Geoffrey Kamworor: "The Event Feels Like Home"
Geoffrey Kamworor of Kenya, the defending champion of the TCS New York City Marathon, is a five-time world champion—three half-marathon titles (2014, 2016, 2018) and two in cross country (2015 and 2017). He won the 2017 TCS New York City Marathon by pulling away in the final miles, then holding off a late charge by compatriot Wilson Kipsang to break the tape in 2:10:53. It was Kamworor’s first marathon victory, and he returns this year with the goal of defending his title.
The 25-year-old Kamworor, a member of the NN Running Team based in Kaptagat, Kenya, shares his story and his hopes and dreams for November 4.
Racing once more in the TCS New York City Marathon means so much to me. It is my favorite race, and although thousands of miles separate my training base in Kaptagat from New York, the event feels like home.
I say that because of the friendly nature of the event, the terrific organization, and the warmth I feel from the many thousands of supporters lining the route. But what also reminds me of home is the undulating nature of the course, similar to what I experience every day training on the red-colored trails back in Kenya.
From a young age I knew I was a good runner. In primary school I used to quickly cover the 5K distance to and from school twice a day. At high school, even though I would win all the races from 800m to 10,000m, I was scared to progress to the next level. It was only after a teacher encouraged me that one day I could become a professional runner that I had the belief to focus more seriously on running. After winning a 3000m track race and a 10K road race, I decided to focus 100 percent on athletics.
Everything changed for me in late 2010 when I joined the NN Running Team under the coaching of Patrick Sang. He gave me a great coaching program and also shared his general life advice. I quickly started to produce some good results, and after just three months I won the men’s U20 title at the 2011 World Cross Country Championships.
Another huge benefit of joining the NN Running Team has been getting to know and train alongside 2016 Olympic marathon gold medalist Eliud Kipchoge. As soon as I joined the group, Eliud welcomed and encouraged me. He always preaches the importance of self-discipline and that we should never lie to ourselves. Eliud has become my mentor, and it's such a privilege to train with him and live in the same camp together.
Training in Kaptagat revolves around two key sessions: a Tuesday speed session at the track and a long run on Thursday. I enjoy the teamwork and shared experiences in both sessions. During the track sessions, we all take our turn at the front to help one another. The 40K long runs (which often take place at around 2500m altitude) are demanding. To run such a long distance requires mental toughness and we all encourage one other during the run.
After I won a 10K race in Bangalore, India in May I enjoyed the luxury of taking a short holiday with marathon world champion Geoffrey Kirui and three-time TCS New York City Marathon winner and women-only marathon world record-holder Mary Keitany. We went to Amboseli National Park and Mombasa courtesy of the Kenya Tourism Board.
It was an unforgettable experience. I saw elephants, antelopes, and lions and learned a lot about the wild animals. In Mombasa I got to ride a jet-ski for the first time. It was a little scary because I can’t swim! The trip offered a reminder of what a beautiful country I live in and why others should try and come to Kenya for a visit.
As for New York, I can’t wait to return for my third appearance in the race in four years. I finished second at my New York City Marathon debut in 2015 and was determined to one day return and finish top of the podium. Last year, my dream came true. I remember pulling away from the field with around 7K to go. Nobody was able to live with the pace and I crossed the line in front for the first marathon win of my career. It acted as a huge motivation for me to return and defend my title.
This year I’ve been pleased with my form and fitness. It was great to secure a third successive IAAF World Half Marathon title in Valencia in March and also clinch the Kenyan cross country title.
Some people ask me what keeps me focused on the next goal. I see my career as like climbing a tree. Once you are on one branch you need to climb to the next one and forget what you have left behind.