He made his debut in the national colours at the World Athletics Championships in Daegu, South Korea.
Although he carried the team's season best time to the global championships and bagged the silver medal, very little is known about Vincent Kipruto.
With numerous 42-kilometre titles safely tucked in his trophy cabinet, Kipruto opened his 2011 season with a second-place finish behind World cross-country maestro Abraham Chebii at the Discovery Kenya half marathon early this year.
But this was only a pointer to the sterling performance that awaited the marathoner, who celebrated his 24th birthday last Tuesday. He stands out among Kenya's high-achieving long distance runners.
His Personal Best is two hours, five minutes and 13 seconds, which he posted at last year's Rotterdam Marathon, emerging the tenth fastest marathoner of all time.
And a third-place finish in the Dutch city was just enough for Kipruto as marathon bigwigs Patrick Makau and Geoffrey Mutai dipped under the 2:05 mark. Makau is the Berlin Marathon titleholder while Mutai won the Boston Marathon in a world best time of 2:03.02 last April.
At ease in Daegu
Kipruto said he was certain to perform well at the Daegu Worlds: "The World Championships was not a big competition for me. I had raced in a number of marathon races and I was well-prepared for it. I went there prepared for a medal and I am happy I made it," a visibly happy Kipruto told Monday Sport last Wednesday in Eldoret.
But he has two things he wants to accomplish in life - win the Olympic marathon and get recruited into the Kenya Police Service.
"Right now I do not have a formal job. I admire the Kenya Police and how their athletes train. I plan to race in the London Marathon next year to qualify for the Olympics. I hope to use the races to consolidate points for the World Marathon Majors," said Kipruto, who dedicated his world marathon silver medal to his coach William Kiplagat and training mates at Kapkitony Athletics Club in Keiyo South.
Kipruto trains with police runner Stephen Kirui, who has been encouraging him to join the force. "I like the job and wish he could also join. It motivates athletes," said Kirui.
His journey to the top of world marathon running has come due to hard work. Kipruto juggled his love for athletics with academics. His tale is refreshing and would inspire lovers of academics to take up athletics.
The soft-spoken athlete hoped to work hard in class, study economics and later become a business manager. The first born in a family of five started running at Class Three at Kapawa Primary School in Keiyo South and raced against older athletes, but had a keen eye on academics.
Kipruto, who trains under Dutch track and field agent Jos Hermens in Kapkitony Athletics Club in Keiyo South, could run home during lunch break and later dash uphill to Tingwo Forest to give water to their cattle; an experience that hardened him.
"I ran uphill trying to emulate my neighbour (and now his coach) William Kiplagat. He was a top athlete in our village those days. And at Class Six, I represented my school in 10,000m race at the district level," said Kipruto, who joined Form One at Tambach High School, Keiyo North, in 2003.
With a burning desire to excel in academics, Kipruto buried himself in books and could not go beyond Rift Valley Province competitions.
"I had to balance classwork and athletics. At Form Three, our games teacher introduced me to coach Bro Colm O' Connell who put me in his training programme," he said.
Kipruto took part in Keiyo Athletics Kenya track and field races and represented the district in 10,000m race at the provincials while in Form Four in 2006.
"That is where coach Kiplagat saw me. He was impressed with my performance and asked me to meet him, which I did," said Kipruto, who hails from the athletics-rich village of Kapkitony in Keiyo South.
Kipruto, a fan of English Premiership side Chelsea FC, is neighbour of former world cross-country champion Florence Kiplagat and cross-country siblings Gedion and Valentine Kipketer.
After completing his KCSE, he embarked on full-time training. He made his maiden trip to the Netherlands in 2007 and won all his road races. He made his marathon debut at the 2008 Reims Marathon in France, where he finished third in 2:08.16.
In 2009, he came fourth (1:06.01) at Egmond Half Marathon as he prepared for the Paris Marathon.
Against a stellar line up, Kipruto won in a course record of 2:05.47. Now with the World silver medal, his next mission is to win the Olympic gold.