Tanzania's long-distance prodigy Alphonce Felix Simbu has arrived in London ready for the London Marathon due on Sunday.
Simbu, who early this year snatched a gold medal in Mumbai Marathon, is the only Tanzanian participating in this year's London Marathon and is expected to pose serious challenge to other African top athletes from Kenya and Ethiopia just like the way he did in Mumbai Marathon.
Speaking over the phone a few minutes before boarding a flight at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport to London, Simbu said he is prepared to bring yet another pride to Tanzania.
"I am going to London not as an individual, but as a representative of my country" he said adding that he is confident of winning taking into consideration the spirited and professional training he underwent in Arusha for several months.
"I must convey my sincere appreciation to DStv for fully sponsoring my training camp in Arusha. Without them, the training could not be conducted successfully" sited Simbu adding that he is also happy to notice great efforts done by both Athletics Tanzania (AT) as well as the Ministry responsible for Sports and Minister Harrison Mwakyembe personally especially when he faced some hitches in securing his VISA to the UK.
Multichoice Tanzania Managing Director Maharage Chande expressed his conviction towards Simbu saying that for the efforts so invested it is obvious that Simbu will represent us well in the fiercely contested London Marathon.
"We as Multichoice Tanzania believe Simbu will once again make Tanzania proud. We have a dream, a very big dream, of having our National anthem played in the Olympics... and we have started very well. We hope that our ambassador will win this Marathon, as well as the upcoming World Championship in August and after that, nobody will stop us from realising our dream," he insisted.
Multichoice Tanzania has been sponsoring Simbu since August 2016 by providing him with monthly subsistence allowance as well as facilitating his training. Simbu will be up against a stronger elite line-up who will hit the track on Sunday during the prestigious London Marathon, run over a largely flat course on the streets of the British capital.
Simbu believes the stronger field on parade will only spur him to hit a new milestone. However, he is not overly optimistic, rather realistic, as he says it will not be about making the podium; he will be taking on a personal challenge, and that is beating his previous best time of 2:09:19, set on March last year, in Otsu, Japan.
"I want to go out there and perform well but my ultimate goal is to improve my personal best," said Simbu, whose personal best falls 6:14 minutes short of the current London Marathon men's course record of 2:03:05 set by Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge last year.
According to the London Marathon elite men runners' personal bests, Simbu stands at 13rd position, with Ethiopian legend Kenenisa Bekele toping up the list of the world-class contenders.
Bekele, a triple Olympic champion and double world record holder on the track, became the world's second fastest marathon runner of all time when he won the 2016 Berlin Marathon last September.
Biwott, who won the 2015 New York City Marathon, is expected to be Bekele's main rival in the absence of two-time champion Kipchoge. Biwott finished runner-up in 2014, fourth in 2015 and second again last year in a personal best time of 2:03:51.
The leading pair are among seven men who have run marathons in under 2:06, who will be running in London next month, while the field contains two marathon world champions, three of the top five finishers from last summer's Olympic Games.