Thursday, Jul. 24, 2008

37. Martin Lel

Age: 29

Martin Lel of Kenya runs away from people. Frequently. He won the 2005, 2007 and 2008 London marathons, and the 2003 and 2007 New York races. His April, 2008 London run set a course record of 2:05:15, which is also Lel's personal best. In 13 major races since 2003, Lel has won 10, finished second once and placed third twice. On his first marathon, in Venice in 2002, he took second despite stopping to tie his shoes several times. Like most of Kenya's distance runners, Lel lives and trains in the high altitude Nandi hills of the Rift Valley around the town of Eldoret in Western Kenya, scene of much of the ethnic violence in January this year. He began training as a boy by rising at dawn and running for an hour before going to work in his parents' grocery store. And should the marathon turn into a sprint after 26 miles, Lel's kick is a killer that has clinched several nail-biting wins for him.