Jackson Kiprop marks Rio Olympics as his target

A place on the Ugandan athletics squad for Rio Olympics this August is the target for the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon participant, though the qualifying times have not been announced. "I want to lower my time here and run at Rio. At this point, I don’t know the selection criteria, so will just go out and do my best."

Jackson Kiprop won the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon in early 2013.   -  Vivek Bendre

Farmers running marathons for a living is common in Africa. Ugandan Jackson Kiprop has travelled that road. He clocked 2:09:32 in 2013, was the designated pacemaker for elite runners, and ended up winning the race in Mumbai. A place on the Ugandan athletics squad for Rio Olympics this August is his target, though the qualifying times have not been announced. “I want to lower my time here and run at Rio. At this point, I don’t know the selection criteria, so will just go out and do my best.”

Jackson won the $ 40,000 winner purse and $ 7500 bonus for establishing a course record at the IAAF Gold Label event. “The up and down course (which will feature in Mumbai) suits my style of running. I train on the slopes, the hill section is part of strategy.” The champion’s purse this time is $ 41,000 and course record bonus is $ 15,000. “I used the money last time on the farm. I want to own a house in the town.”

He trains in Kapchorwa, following a regimen devised by Kenyan coach Patrick Sang. Ethiopian Seboka Dibaba (2:06:17) has the best time among elite male runners at Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon (SCMM) 2016, apart from Kenyans. African runners switching nationalities for money does not bother him. Qatar, Bahrain have distance runners from Africa competing at Asian and world-class events.

Jackson points out: “You won’t find Ugandans changing nationalities, simply because runners are fewer. Kenyans have so many quality runners, all cannot get selected so represent other nations for cash. The money coming back helps in the nation’s development. Sport is after all about making a living. If you don’t get a chance to run for your nation, because there are too many competing for few spots, why not run for another country.”

Kiprop is now looking at investment in real estate for post-retirement benefits once his athletics career is over. “I want to build a house in Kapchorwa town where I live. It will take care of my life once I stop running,” said the 30-year-old, owner of the men’s course record at SCMM.