The cancellation of 2020 Boston Marathon and Tokyo Olympics Games due to coronavirus pandemic was a heartbreaking moment for former World marathon champion Geoffrey Kirui.
"When I first heard the news, I felt as if somebody had hit me below the belt. I have overcome many heartbreaking moments in my athletics career but this is the one I'm yet to come to terms with," said Kirui.
"This hurts so much, but hopefully this pandemic will not last forever. I pray to God that a lasting medical solution is found. Sports has suffered enough. I want to go back to my winning ways in long distance races," he added.
He said the increasing cases of Covid-19 in Europe where most athletes run had intensified their anxieties.
"There is an overwhelming sense of apprehension, fear and doubts and the worst part is that nobody knows when things will come back to normal. Morale is low because what is ahead is not clear," said Kirui.
He added: "The cancellation came as huge surprise. It was a big shock to me as I was working hard in training. I hope very soon things will come back to normal as I was hoping to make a big impact in Boston and Olympics Games in Tokyo. It has disoriented me mentally," added Kirui.
Kirui who won the World marathon championships held in London in 2017 with a time of 2rs, 08min, 27sec and the same year he won the Boston Marathon in 2:09:37.
In 2018 Kirui missed the Boston title as he finished second in 2hrs, 18min, 21sec. And last year, he finished fifth in 2:08.55 in a race won by his compatriot Lawrence Cherono (2:07.57).
"I was going to make my fourth appearance at the 124th edition of the Boston marathon. Boston is like my second home. I miss my fans in Boston. I was looking forward to giving them a memorable marathon treat this year," said Kirui. The lucrative race was started in 1897.
After failing to retain his title in Doha last year at the World Athletics Championships, Kirui who is one of the planet's leading long distance runners, embarked on vigorous training on the hilly terrain in Keringet area of Kuresoi South in Nakuru County.
Keringet is a popular high altitude training area in Kenya, situated more than 3,000 feet above sea level.
"My body is well tuned, and I feel much stronger than when I was in Doha during the World Championships and London marathon. I am in good shape."
Kirui has been doing light training in the mornings and evenings to keep fit as he seeks to bounce back into action. He said his training sessions have been hampered by heavy rainfall in the region.
"The track at the dilapidated Keringet field is muddy due to heavy rain and I can't do meaningful training," he explained.
"After the Doha debacle, my tendon injury was treated and I healed in December last. I started serious training in February and by March, I was in top form ready to conquer my first race in Boston on April 20," said Kirui.
Kirui injured the tendon on his left leg while training on tarmac along Molo-Olenguruone Road. Keringet has no running track.
The athletics-rich Keringet has no modern training camp and the current running track at the facility sitting on 20 acres of land owned by the county government is in deplorable state.
"Before we went to Doha, I had a recurring tendon injury. I even thought of dropping out of the World championships squad but I decided to give the race a try even with the injury," explained Kirui.
He revealed that while in Doha, he considered returning home as the injury persisted but he opted to remain.
"There was a time the pain became unbearable before the race and I contemplated leaving the camp to return home," he added.
He clarified that contrary to what many of his fans think, his poor performance in Doha was not as a result of the heat but was due to tendon injury.
"I was prepared psychologically for Doha and I knew the heat was intense. I have competed there in the Diamond League in 2014. My main undoing was the tendon injury and it had nothing to do with the climate."
"The good thing about the injury is that it is now behind me but the arrival of coronavirus has put brakes in my preparations," said Kirui.
Kirui, who trains under the Global Sports Communication Training Camp in Keringet, launched his international career at the 2011 Africa Under-20 championship in Botswana where he clinched a gold in the 10,000m.
He now spends time at his Seguton home in Nyota Ward in Kuresoi South, Nakuru County. He spends time with his three boys - Godwin Kimweno (11), Godfrey Kipkoech (9), Kevin Kipkoech (4), his mum Jenifer Chepkwony and his wife Caroline.
Caroline is elder sister of Faith Chepng'etich, the 1,500m Olympics champion who claimed silver at the 2019 World Championships.
After working out, the alumnus of Riruta Satellite Secondary School in Nairobi shifts gears and turns to his other passion - farming and takes care of his pedigree cattle.
"I love farming. Feeding and milking my cattle after a morning work-out gives me a lot of satisfaction and peace of mind," said the 27-year- old Kirui.