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CHAMPAIGN Peter Kibet Limo had never run a race outside of Kenya, but his time of 2 hours, 15 minutes at the high altitude Nairobi Marathon in May 2012 stuck out from the throngs of world class Kenyan marathoners.
“I was very surprised because 2:15 is very strong,” she said.
So Mikova invited Kibet Limo to work with her and her group of 15 runners. He moved in with Mikova for about a month, which she said is typical for her runners, and on Saturday he ran his first race away from his home country, winning the Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon in a time of 2:20:54.
“He’s very happy,” Mikova sad. “I was thinking (coming in) that maybe (training partner) Kennedy (Kemei) wins, or maybe Peter wins.”
He edged out Kemei, a fellow Kenyan, by five seconds. Halfway through the race, the duo ran with the pack but steadily broke away, with Kemei finishing ahead of third place runner Joseph Amenya by 3:03.
“The course was quick,” said Kemei, who spoke on behalf of himself and Kibet Limo. “The weather was not good, so I was thinking we could run something like 2:22.”
Mikova picks out races for her runners based on course speed and the skill of the top runners. Instead of entering Kibet Limo and Kemei in top races like the Boston or Chicago marathons, she chose a race that she thought fit their skill set.
“Usually I’m thinking, with a runner, about where he can do well from his level, his results,” Mikova said. “If he’s middle level, he can only do middle level races. If he’s high level, he can do big races like Chicago, New York. I try to provide for these runners marathons where they can do well, where they can be happy.”
Kibet Limo took home the $2,700 prize, and throughout the year he will run a few road races before eventually breaking back into marathons in the fall.
“Right now, he’s so excited because everything is new for him,” Mikova said. “Maybe he doesn’t like only the weather (Saturday). I think he has to be happy because he did, very well, his job and he won the race, he made some money. This is his job. He’s a professional runner, and he has to be happy.”
And going forward, she thinks Kibet Limo just might be able to break into the upper echelon of runners who compete for titles in Boston, Chicago and other huge races.