Kenya's marathon tradition continues to thrive through Geoffrey Kirui

Geoffrey Kirui salutes the spectators at the finish line of the marathon in London as he added the World Championship gold medal to his Boston marathon victory. Jonathan Brady/PA Images via Getty Images

LONDON -- First, victory in the Boston Marathon in April, then World Championships gold four months later. Could we be looking at a new Kenyan great in 24-year-old Geoffrey Kirui?

His win Sunday in London, in 2 hours, 8 minutes, 27 seconds, came as he completed only his fourth race at the distance after switching his career from the track and the 10,000 meters last year.

Kirui doesn't train at the same triple-digit weekly mileage that most of his rivals do, either, and works out at the hilly base of Keringet, Kenya, rather than Iten, the location favoured by most of his country's distance runners.

He chased down Ethiopia's Tamirat Tola (second place), who had the fastest pre-race time of the field but reported problems with an achilles injury, and Tanzania's Felix Simbu (third).

"Boston changed my life, and now my life will change again," said Kirui. "This is the best moment of my career, easily. I am so happy to win the world title because it is my first time at these championships. This was the best course and the best crowd I have seen at a marathon.

"I was not expecting to be world champion. I feared the Ethiopian [Tola] because he had such a fast time, so I just followed my plan to 35 kilometers and then felt my body to see how I was doing. Good for me, it responded well.

"Winning this title has been my goal for so long. Now my goal will be to repeat it."

It was a relatively sedate race around a 10-kilometer loop that went past historic sights such as the Tower of London and St. Paul's Cathedral, until the midway point of the four-lap race.

Then the field strung out after a big break from Kirui, Tola and Kenyan Gideon Kipketer, who soon began to struggle with a hamstring problem and slipped to a fifth-placed finish.

The leading pair contested a fascinating east African duel from there on in, but Kirui, who had beaten America's Galen Rupp in the final stages in Boston, made a move on Tola in the final 5 miles and surged through to the finish. The Ethiopian, who had been setting the pace, crossed the line 1 minute 22 seconds afterward.

"I am very happy and proud with my result, I do not feel like I lost the gold medal," said Tola. "Although I was in pain I was able to finish the marathon.

"The course was difficult for me with so many curves and four laps, this makes it difficult for me. I have never run a course like this. Last time I took the bronze, now the silver, so I want to improve a lot next time. What is next for me will be to treat my leg, train hard and then get the gold medal."

Kirui became Kenya's fifth world champion at the distance, and the nation has dominated the event, having also won three silvers.

But he seems like a different type of runner to many who have gone before. He runs around 80 miles a week and focuses on quality rather than quantity.

In fact, Kirui says it is tough for long-distance workouts where he lives and there's seldom anyone for company at his level when he wants to really test his endurance.

"He is very comfortable there and the hills make him strong," said manager Valentijn Trouw. "He's just moving to marathon and will have a great future in it. The first two he ran he were good until 37, 39 kilometers and then lacked the endurance he needed. He's getting that right now but is still a little bit down on that score compared to other marathoners; that endurance will develop with time.

"He is not a person to be in a group of 40-50, but he is very focussed. It's intense training but the quality is very high. Several people have advised him that he needs to be running more miles, but he said no. He wants time to build it up and is very sensitive to what works for him and what doesn't.

"Maybe he needs to change if he wants to set world records in future, but for now, we have seen he doesn't need to change too much."