Wed, Oct 05, 2005 - Page 19 News List

Kenyan runner ascribes success to laziness

AP , NEW YORK

As a schoolgirl in Kenya, Lornah Kiplagat ran barefoot to class -- 6.5km there and 6.5km back. Throw in frequent lunches at home, and she often covered 25km a day.

Kiplagat probably could have walked, but she wasn't much of a morning person.

"In Kenya, if you're late, the teacher will cane you," Kiplagat said. "I was a bit lazy. I didn't see why I should wake up early and walk when I could run to school."

Funny how laziness can get you a shoe contract with Adidas, three world records and status as the favorite to win the New York City Marathon on Nov. 6.

Kiplagat was the featured speaker at the New York Athletic Club on Monday, where three more competitors were announced in the field of 39 elite female runners: last year's NYC Marathon runner-up Susan Chepkemei, 2003 champion Margaret Okayo and 2000 winner Ludmila Petrova.

Kiplagat finished seventh in a time of 2:28:21 last year, some 5 minutes behind winner Paula Radcliffe. Radcliffe, who won the marathon at the world championship in August in 2:20:57, will not return to defend her title.

"She ran two major marathons this year, and decided to skip this fall," New York Road Runners president and CEO Mary Wittenberg said.

"We made sure she knows we want her back next year," she said.

That leaves Kiplagat as the favorite in her fourth NYC marathon. Her best finish was third in 2003.

She's won nine of 10 road races this year.

Her first loss came on Saturday, when she finished second at the world half-marathon championship in Edmonton. In driving rain and 5OC temperatures, she beat Chepkemei in a sprint to the tape for the silver medal, her first in an international competition.

"In nine years, I've never won a sprint with anybody. I'm always ahead or really far away. I was very happy with second," Kiplagat said.

The 31-year-old Kiplagat is the world record holder in the 10-mile (50:54), 5K (14:47) and 20K (1:03:54). She finished fifth in the 10,000 meters at the Athens Olympics and fourth at the World Championships in 2003.

For the next four weeks, she will be training in the high altitude and cooler temperatures of Boulder, Colorado. She will be running for US$130,000 in first-place prize money, the largest in marathon history.

Shoes "were a stumbling block" at her first national competition in South Africa in 1996. But she was encouraged by her mother, who said she ran like Kip Keino.

"They have songs about him," Kiplagat said of the 1968 Olympic gold medalist in the 1,500 meters.

Kiplagat eventually became an early riser, training as a "night runner" before dawn to avoid offending local customs.

"It's common for women to have to stay at home," she said. "Men in Kenya cannot accept that women are running in naked legs. [Shorts] are not acceptable."

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