I stop my watch as I make the last strides on another beautiful evening run around Iten. “1:11:something” shows the display of my watch. Another training day, 2.400 metres above sea level is over.
I walk on and suddenly I meet Elisha beside the road. Looking at me, he asks shyly “No rest today?”. One doesn’t find many runners around on a Sunday evening in Kenya. Sunday is the traditional rest day. There may be a little jog in the morning if at all. Visiting relatives and going to the church is the main thing on the agenda. And so also Elisha is taking it easy on this sunny last day of the week, just out strolling to break the boredom at his camp down the road.
We walk on. He asks me if I ever ran a marathon. “Yes”, I reply. The next question, as always, is about the time. “What is your PB?”, he wants to know. Knowing that he will be amused with my reply, I tell him that I ran “2:50”. He stops walking. Looking critically at my sunburned post run legs he says what sounds simple and is straight forward. “2:28. You can run 2:28 – no problem. Just train!”
I smile as he looks at me. Elisha goes on “I ran 2:20 at my first marathon with no special preparation. In Turin. Italy.” Looking at the name beside the number “1” at the results of some Italian half marathons in the last two years, you’ll find the name “Elisha Meli”. Just training for three years, he has achieved some respectable results. The highlights, for him, include wining the 2008 Turin Half Marathon and pacing his fellow countryman John Komen to a new course record of 2h08’13″ at this years Venice Marathon. With the trademark Kenyan-style mix of tranquility and eagerness to compete, he is looking forward to race his first “competitive” 42k this year, when and wherever that may be.
Elisha and I are chatting on as we are strolling down the rocky backroad. Finally we are standing in front of his camp. After some jokes we shake hands and before i turn around to walk on, he looks at me and says “Just stay with us for three months. 2:28 – no problem!”