Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore 2016

Marathon: Mungara aiming to clip time for third race title

Kenneth Mungara of Kenya, who won the Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore in 2010 and 2014, says he has the ability to run faster. While he has his eyes on the course record that was set in 2009, he said the heat and humidity will be major factors
Kenneth Mungara of Kenya, who won the Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore in 2010 and 2014, says he has the ability to run faster. While he has his eyes on the course record that was set in 2009, he said the heat and humidity will be major factors in defining his performance.ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM

Former barber Kenneth Mungara came late to marathons, but covets another SCMS win

Kenya's Kenneth Mungara went from trimming hair to shaving running times.

The former barber returns to tomorrow's Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore (SCMS) as a two-time champion, gunning for a unprecedented third title.

These successes seemed like a distant world a decade ago, when he was working in his previous profession in his hometown of Limuru, about 30km from Kenya's capital, Nairobi.

Interestingly, the barber shop where he worked - now run by his nephew - was actually the launching pad for his running career.

Several Kenyan professional runners who frequented his shop would talk about their training sessions and discuss their times in between haircuts.

Listening to them chat, Mungara believed he too had the ability to eventually become an elite runner. So at 35, he put down his scissors and shaver, began training full-time and never looked back.

 

CATCH ME IF YOU CAN

People said to me, 'You're 40 and you should be easy to run with and follow', but at the end, they could not keep up with me.

KENNETH MUNGARA, who only began training full-time as a runner at 35.

Now 43 and still winning marathons, he said: "When you look at someone who could do something you couldn't, (that prompted me to tell myself) I must start doing it."

That late start, he believes, has enabled him to prolong his shelf life as a runner, saying: "I didn't start running until (about 10 years ago). That's the difference between me and the other guys.

"I feel that right now, I can do anything. I can go faster because I feel comfortable and good in my training sessions."

The youngest of eight siblings, Mungara's personal best of 2hr 7min 36sec, set at the Prague Marathon in 2011, was faster than the Olympic winners' times at London in 2012 (2:08:01) and Rio (2:08:44).

Having won the SCMS Singapore Marathon in 2010 and 2014, Mungara continues to make a mockery of his age. In his last race - July's Gold Coast Airport Marathon - he clocked 2:09:00 to win the event for a second consecutive year.

He joked: "People said to me, 'You're 40 and you should be easy to run with and follow', but at the end, they could not keep up with me."

For tomorrow's race, Mungara has set his sights on breaking the course record of 2:11:25, set in 2009 by former Kenyan world champion Luke Kibet.

Only one hurdle stands between him and the record - the climate.

He said: "The only problem is the weather here. In Kenya, it is very cold. But in Singapore, the humidity and heat are a challenge."

The earlier start time this year will work in his favour, as the full marathon race will flag off at 4.30am tomorrow at Orchard Road instead of last year's 5am start.

Among the expected field of more than 46,000, including Singapore's top marathoners Ashley Liew, Mok Ying Ren and Neo Jie Shi, will be first-time participant Tim Reed of Australia.

The 31-year-old is the new Ironman 70.3 (1.9km swimming, 90km cycling, 21km running) world champion, and will be taking part in the 21km half marathon, his first running event in more than a decade.

He said: "In triathlon, you don't exactly train for hitting that top speed (in running). That makes it difficult to match a pure runner.

"I just want to go out and enjoy myself this Sunday. "

STANDARD CHARTERED MARATHON SINGAPORE

Singtel TV Ch114 & StarHub Ch208 and StarHub Ch112/205 & 76.25MHz, tomorrow, 4.15am

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 03, 2016, with the headline 'Aiming to clip time for third race title'. Print Edition | Subscribe