NYC Marathon Champion Wilson Kipsang Talks Defending His Title this Year (Q&A)

Kipsang shares how he fuels up, prepares mentally and avoids injury while training

On November 1, some 50,000 runners will hit the streets of New York City to compete in what is arguably the most notable marathon in the world. And if last year’s race is any indication, Wilson Kipsang will be leading the pack. 

The former world record holder for the fastest marathon, Kipsang is no stranger to the podium. One of the best athletes in the world, the Herbalife-sponsored Kenyan runner has won the Frankfurt, London and Berlin Marathons and he’s even taken a bronze medal in the 2012 Summer Olympic Games. He took first in the New York City Marathon last year and he’s back once again, looking to defend his title. We spoke to Kipsang this week about how he fuels up, prepares mentally and avoids injury while training.

The Active Times: So you’re aiming to defend your title, how have you been preparing for that mentally?
Wilson Kipsang: Yeah, I’m really aiming to defend my title. I think to prepare for that mentally you have to be [grounded]. You try to analyze how you prepared yourself, how you won last year—try to do that and then increase a little bit more. You know, I always want to improve on my previous performance. Just try to be strong and believe in myself.

Have you changed your training this year—or is there anything special you do differently when training for New York?
Nothing much. But New York, [just training] for the course and then working on my speed and then making sure you combine the two of them to make sure that’s fully compatible. 

What will you eat for your pre-race dinner?
Because we’re in New York, we don’t have ugali, I think I’m going to take pasta the day before. But if I could get the food that I’m used to—that’s ugali—that would be the best.

What kind of diet do you eat when training for a marathon?
I think on a daily basis, when I’m training, I don’t really measure. But I can say, maybe 80 percent of the diet is carbohydrates and then 10 percent is protein and 10 percent vitamins. But if you tried to analyze the diet, much of it is carbohydrates. 

Have you ever “hit the wall” during a race and, if so, how do you overcome it?
Yeah, not so long ago. I didn’t finish one of my races when I was competing in the world championships at Beijing. It wasn’t good. 

When you’re running you’ve got to feel for yourself. The body’s not like a machine, where you can tune it, [so] it’s OK and then it has to do it…You have to listen to your body. As you run you feel it, even if you are tired. [If you’re in tune with your body] you can recover in the race and pick it up again. But sometimes when the temperatures are extreme, the body can tell that it’s not good. You try to pick it up, it’s not coming—you try to assist, it’s not coming; you feel it’s not going well. So the mind and the body might say ‘stop’.

What shoes will you be running in?
I’ll be using the Adidas Boost.

Do you have any specific injury prevention strategies that you follow during marathon training?
To prevent injuries, you have to really make sure that you’re training the right way. Training properly and eating well, because when the body is strong it can resist some injuries. But other than that…make sure you balance the speed runs and the long runs—make sure you have proper timing. You don't have to run too fast when the body’s not in a position to run fast. Like a warm-up. 

Also, massage a few times a week [helps]. Gym sessions to make sure the body’s balanced and just to feel good in training. 

Is resetting the world record part of your goal on Sunday?
I don't think the record is possible in New York. It’s not possible to run a world record, but maybe to run a personal best here.

On that note, do you have a favorite course?
I’m going to say my favorite course so far is—well, I’ve run well in London. But it’s not good to compare the races because they’re so different. It’s always a different kind of race. 

What has been the biggest challenge for you during training this year?
The biggest challenge for me this year has been to recover from the world championships. Running in [those kinds of] temperatures, you find that you loose a lot when it comes to your body. A lot of calories, water—you hydrate so much. So to recover and then to pick it back up was not easy. Very tough.

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