Olympic Stories

James Kwambai

James Kwambai

James Kipsang Kwambai is a Kenyan born long distance runner, whose athletic speciality is marathon races. Kwambai was born on 28th February 1983. From a young age, Kwambai showed a passion for running and little did his family and friends know that he would become one of the most renowned runners of our time.

As a child, Kwambai attended Kondabilet Primary School in the Marakwet East District of Kenya. He did not complete school however, and dropped out during standard seven at age sixteen.

In 2002 at age 19 he had already won the Marseille-Classis Classique Internationale race. By winning this race he broke the record for that particular running course, and he broke it by just under one minute.

Then four years later in 2006, Kwambai won the Brescia Marathon in Italy, and the Beijing Marathon in China. They were the first two marathons Kwambai ever ran. Later in 2008 he won the Saint Silvester Road Race in Sao Paulo. He won the same race again the following year in 2009.

In 2008 at the Berlin Marathon in Germany he came second to Haile Gebrselassie, who won the race and set a new world record. His time was still impressive however, at 2:05:36, which made him the 7th quickest marathon runner. At the Rotterdam Marathon in the Netherlands in 2009, Kwambai came 2nd again, this time to Duncan Kibet with an inspiring time of 2:04:27. In 2010, Kwambai went to New York to run the New York City Marathan Race, where he came 5th with a time of 2:11:31. The same year he once again ran the Saint Silvester Road Race to attempt to keep his title, however he unfortunately came third.

Kwambai’s speciality is road running. He is not seen so much on track races or cross country running. He has been trained by Gabriele Rosa and Claudio Berardelli, and he has many training partners including Sammy Korir, Martin Lel and Robert Kipkoech Cheruivot.

Other marathons that Kwambai has run include the Bsoton Marathon in 2007, where he came 2nd. He re-ran the Boston Marathon in 2008 but came 8th, which was his worst ever run. Later the same year he ran the Boston Marathon again and came 2nd place, which was a brilliant improvement on his earlier misfortune.

Kwambai has run many other races, including the Udine Half Marathon race in 2003 where he came 3rd place, the San Blas Half Marathon in 2003 where he came 2nd and the Eldoret Half Marathon in 2004 finishing in 3rd place. He returned to the San Blas Islands to re-run the half marathon a couple of years later and won first place. In 2005 he ran the Bogota Half Marathon, which he won.

Other achievements include the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon in the States in 2005 where he came 2nd, and later in 2006 he ran the same race again and came 1st.
Kwambai’s performance has always been rather hit and miss, but when he runs well he runs very well indeed.

His first race of 2011 was the CPC Loop Den Haag, but he was off the winning pace and came sixth in a time of one hour and one second. He was among the leaders at the 2011 London Marathon by the 30 km mark, but dropped out of the race. In August he came second at the Rio de Janeiro Half Marathon, but was eighth at the Udine Half Marathon the following month, finishing well off his best in 1:02:06 hours.

His season peaked in November when he took the title at the JoongAng Seoul Marathon in a time of 2:08:50 hours, despite rainy conditions. He took on the city's other major race, the Seoul International Marathon, in March 2012 and ran his best race in three years, finishing in 2:06:03 hours to take second behind Wilson Loyanae.

Career Highlights

  • 2011 JoongAng Seoul Marathon – 1st
  • 2009 Fortis Rotterdam Marathon – 2nd
  • 2006 Beijing Marathon – 1st
  • 2006 Brescia Marathon – 1st

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