NEW YORK — When Kenyan Geoffrey Kamworor finished last year’s New York City Marathon, Eliud Kipchoge was already there waiting for him. One day, Kamworor would like to reverse those roles.
“You believe that maybe one time you run against him, you’d like to beat him,” Kamworor said Thursday, three days before he defends his title in New York.
Kamworor is arguably the world’s second-best marathoner behind training partner Kipchoge, the world-record holder whom Kamworor calls a mentor.
They’ve gone head-to-head once, at the 2013 Berlin Marathon, before either had reached their 26.2-mile peak. Kipchoge placed second, his only defeat in 11 marathons, and Kamworor was third, another 2:21 behind.
Kipchoge’s appearance in New York last year was purely as a spectator, delighted to see Kamworor’s breakthrough. Kamworor does not expect him to return to watch this year’s race.
While Kipchoge is in a class of his own, Kamworor is among those jockeying in the amoeba-like second tier. Chicago Marathon winner and four-time Olympic track champion Mo Farah is there, too. Ethiopian Shura Kitata, 22, can boost his argument by challenging Kamworor on Sunday.
Kamworor, who chose a running career over studying law at a U.S. college, notched his first major marathon win in New York last November. It fulfilled years of promise.
At 18 years old, he helped pace Patrick Makau to a world record in Berlin in 2011. A year later, he debuted in the marathon and then had a biopic titled, “The Unknown Runner.” Kamworor has won the last three world titles in the half marathon.
“I don’t think I’ve trained the most talented athletes, but I’ve trained athletes with talent who are hard-working people and who want to maximize their full potential, like Eliud and Geoffrey,” Patrick Sang, who coaches the training group with Kipchoge and Kamworor, said in 2016, according to the IAAF. “I don’t think they are the greatest talents, but they are the people who are willing to give the most out of their potential.”
One thing working against Kamworor is his personal best — 2:06:12 from his debut in Berlin in 2012. That ranks outside the top 100 in the world all-time and is 4:33 slower than Kipchoge’s world record.
However, Kamworor hasn’t run a marathon other than New York City since 2014, and New York is not a course for fast times with its bridges and undulations.
“I don’t have any specific time,” goal for Sunday, said Kamworor, who held off surging countryman Wilson Kipsang by three seconds last year.
Kamworor remembers learning of Kipchoge’s world-record 2:01:39 at the Berlin Marathon on Sept. 16.
“I was not so much surprised,” he said. “I’m optimistic that in the future maybe I’ll try to break it.”
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