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Jeff Kolpack, Published April 30 2014

Pre-race favorite for this year's Fargo Marathon running strong after dealing with injuries

FARGO – The owner of the best qualifying time for the Fargo Marathon had an outstanding year in 2011. Peter Kemboi won five races in a span of 10 months and had the appearance of taking his running game to the next level.

He didn’t get there.

Perhaps it was a byproduct of doing too many events in too short of time, said Larisa Mikhaylova, his current coach and agent, but injuries plagued the Kenyan runner for the next couple of years. That included back ailments and problems with his legs.

Recovery was slow.

“He was on top of all these marathons in 2011,” Mikhaylova said. “I think he got to the point where he couldn’t improve, he ran too many marathons.”

His victories in 2011, actually starting with the Memphis Marathon in December of 2010, were the Mississippi Marathon, Louisville Marathon, Akron Marathon and the Steamtown Marathon. Sandwiched in there was a 23rd-place finish in Grandma’s Marathon, that is run in Duluth, Minn.

Now 34 years old, Kemboi owns a personal-best time of 2 hours, 9 minutes, 21 seconds in 2007.

He’s currently training in altitude in Mexico before he travels to Fargo for the May 10 race.

Kemboi trains out of the L.M. Elite Running Club in Hebron, Ky. Mikhaylova, the president of the club and a former member of the women’s Russian National team, began her club in 2008.

Kemboi returned to the victory stand last December winning the Santa Barbara Marathon in 2:32.08 and three weeks ago taking the Martian Invasion of the Races marathon in Dearborn, Mich., with a time of 2:33.05. He said in a post-race interview he was hoping for a 2:20 but the warm weather prevented that.

Mikhaylova said she doesn’t think he can run a sub-2:20 in Fargo, but said between 2:20 and 2:22 is realistic.

“The marathon is a very hard distance,” she said. “Nobody knows how you will do. It also depends on the weather. If it’s in the 50s or 60s, that’s OK. He cannot run in cold weather; it’s not comfortable for him.”

The long-range, 10-day forecast calls for temperatures in the high 50s the day before the Saturday race.

Mikhaylova said Kemboi entered Fargo because he requested it and wants to run the flat course.

The next best qualifying time to date belongs to Philip Richert of Richfield, Minn., who holds a 2:23 personal record.

It should be noted that, in the previous nine years, the pre-race favorite has not won a lot.

“He’s training very seriously,” Mikhaylova said. “I hope he does well.”

Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546.

Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found

at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia