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Red-hot Saruni: ‘I will not run slower than this till October’

MICHAEL Saruni, the man from Eldama Ravine, Baringo County, coached by 1988 Olympic champion Paul Ereng’ and was controversially shut out of the Kenya team to the World Athletics Championships in London in 2017 has just set the world alight.

He is now the second fastest man ever in the indoor 800m ((1:43.25 pb), bettered only by Wilson Kipketer (1:42.67) the Nandi-County born who grabbed world fame running for Denmark. Saruni is now showing that the prediction before the London trials that he was a prospect to replace the great David Rudisha will come true. The World Championships are in Qatar (September 28 – October 6).

Above: Emmanuel Korir (084) edges out Kipegon Bett (right, 073) and Michael Saruni (left, 086) in the 800 metres at Kenya’s 2017 World Championships trials at the Nyayo National Stadium. Top: Michael Saruni, the second best ever in men's indoor 8000m creating waves in USA

Above: Emmanuel Korir (084) edges out Kipegon Bett (right, 073) and Michael Saruni (left, 086) in the 800 metres at Kenya’s 2017 World Championships trials at the Nyayo National Stadium. Top: Michael Saruni, the second best ever in men’s indoor 8000m creating waves in  USA

This early in February Saruni looks super fine indoors and the question is whether after walking outdoors,  he will maintain form leading to Qatar.

Saruni appears to have had good training to be in this great shape in February. It is a long season; how does he get better from February to October when he’s already run 1:43?

“I think from here it only gets better and better. There’s no way I’m going to run slower times than I have done.”

He said this as he enjoyed victory in a fantastic race in New York on February 9, after a winning performance which pulled second-placed Donavan Brazier, 21, to shuttering the American record of Johnny’s Gray (indoor 800 American record of 1:45.00, which had stood since March 8, 1992 — more than five years before Brazier was even born).

Michael Saruni (right) with his coach, 1988 Olympic 800m champion Paul Ereng'

Michael Saruni (right) with his coach, 1988 Olympic 800m champion Paul Ereng’

Saruni powered home to just the third sub-1:44 in indoor history (world record holder Wilson Kipketer broke 1:44 twice in his career, two days apart at Worlds in 1997, running 1:43.97 in the first round and 1:42.67 in the final).

Now the world is waking to the rarity of Kenya’s best athlete this season not being home-based. In fact, because of Saruni and fellow Kenyan Emmanuel Korir, another hot half miler, being based in El Paso, Texas under Ereng’ it appears that the place is a bubbling stable of Kenya’s best. But Saruni discounted that notion that there is a “large group”, a mass factory of Kenya talent: “No, in fact it is just the two of us; Emmanuel and myself.”

 Korir, 23 and Saruni, 22, are professionals on their debut season, but both still train in El Paso under their former college (University of Texas at El Paso – UTEP) coach and 1988 Olympic champion Paul Ereng’. Korir was the best 800 runner in the world last year and made the Kenya London team at the worlds.

Michael Saruni in a collegiate championship for Paul Ereng's University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP)

Michael Saruni in Collegiate championship for Paul Ereng’s University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP)

In Kenya’s pre-London trials, Saruni finished third, behind Korir. But Saruni was controversially denied a Team Kenya place. However, he revealed that if he was in the best condition he would have placed better to stay away from the controversy regarding a third slot.

“At that nationals I was sick. I din’ wanna say it.” But this time, if he stays healthy

he will be aiming for the best in Qatar. Saruni reckons he is quite close to being Kenya’s best in 2019, like Korir was in 2017 (however, Korir could not make the final in London, the only Kenya finalist, Kipyegon Bett, 1:45.21, got the bronze medal).

Last year, it was Korir clocking 1:44.21 indoors to record  — at the time — the fastest indoor 800 in 17 years, putting him #3 on the all-time list.

-Additional reporting by Agencies

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