Kiprop wants capital springboard to 1,500m record

ASBEL Kiprop plans to use today’s Bupa Great Edinburgh XCountry International Challenge as the launchpad for a season in which he has high hopes of setting a world record in the 1,500 metres.

Kiprop, Great Britain's Andy Vernon, France's Sophie Duarte, USA's Bobby Mack and Ethiopia's Kenenisa Bekele in Holyrood Park. Picture: PA
Kiprop, Great Britain's Andy Vernon, France's Sophie Duarte, USA's Bobby Mack and Ethiopia's Kenenisa Bekele in Holyrood Park. Picture: PA

The Kenyan, who takes on Kenenisa Bekele of Ethiopia in the Invitational Men’s 4km in Holyrood Park this afternoon, has also said that contrary to previous reports he does plan to take part in the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow this summer. Of course, that is provided he qualifies via his national trials, which, he explained, can be more demanding than the IAAF World Championships themselves. While he will be among the favourites for gold at Hampden if he is selected, Kiprop sees the slightly more benign conditions of Monaco as a likelier setting for a world record than Scotland’s largest city.

“I have the Olympic gold, I have the World Championship gold, I have the African championships, but not a Commonwealth medal, in my collection,” the 24-year-old said yesterday. “My coach is telling me my profile as an athlete won’t be complete unless I get it.

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“The trials are normally tougher than the World Championships. I can remember in 2011, I ran the 1,500m and was second at the trials in 3min 31sec. When we went to the worlds, I won in 3:35. You can see the difference. Honestly, it’s my goal for 2014 to run 3:26 if not 3:25. The world record’s my main target.”

No-one has set a world record at the distance this century, with Hicham El Guerrouj’s current best of 3:26.00 having been set in 1998. But Kiprop is fourth on the all-time list after clocking 3:27 last year, and felt then that he could have gone faster.

“I wasn’t prepared to run that far that night. I can only imagine. What if I did prepare? What if I took it on? I could get something under 3:26.

“I imagine I’ll run my fastest in Monaco. I’ve set my two personal bests there and it’s ideal there.”

Kiprop is favourite to retain the title he won here last year, when the race was actually over 3k, but he knows that this early in the season it is difficult to gauge what form his rivals are in. “It’s my second time going against the great Kenenisa Bekele – I ran against him in 2012. I expect stiff competition from him and the other guys. I’m not under-estimating anyone. I’m here to do my best and to try to defend.”

Although Kiprop is competing at more than twice his optimal distance in this afternoon’s 25th-anniversary edition of the event, Bekele knows that, having switched to marathon training with a view to making his debut in Paris this spring, he may lack the basic speed to keep up with the Kenyan. “When you compare the marathon and this race it’s a big difference,” the 31-year-old said. “Maybe my speed is not that much faster at this time, because I’m preparing for the marathon and this might be too fast.”

By opting for Paris rather than London, Bekele has avoided a clash with Mo Farah, who is making his debut in the capital after running half the distance last year. The Ethiopian does not appear interested in competing with his British rival for the sake of it at present, and has his sights set on the next Olympic Games, in Rio in 2016.

“I have many years running together with Mo. But at the moment I want to get experience,” he said. “I want to concentrate on the marathon now. So for that reason Paris is better at the moment for me. I thought for a long time now that if I’m fit and healthy at that moment, of course I want to run in the marathon at the Olympic Games. Actually, sometimes when I’m training and on a long run, I’m more confident that I can do even better at the marathon [than on the track]. I have confidence. I feel I have good capacity to do it.

“I’m not nervous. I’m happy and excited to run a marathon. I want to see how it feels – the first marathon is special and very important. At the moment I’m not worried about injury. I’m 100 per cent healthy and I’m feeling good and comfortable, so I hope I will be like that for the next few years.”

The 4k is timed to start at 1.21pm, and will be the first of the day’s races to be shown live on BBC One. The men’s 8k follows at 1.43pm, and the women’s 6km at 2.15pm, featuring Scotland’s 1,500m Commonwealth Games bronze medallist Steph Twell, is the last event of the day.

Twell has already been selected to represent Scotland over 5,000m in Glasgow, and having come fourth in Delhi is targeting a medal this time. But, having had to work hard to build up her endurance after two serious injuries, she will not compete in the 1,500m. “It would be an absolute luxury to run both in Glasgow,” she said. “I don’t think I’ve finished my business with the 1,500, but I’m not going to do it in Glasgow. I want to try and deliver in the 5k for Scotland. I was fourth in Delhi, so I’d like to think a medal would be fantastic.”