What you need to know:
- Road racing and track star hopes new training regime and coaching partnership sets him on course for stellar medal-winning performances
Bedan Karoki seems to have finally discovered a remedy that can finally land him a major championship victory in the world of athletics.
This is thanks to him partnering with local coach Francis Kamau, who is one of the founder members of Mfae Athletics Club that has produced revered athletes like the late 2008 Olympic marathon champion Samuel Wanjiru, Mary Wacera and Veronica Nyaruai among others.
Kamau reckons that Karoki has great potential to become one of Kenya’s greatest athletes now that he knows what to do so as to stop playing second fiddle especially in championship races.
Sample this … Karoki won 10,000m silver at the 2011 Maputo African Games on his debut for Kenya and would again settle for similar medals at the 2015 World Cross Country Championships and 2016 World Half Marathon, losing the battle to Geoffrey Kamworor on both occasions.
Karoki, who embraced athletics at a tender age of 12 at Kagondo Primary in Nyandarua County, has participated at the Summer Olympic Games twice - in London 2012 and Rio 2016 - where he finished fifth and seventh respectively in the 10,000m.
The father of two has graced three World Championships, finishing fourth at the 2015 Beijing and 2017 London edition with a sixth-place finish at the 2013 edition in Moscow, Russia.
Kamau says that at 28 years, Karoki has many strengths ranging from his great talent, discipline and hard work and can achieve whatever he sets his sights on. “Karoki is quite unique and different from all the athletes I have handled at Mfae,” Kamau explains.
“He has that self-drive that when he jets back home from Japan where he is based, he rarely hangs out and will be up the following morning training.”
Kamau notes that Karoki’s discipline and humility is directly related to his upbringing in a family that has deep religious roots - his parents Peter Muchiri and Ruth Nyambura are staunch Seventh Day Adventist (SDA) adherents.
“I know Karoki like the back of my hand, having brought him up from his primary level,” says Kamau, adding that just like Eliud Kipchoge, Karoki is capable of not only breaking the 10,000m track world record but also the Marathon equivalent.
However, Kamau is quick to note that Karoki can soon begin to win World Championship events if he were to change him mindset and master time management.
“He really needs to do his mathematics well during the races. He ought to know how long he will cover a kilometre and what time he intends to finish any particular race,” notes Kamau.
“I think he tends to forget all this planning during the race, which explains his low speed towards the end of the races.”
Kamau compares Karoki’s running style to the late Wanjiru while also observing that Wanjiru was a great finisher, a thing that Karoki should emulate.
“With a personal best of 2:07:41 in marathon and 26:52.12 in 10,000m all from 2017, this is a person who can have the world under his feet.”
Karoki acknowledges the mistakes has he committed on track and road racing but said his rivals should brace for a new change of tact as he aims for a ticket either in marathon or 10,000m at the World Championships due October 1-6 in Doha, Qatar this year.
“I have always had a fast-paced first phase of my marathon races or even on track but I am not strong in finishing,” said Karoki.
“I have the much needed experience in marathon and track and I hope for a break this time around.”
The Japan-based athlete, who attributes his success to hard work and making God the top priority in his life, says his participation in the marathon race at the Doha Worlds hinges on a good show at the March 3 running of the Tokyo Marathon in Japan.
“I really want to make the marathon team for Doha but if Tokyo Marathon doesn’t fall in place for me I shall turn my focus on making my fourth appearance in the 10,000m at the global event,” notes Karoki.
Karoki, who has stepped up his training, alternating between Eldoret, Ngong, Nairobi and Nyahururu, will go for a new approach as he targets his first marathon victory in Tokyo on his fifth appearance over the distance.
“I will take is slow in the opening stages unlike the past,” explains Karoki after his workout in Ngong Forest where he has done a lot of endurance and is now concentrating on speed polishing.
“I only have silver medals and it’s a high time I won that precious gold medal me it on track or road,” said Karoki, who works for Dena Company in Japan.
Karoki, who was born on August 21, 1990 in Wakungu, Nyandarua County, says he will be at great advantage in Tokyo since it’s his second home, having lived in Japan for the last 12 years.
“I know its weather quite well … the temperatures are mild this time of the year and I hope to take advantage of it. I will be happy to run a sub 2:05 hours and a podium finish,” says Karoki, who has personal best 2:07:41.
The Tokyo Marathon is the opening leg of the World Marathon Majors where Karoki will be up against highly-fancied athletes like compatriot and two-time defending champion Dickson Chumba.
Karoki claimed a personal best of 2:07:41 to finish third on his marathon debut in London in 2017, losing the battle to compatriot Daniel Wanjiru, who won in 2:05:48.
He followed it up with a fourth-place finish in Fukuoka the same year in 2:08:44 before returning to London last year to finish fifth in 2:08:34.
He would finish ninth in Chicago in 2:07:59 but failed to finish the race in Fukuoka last year owing to a tendon injury.
Karoki says he has always enjoyed running on track and he will be glad to make a return since his last assignment at London 2017.
“I will make a few adjustments in training for track since I still have the speed,” explains Karoki.
He has also put up a credible show in half marathon races since his debut over the distance at 2014 Lisbon to winning the 2018 Ras al-Khaimah Half Marathon in a course record time of 58:42, which is the sixth fastest time ever.
“I also want to own the World Records in both 10,000m, half marathon and marathon,” said Karoki, who is targeting personal best of 2:03 this year.
He adds that even though he has achieved what many athletes can only dream of, he desires to emulate Olympic Marathon champion Eliud Kipchoge, who is also the marathon world record holder in a time of 2:01:39 set in Berlin last year.
“Kipchoge has broken the WR at the age of 34 and that enough is a good inspiration especially after having won the Olympic title in 2016 Rio,” said Karoki, the father of two, who is married to Evelyne Wanjira.
“Kipchoge’s record can take years to be broken but for sure it will go down one day and I hope to be the one to smash it. I am working on that goal,” affirms Karoki.
The first born in a family of four boys and three girls, Karoki took up athletics while in class seven a Kagondo Primary School in 2002 following the success of his school mates who had been taken to Japan by Japanese national Masoto Marukao, who had started Mutual Fair Exchange Athletics Club (Mfae) three years back.
“The dream for adventure in a foreign country simply swayed me to athletics after the good stories from those who had visited Japan,” said Karoki, who started with 1,500m.
“The likes of John Ngugi and Sammy Kipketer came to my mind. I wanted to be like them.”
Karoki reached the provincial level while in class seven before qualifying for the nationals the following year to join Kagondo Secondary School in 2004 buts it is while in form two that Karoki started to discover his full potential.
In form three, Karoki qualified for the National Secondary Schools Championships in Thika where he reached the 1,500m final.
He would face the likes of the 2005 World Under-18 and 2006 World Under-20 800m silver medallist Jackson Kivuva, who won the race.
Karoki, who was already training at Mfae, would finish fourth in a time of 3:47 but the show was enough for Marukao to spot his athletics potential.
The rest is history after the Japanese plucked him from Mfae and it was destination Tokyo, Japan on scholarship.
“I would say Marukao has been like a second father to me. He is the man behind my success not forgetting my coaches Kamau and Tomoaki Kunichika,” says the athlete, who studied Japanese for three years.
Karoki shifted to 5,000m and just on his first year in 2007 he ran 13:38 followed by 13:33 and 13:32 the second and third years respectively.
After he cleared high school in 2009 in Japan, Karoki joined Company S & B where he stayed before departure in 2012, having incorporated the 10,000m race into his programme.
That is when he got the chance to represent Kenya for the first time in 2011 at the African Games wining silver in 10,000m before claiming his maiden National Cross Country title in 2012.
That same year, he represented Kenya at the London Olympics finishing fifth as the best placed Kenyan in a race won by Briton Mo Farah.
He won the national trials for the 2013 Moscow World Championships beating Kenneth Kipkemoi and Paul Tanui but he would settle for sixth place at the championships with Tanui emerging as the best placed Kenyan with bronze as Farah won the race.
He missed the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games but won his second National Cross Country title to also make his triumphant half marathon debut winning in Lisbon in 59:58.
He followed in up with victories in Gifu, Japan in 60:02 and Philadelphia in personal best 59:23.
In 2015, Karoki would beat Kamworor for his third National Cross Country title but Kamworor would exact revenge at the World Cross Country Championships in Guiyang, China winning to force Karoki to settle for silver.
Karoki would then again play second fiddle to Kamworor at the national trials for the World Championships in Beijing the same year as Kamworor won silver at the Worlds and Karoki settled fourth.
That same year Karoki won the Copenhagen Half Marathon lowering his personal best to 59:15.
Come 2016, Kamworor turned on the style to win the World Half Marathon title in Cardiff, Wales in 59:10 as Karoki, who was leading in the last phase of the race, wilted in the pounding rains to settle for silver in 59:32.
“I think this is my best race so far in my running career. I ran so well but the rains towards the tail end cost me,” says Karoki.
He got a wild card for the 2016 Rio Olympics after failing to finish the race during the trials in Eldoret but the tendon injury followed him in Rio where he settled for seventh.
He also settled fifth at Copenhagen Half Marathon in 59:32.
In 2017, Karoki finished third at the National Cross Country Championships but opted out of the team for the 2017 Kampala World Cross Country.
He went on to win the Ras Al Khaimah Half Marathon in 59:10 before his marathon debut in London Marathon where he finished third in 2:07:32 losing to Daniel Wanjiru.
Karoki finished fourth at the World Championships in London where he was the best placed Kenyan having come second behind Kamworor at the national trials.
He ran his second marathon in Fukuoka but settled for fourth in 2:08:44.
Karoki would defend his RAK Half Marathon title in a course record and personal best time of 58:42 last year to get a shot at the World Half Marathon but opted for the London Marathon where he finished fifth in 2:08:34.