The warm welcoming ceremony befitting kings enlivened the chilly morning as Berlin Marathon heroes, world record holder Dennis Kimetto and Emmanuel Mutai made a triumphant return home.
A red carpet and stretched Chrysler limousines with customised plates engraved KIMETTO 2:02:57 were on Wednesday morning rolled out at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport for the athletes.
Kalenjin traditional sour milk Mursik was sipped and champagne bottles corked as the athletes’ families, friends and officials from Athletics Kenya and the Professional Athletics Association of Kenya (PAAK) tossed to welcome them amidst songs and dances at the airport and Riadha House.
From the airport, the athletes made their way to a Nairobi West hotel, where they refreshed after an overnight flight from Europe, before holding a session with both local and international media at Riadha House.
It’s from there that PAAK officials, led by among others Jacob Yator and Julius Ndegwa, took charge as the athletes were chauffeured around the streets of Nairobi where they acknowledged greetings from Kenyans in a procession that was only a reserve for Kenya Sevens rugby team.
They later made a stopover at the Nation Centre for an exclusive interview with Nation Television.
Inspired by two course records at 2013 Tokyo (2:06:50) and 2013 Chicago (2:03:65), Kimetto last Sunday became the first man in history to break the 2:02 barrier when he won the Berlin Marathon in 2:02:57.
The 30-year-old shattered the previous world record of 2:03:23 set by Wilson Kipsang at the same course last year by massive 26 seconds.
Mutai, who finished second also, tore into the previous world record, returning personal best 2:03:13.
Another grand reception organised by PAAK president Wilson Kipsang awaits Kimetto and Mutai on Thursday in Eldoret.
“I might have run well in Tokyo and Chicago last year but breaking the world record wasn’t in my plans. However, it’s until the 30km mark when I realised that I could break it after I looked at the clock,” said the soft spoken, Kimetto, who was welcomed by his wife Caroline Chepkorir and two-year-old son Alva Kibet Ruto.