Playing at home usually is an advantage. For Henry Sugut it seems that whenever he runs in Vienna he has a home game. On Sunday the Kenyan became only the second man in history to win the Vienna City Marathon for a third time. The other one is Austrian Gerhard Hartmann, whose victories came back in the 80ies.
“I am very proud to have won the Vienna City Marathon three times,” said 27 year-old Henry Sugut after crossing the line in 2:08:19, the second fastest time in his career. “Whenever I come to Vienna my self confidence is high. Even during the race I always felt confident.” His Vienna success story looks indeed extraordinary. So far Henry Sugut has competed in eight marathons. Three of them he ran in Vienna: First he won in 2010 with 2:08:40, then he improved the course record and his personal best to 2:06:58 in 2012 and on Sunday he added a third victory. Out of his four fastest times in the marathon three are from Vienna. Only twice he clocked a sub 2:09 time elsewhere: In 2011 he was seventh in Paris with 2:08:22 and then finished tenth in Frankfurt in 2:08:56.
“Before I travelled to Vienna last year my younger brother Dominik told me: This is your race,” recalls Henry Sugut. “Now he said the same again.” Henry Sugut is the eldest of nine children and he has a family himself with two girls of the age of five and one. They live in Eldoret. But Henry Sugut does a lot of his training in Kaptabet. His manager Jos Hermens has a training camp there which is run by Patrick Sang, the former world-class steeplechaser.
One of Henry Sugut’s training partners is his 21 year-old brother Dominik. “He is the only one of my brothers and sisters who is also running. He ran around 14 minutes in a 5,000 metre race in high altitude,” says Henry Sugut. Asked if he intends to bring him to Europe in the future for races he answers: “Dominik will probably run a half marathon in Uganda next month. Afterwards we will see.”
Henry Sugut did not run seriously at school level. When he was 17 he began training more properly, but he had no coach at this time. In June 2002 he was fourth in the national junior 5,000 m championships. Afterwards he joined the group of Jos Hermens. “But I was unlucky at first because I had an injury and could not run in 2003. So it was in 2004 when I finally started training seriously.”
When he was injured in 2003 it was the year Paul Tergat broke the world marathon record in Berlin (2:04:55). “This gave me a lot of motivation. I admired Paul Tergat and Patrick Sang. Sometimes I used to go to my neighbours to watch them racing, because we had no TV at home,” recalls Henry Sugut.
After a shorter career on the track (PB at 5,000 m is 13:08.90 from 2004) the Kenyan turned to the marathon in 2009. He ran his debut in Reims and finished third with 2:10:45. His next race was his first Vienna Marathon in 2010. “Nowadays I fully concentrate on the marathon, so I usually don’t run any other races,” says Henry Sugut. However he did run as a pacemaker in Patrick Makau’s world record race at the Berlin Marathon in 2011, covering the first 25 k.
Henry Sugut will now target an autumn marathon. “In the future it is my goal to lower my personal best.” And then there may well be another Vienna Marathon. Henry Sugut could make history in Austria by becoming the first runner to win the race four times. “That would be great if I could achieve that!” The next Vienna City Marathon will take place on 13th April 2014. Henry Sugut will probably have made a note in his diary already.
For more information please visit: Vienna-Marathon.com.
Henry Sugut during Sunday’s victory ceremony in Vienna. Credit: Giancarlo Colombo / photorun.net