Kenya: Here's the Secret Behind Eliud Kipchoge's Longevity

Eliud Kipchoge speaks after he was crowned the Sports personality of the Year at the Soya gala in Mombasa on January 24, 2020 (file photo).
3 October 2020

By now we know (almost) everything there is to know about Eliud Kipchoge. His records, consistency, family, coach, work ethic, longevity…. Name it!

Sunday's London Marathon has, for weeks been touted as the "race of the century" with Kipchoge, the fastest man over the marathon distance, up against his Ethiopian rival and fellow legend, Kenenisa Bekele.

We know that Kipchoge, who is the world marathon record holder, will be eyeing to defend his title in London.

And we know that, for many years now, Kipchoge has been training in Kaptagat.

What we might not quite know is the story of the team behind Kipchoge's success.

Especially the legend's physiotherapist, Peter Nduhiu, who has been treating athletes at the Global Sports Communication camp consistently and reliably.

Bekele withdraws

On Friday, the world was shocked by the news that Bekele had withdrawn from Sunday's race with a calf injury. Calf injuries are common in sport, and it takes a great physiotherapist to make sure they don't happen...

"It has been a tough preparation time, with lockdown, when I couldn't have my NN team around me. I was in good shape but then I picked up a niggle in my left calf after two fast training sessions close together in the last weeks of preparation," Bekele said while announcing his withdrawal.

"I have been having receiving treatment every day since then and I truly believed I would be ready, but today it is worse and I now know I cannot race on it."

"This race was so important to me. My time in Berlin last year gave me great confidence and motivation and I was looking forward to show that again, I have worked so hard for it.

"I realise many people around the world have been looking forward to this race and I am sorry to disappoint my fans, the organisers and my fellow competitors. I will take time to recover and become fit again and I hope to be back in London next year."

Jos Hermens, manager of Kenenisa and director of Global Sports Communication / NN Running Team said: "The covid-19 pandemic turned the world upside down and had a big influence on the sports world in general, but also had a big influence specifically on the preparation of Kenenisa Bekele in the lead up to London Marathon.

"On the level where we work it is a thin line between a top performance and staying healthy. The unusual circumstances complicated this situation unfortunately. We will work hard to get him back to the highest level again."

Three doctors

This (calf injury) situation is something Nduhiu is very much aware of. Nduhiu leads a team of three physiotherapists (others being Mark Roig and Eric Muthuri)at the Global camp, and he describes his experience as "an interesting journey."

The legend, Kipchoge, himself described Nduhiu as having "magic hands" when we reached out two days back as the Kenyan contingent settled in their London bubble.

"My physiotherapist (Nduhiu) is a great man and a friend... I have known him for over 15 years," Kipchoge said from London.

"He is a good adviser, both in sport, physio and life matters!

"I lack words to describe him enough, but I can say he has magic hands!"

Nduhiu concedes that preparations for Sunday's London Marathon were quite challenging, but he was able to overcome the ups and downs that came with the Covid-19 pandemic.

"This time round it was quite challenging because the camp had been closed and I had to juggle between going home and inviting the athletes for the physiotherapy session," he tells Nation Sport. "I'm happy the whole process went on smoothly and we didn't have injuries," explains Nduhiu.

He said that when he is done with the process and the athlete runs well and wins, that's when he feels good knowing that he did his part well.

Having worked with Kipchoge for 16 years, the physio said that he has had good relationship with the Olympic marathon champion.

"Ours is not the doctor-patient relationship, but we have been very close friends and seeing him win in any race, that's a great achievement on our side as a team of doctors.

"I have been planning with him (Kipchoge) and other athletes on how they can attend the physiotherapy sessions and I must say they always keep time and adhere to my calls when I need them," he said.

Nduhiu said that an athlete needs to report immediately on how he feels after training and the small problem can be handled when it's still early.

"When an athlete reports to you after training how he or she feels, the problem will be arrested in good time rather than keeping quiet with the problem which might escalate and ruin the whole process of preparations," said the physio, who has been in the profession for the last 30 years.

Played volleyball

He started the process with the volleyball players having played the sport himself during his youth days before joining Athletics Kenya and he would accompany athletes in various assignments across the globe.

Since joining athletics, he has been able to handle various star athletes including David Rudisha when he broke the world record in London in 2012 during the Olympics Games.

Nduhiu said that an athlete needs discipline and good care to prevent injuries which normally arise from bad planning.

"Getting into road running before one matures might affect an athlete's performance and there is need for good planning with a good physiotherapist who has to take care of the athlete and follow the progress," he added.

Nduhiu joined Global Sports Communications fully in 2017 during the Nike "Breaking-2" project which he said was one of his biggest assignments.

Then came the INEOS 1:59 Challenge in Vienna last year where Kipchoge managed to cross the line in 1:59:40 becoming the first man to run the marathon in under two hours.

"When he crossed the line running for 42km without a hitch, I was the happiest person because it showed that I had handled him well hence finishing the race in great shape," he added.

Nduhiu who accompanied the athletes in the chartered plane to London last Sunday, expects the athletes to perform well and his joy is to see Kipchoge cross the line first.

He was born in January, 1962, in Naivasha, Nakuru County, before joining Mona Primary School where he did his Certificate of Primary Education (CPE) before joining Molo Government for 'O' Levels.

He proceeded to Kiambu High School for his 'A' Levels where he graduated in 1984.

In 1985 he joined Kenya Medical Training College in Nairobi where he qualified as a physiotherapist after three years of learning.

He was later posted to National Spinal Injuries Centre in Nairobi from 1988 to 1990 before he was transferred to the Thika District Hospital.

In 1993 he joined Kenyatta National Hospital in Nairobi where he worked until 2018 when he asked for early retirement to concentrate on sports.

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