kenya, and find solutions. My philosophy about training is clear, but the specifics cannot be copied, because they are specific depending on the different situations.
How has your philosophy about training changed since you arrived in Kenya?
Four years ago, before the big change, there was nothing specific. But running kilometers without speed is not worth anything. You have to run with specificity in mind. This means you have to run long and fast! Because you cannot run a fast marathon, if in training you run long and slow, or only fast.
This is a problem for most of the Europeans who we see in Iten who have a ridiculous approach to the marathon: They do their long runs much slower than our Kenyan women! And the results are around the same - this type of training gives a time of around 2.19'! This year in Britain there are only ten men under 2.14' - the level has not changed since Ron Hill. It is ridiculous.
The system of long slow runs came from the United States, with for example Bill Rodgers. But those people were running 30 competitions a year, so they were running quality during their competitions. Now there is the same principle of long runs, but without competitions, and only two marathons a year. Even the recovery period after marathons has become something very complicated.
Last year, Moses Mosop beat the world 30km record, just 44 days after the Boston marathon. And exactly one month after Boston, before his record run in the 30km, he ran a training session of 18 times 1km, with 1.20" recovery between each. The first was 2'45" - then 16 times 2'42", and the last one in 2'46" - at altitude. And this was only one month after running 2.03' in the marathon.
We hear about runners who need to recover for two months after a marathon. After the Dubai marathon, all my runners beat their best training times three weeks later. Jonathan Mayo, the Ethiopians, Steven Ki (2h08') Lydia Cheromei, Lucy Kabbu. All of those runners beat their best times.
How is that possible?
When you run fast in the marathon, you recover better, because if you ran fast, it means that the conditions were good. The problem is when you run in humid conditions, like in Osaka, where you run in 2.06' or 2.07' - then you will be exhausted for two months. But when the conditions are good, you recover well and fast. If you maintain good concentration in the marathon, a marathon is nothing more than a long specific run. Until 2010, no one had the capacity to run 40km in training in less than 2h10' Last year, Moses Mosop ran 40km in training in 2.07'50' just before Boston. Abel Kirui ran 40km in training in 2h09'46" before the World Championship. This year, I have 10 runners who have run less than 2h10' and in that group there was Abel Kirui who ran 2h04'54" for 40km in training. This means that in training he ran faster than he ran in Daegu. And three days later, he ran 31km between Eldoret and Iten, at a speed of 3'30" per kilo because he wanted to test his new shoes on the tarmac. I was very angry with him, because this was completely stupid! I don't like my athletes to do a lot of long runs.
In Ethiopia, before, they did two long runs each week, but without quality. For example, Yelame Adame, winner in Rotterdam, explained that the Ethiopians have completely changed their training system, because now they focus on quality. They focus on quality now, and everyone in Ethiopia is running faster! In this scheme, the important thing to remember is the duration of the recovery period. One day recovery, or maybe more, because the red line of over training is never far away. But this is the first time, in 2-3 years, where we see a real difference compared with the way things were in the past. And now everyone follows this method. Only the Europeans don't follow this new method! For the Africans, it is easy, because it is the system and they follow it. In Europe, there are many coaches who profess to have knowledge about everything. Because they have studied, and they have diplomas in physiology, and there is a limit in evolution....
Do you think with the way things are going that we will soon see 2h02' in the marathon?
I think that 2h02' will be possible by 2014. Maybe even less than 2h02'. Because now the best young talents go directly to the marathon because there is no business (money) in track. They are fresh and have no psychological limits. If there is world record attempt, we tell the runners to stay with the second group. And in fact, many competitions have been won by runners who came from the second or further groups behind the leaders. But now, that is no longer possible! Everyone talks about Samuel Wanjiru in the Olympics. But since 2009, things have changed.
So what has changed the most?
The mental strength now is at 100% The competitive instinct is much stronger. They are strong. Before this we did not have so many talents. Now, the tendency is for all the top athletes to go straight to the marathon. I do not know what we will be able to change now, because the three factors for success have changed in the last 2-3 years. The process will be finalized in 2014. After that, the record might improve in small increments only, in 5 second improvements only, for example.
At this time there are 10 athletes capable of beating the world best in the marathon. For example, Yamade Amade is an unknown runner, but he could have beaten the record. The record is not so impressive! Don't forget that when Paul Tergat beat the world record, just behind him there was Sammy Korir who had never been a top athlete.
You really don't think that the actual world record in the marathon is a good performance?
That's right. Look we have the world record in the 5000 at 12'37". This is equivalent to a marathon time of 2h 01' and a few seconds. Of course, the 5000 record is Bekele's, and the other runners cannot be compared with Bekele. Today the world 10,000 record is 1.20 faster than Ron Clarke's record. But 1'20" repeated 4 times is almost worth 5 minutes. Dinsamo could run in 2.06'50", so there is no need to think that 2.05' is a great performance.
Can we predict a time of 2 hours for the marathon?
To achieve 2 hours in the marathon, you would need an athlete like Bekele, who can run 12'37" for 5000 - and then the athlete would need to go straight to the marathon, based on that time. But Kenenissa going up to the marathon after the Olympic games will not yield a good result. He will already have had 20 years of high level competition in his legs. The cost of that on the body is very high. For me, Bekele will never be able to succeed in the marathon, whereas, on the other hand, over 10,000 he can continue until the Games in 2016, because he is far in front of everyone (note this interview was conducted before London 2012).
What about the women?
What is interesting, these last few years, has been the evolution of times among the women. There are now around 10 women near Paula Radcliffe's record. Everything has changed for the women as well. The level is much higher. For example, Florence Kendu. She won the world cross country, and the 1500. There is no reason that she should not be able to run 2h 16'. And why not 2h 13'? The problem is to change the mentality among the women. They always like to follow the same training plan, where they burn too much energy in training.
You are now living crazy times in the marathon. How do you judge your life in Kenya?
I stay in Kenya 8 months a year. Therefore I am not often home in Italy. Every year, I tell my wife, in Italy, that it will be my last year in Kenya.....
Are you waiting for the world record to stop coaching?
No, it will not be possible to stop with someone who has beaten the world record! I am joking, but it really is a problem. The only way to stop would be to stop having new athletes. But when I am in Kenya, I have young athletes coming through all the time. It never stops! And I am getting closer and closer to them......
Part 3 soon - Moses Mosop training plan
source: VO2 Run in Live (translated from French, by Ghost)