World Half Marathon Championships silver medallist Kibiwott Kandie wants to go one better when he lines up for the Valencia Half Marathon on Sunday.
The athlete will be looking to better his performance after a second place finish at the World Half Marathon Championships in Gdynia, Poland on October 17. Uganda's Jacob Kiplimo won the race.
Valencia is known for producing fast times with two world records having been set in the men's 10 kilometres in the Spanish city and two women's world records in half marathon races.
The men's 21km race has attracted some of the finest athletes who include Kenya's Rhonex Kipruto, who set a world 10km record of 26:24 in Valencia in January, Bedan Karoki, Bernard Ng'eno, Alexander Mutiso, and Uganda's Kiplimo.
Nation Sport caught up with Kandie in Iten, Elgeyo Marakwet County, where he has been sharpening his skills for Sunday's race.
The athlete previously trained in Ngong, Kajiado when he started his running career. He has since shifted base to Iten famously known as the "Home of Champions". Kandie said that his performance has improved since he started training in Iten because of high altitude.
"I have been training in Ngong but I changed base to Iten where many athletes reside. I have seen great improvement since I began training here last month. I want to win Sunday's race," said the athlete.
Kandie will be up against Kiplimo again and it remains to be seen if he will turn the tables on the Ugandan. Kiplimo ran a course record time of 58:49 in the Poland showdown, Kandie clocked 58:54 while Ethiopia's Amedework Walelegn sealed the podium positions in 59:08.
Kandie regrets that he should have won the race if he had not used a lot of energy to try and and shake off other athletes who appeared strong.
"When we began the race, I didn't fear the Ugandans. However, the Ethiopians were the tricky opponents they looked strong from the start and I had to find a way of shaking them off. I later realised that I had used a lot of energy and that is why Kiplimo eased to the finish line because he had reserved his energy," he said.
Asked about Sunday's race, Kandie chooses to play his cards close to his chest. But he wants revenge against his rival and possibly lower his personal best time of 58:38.
"I will be competing again with Kiplimo, but we have other tough athletes such as Kipruto, Ng'eno and Karoki. I am targeting the title," he said.
Kandie said his body responded well in training and he is ready for the race which he predicts will be fast. The athlete said that despite the coronavirus pandemic, this year has been good to him.
"I have been training since the coronavirus pandemic started and that is why when I was invited for the races I have participated in. I have been doing well and my career has just taken off," he said.
The rivalry between Kandie and Kiplimo started during the 15km Sao Silvestre race in Sao Paulo in Brazil in December last year. Kiplimo started celebrating towards the finish line but Kandie pressed on and got to the finish line ahead of him.
Born in Ngendoi village, Baringo County in 1996, Kandie joined Ngendoi Primary School. He then proceeded to Cheperen Secondary School where he finished his O level studies in 2015.
He then went to Metipso in Eldama Ravine, Baringo County, for training before joining the the Kenya Defence Forces in 2017. After finishing his military course, Kandie was posted to Embakasi Barracks in Nairobi.
While in school, Kandie used to participate in cross country events and 10,000m races. However after completing school, he was unable to continue with athletics.
Life was tough for Kandie when he was growing up. He did a lot of running while taking care of goats back in the village, and this shaped his athletics career.
"I'm happy because the running I did while herding animals in my early life helped shape my career. By the end of the day, I used to be very tired. Life was tough. I am happy that I got a job in the military and now I can help my family," said the fourth born in a family of seven.
Last season in February, Kandie started off with victory in the Ras Al Khaimah Half Marathon. He crossed the finishing line in 58:58 ahead of compatriot Alexander Mutiso who came in second after timing 59:16 while Ethiopia's Mule Wasihun was third in 59:47.
Kandie later competed the National Cross Country Championships in Nairobi where he toppled big names and cliched victory in 29:57.7, World Half Marathon record holder Geoffrey Kamworor was second in 30:05.5 while Nicholas Kimeli came in third after clocking 30:12.0.
During the Prague Half Marathon race in September, Kandie emerged top after cutting the tape in 58:38, beating fellow Kenyans Philemon Kimaiyo (59:56) to second place and Benson Kipruto (1:00:06) in third place.
Kandie's preparations for the World Half Marathon Championships were derailed by coronavirus.
The athlete said that is inspired by world marathon record holder Eliud Kipchoge. Kandie has never met him, but hopes to do so to have a face-to-face discussion on what has made him the greatest marathoner of all time.
"I used to read articles about Eliud and watch him run in video clips. That inspired me so much. I'm looking forward to meeting him so that he can be able to give me tips on how to handle my career," added Kandie.
After Valencia Half Marathon, Kandie will be focusing on preparations for the Olympic Games. he hopes to represent Kenya in the 10,000m race.
"Next year I will concentrate on the 10,000m race. I want to represent Kenya in the Olympic Games that will be held in Tokyo, Japan. We have few months left and I like preparing early enough because the race will be competitive. I hope for the best," said Kandie.
Name: Kibiwott Kandie
Date of birth: June 20, 1996
Place of birth: Ngendoi, Baringo County
Half Marathon: 58:38