NAIROBI, Oct. 5 (Xinhua) -- Before last Sunday, Kenya's Amos Kipruto had never won a race as big or prestigious as the annual London Marathon, one of the six World Marathon Majors (WMM) city races that brings tens of thousands out on the streets of the UK capital.
It was, therefore, fitting that the 30-year-old diehard Chelsea fan claimed his signature career win in the same city where the football team is based.
Now, he is back in Kenya to soak in the adulation that comes in the immediate aftermath of such an iconic win and reflect on the next step in his career path.
But there is no doubting the Doha 2019 World Championships marathon bronze winner has finally come of age at the event he debuted in 2016.
Speaking to Xinhua in 2017 as he prepared to run his first Amsterdam Marathon, Kipruto had underlined his intentions to scale the marathon ladder step by step.
"I will be looking at running in the region of 2:05, and from there, anything is possible," he said at the time.
On Sunday, he was in a group of seven men going for victory at the 35K mark, but three kilometers later, no one could match his pace as he dropped crushing splits averaging 4:38 per mile to close in on a dominant 2:04:39 win in London.
He was the only Kenyan in the group of seven that included Ethiopian legend Kenenisa Bekele who faded to fifth, and his countrymen, 2021 London winner Sisay Lemma (seventh) as well as Leul Gebrsellasie (second), Kinde Atanaw (fourth), and Birhanu Legese (sixth).
Belgian World Championships bronze winner, Bashir Abdi, who ran 2:05:19, was the other in the leading seven with a shout for the title before Kipruto made his devastating move for glory.
"It was a really (a) hard time for me, and I managed (in the end) to be lonely with the many guys from one nation, and you are from another nation alone.
"I was under a lot of pressure because I know my fans from Kenya were watching and I fought for it, and I was ready for it," the London 2022 winner said.
His journey from an also run to a big marathon champion in London has been patient, meticulous planning and above all, filled with belief.
"This preparation begins with my family, coach, training mates, and physiotherapists. It was well prepared because I trained for almost six months since I finished second in Tokyo. That motivated me, and I was ready for it, I raced a half marathon in Cordoba, Spain, to prepare for this race," Kipruto, who ran his lifetime best of 2:03:13 to finish second in Tokyo in February, explained.
It was appropriate that he cut the tape ahead of all challengers in the presence of the man who has come to define marathon running - his compatriot and record holder, Eliud Kipchoge.
A week earlier, Kipchoge had lowered his world record from 2:01:39 to 2:01:09 in the streets of Berlin and was in London as a guest to watch Kipruto's crowning moment.
The London champion escorted Kipchoge to his world record, where he finished third (2:06:23) in the 2018 Berlin Marathon before the pair represented Kenya at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, where Kipruto did not finish.
In February, Kipruto was the bridesmaid to the man hailed as the Greatest of All Time in marathon running in Tokyo as Kipchoge led the Kenyan 1-2 in 2:02:40, a course record.
Both would have run faster had they not lost their way close to the finish.
"I think Eliud is an inspiration for all of us. I talked with him and before I ran to London, he wrote to me, Amos, I wish you, all the best, do the best. I told Eliud I will do my best, I will trust my training and I will run my smart race," the proud London winner said.
His victory has now given him top billing in whichever race he lines up to start next, a fact that Kipruto is aware requires him to be on top of his game moving forward.
"I know now I will have a lot of pressure and competition but I believe in my training and training partners and I am confident in my mind that when I say yes, it's yes and if you plan well from training and every step you have in your career, everything will be fine," he noted.
Coached by Italian Claudio Berardelli, Kipruto trains with a potent group of athletes that includes the last two Boston Marathon winners, Benson Kipruto and Evans Chebet in their 2Running Club.
Chebet will be among the star attractions during the 2022 New York Marathon on November 6 where he will be going for his second WMM victory of the year after winning in Boston in April.
For now, 2Running is savoring a second Majors win of the year with Kipruto the cherry on top.
"I started well, and I was confident I would close the year well," he said of his London win and second WMM podium of the year.