Monday, August 13, 2007

Kip Keino, Legendary Runner #3

Kip Keino's most famous victory took place in the high altitude of the 1968 Mexico City Olympics. The image to the left is of Keino approaching the finish line as world record holder Jim Ryan labors in 2nd place, left in the wake of the great Kenyan runner. While that victory may have sealed his place in history, Keino's impact to the running scene is far greater.

Kipchoge ("Kip") Keino was born in Kipsamo, Nandi District, Kenya. At a young age, Keino herded goats and ran on the hills of Kenya, which prepared him well for his future competitions. When he made his international debut in the early 60s in Perth, Australia, Keino was still a policeman in his home country. He would eventually be the first Kenyan to break the four-minute mile.

The 1964 Olympic 5000m. is best remembered for Bob Schul's victory but right in the mix was the young Keino who is shown in the picture to the right (courtesy of, finishing 5th. In 1965, Keino broke two world records, running 7:39.6 on August 27th. in the 3000m. and then 13:24.2 in the 5000m. on November 30th. Leading up to the 1968 Olympics, Keino ran impressively at two Commonwealth games claiming two victories in 1966 (1st in the mile and 3 mile races) and a 1st. in the 1500m. and 3rd. in the 5000m., both in 1967.

Keino's 1968 1500m. victory was an impressive piece of racing on it's own. What made it even more remarkable was the events that lead to the race. Keino is not listed in the '68 10000m. results due to the fact that he collapsed to the infield, with two laps to go in the race, in pain from a gall bladder infection. Although, he did finish the race, Keino was disqualified for leaving the track. He also ran two 5000m. races, finishing 2nd. behind Mohammed Gammoudi of Tunisia in the final.

The 1500m. final pitted Keino against America's gold medal hopeful and 1500m./mile world record holder, Jim Ryan, who was famed for a devastating kick. To combat Ryan's last lap surge, the Kenyans utilized a team tactic consisting of Keino's teammate, Ben Jipcho, setting a blistering pace for the first two laps. Keino took over, just before the 800m. mark, leaving Ryan with an insurmountable lead to overcome. His time of 3:34.9 remained the Olympic record until 1984, when Sebastian Coe finally broke it with a 3:32.53.

Keino's last Olympics took place in the '72 games in Munich. To the surprise of many, he qualified at the Kenyan trials in a new event for him, the 3000m. steeplechase. He defeated his '68 1500m. pacesetter, Ben Jipcho, in a new Olympic record of 8:23.6. He narrowly missed repeating as 1500m. champion with his 2nd. place finish to Finland's Pekka Vasala by a .5 margin.

Keino (picture to the left courtesy of retired in 1975 but his legacy will be felt for many generations to come. In 1996, he was elected into the World Humanitarian Hall of Fame. The following is from, "Kip Keino Children's Home Organisation that enables about 100 children in Kenya to have a happy childhood and to receive a good education." Keino is also the president of the Kenyan Olympic Committee. Mike Boit said it best when it comes to Keino's impact. "He not only is the father of Kenya distance running, he put this country on the map. He's our national treasure."

To read more about Kip Keino, check out the picture link below.

Runner #2 will be posted tomorrow...

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