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Kenya's Kiptoo to hunt World Cross Country ticket to China

NAIROBI, Nov. 14 (Xinhua) -- At an age when his peers have hung their running spikes, Mark Kiptoo of Kenya will be in the murky affairs as he seeks another shot at the World Cross Country Championships, which will be held in Guiyang, China in March 2015.

Frankfurt Marathon Champion Kiptoo and another veteran athlete also making a comeback Vivian Cheruiyot, will lead a horde of upstarts and experienced athletes at the Kenyan cross country meet in Iten, Saturday.

"I still have something to offer cross country," said Kiptoo who will turn 39 in February 2015.

"I have since moved up the cadre to marathon, but I still relish the challenge of cross country and I need it to test my speed and prepare for the season ahead," he said on Friday in Eldoret.

At 38, Kiptoo is among the veteran athletes in Kenya, but he still has no cross country medal to show for his effort at the global level.

However, he is adamant; he will have his shot at the gold medal in Guiyang as the world converges for the 41st IAAF World Cross Country Championships.

Kenya will be among the many countries taking part in the event and Kiptoo is not allowing his age to dampen his spirits.

"I started late to compete in athletics. That is why I probably feel I am still fresh. I have only run three marathons, winning one (Frankfurt), I dropped out with an injury in Paris and was second in Frankfurt in 2013," he said.

But he will not be alone trying to make the odds. Olympic 10, 000m bronze medallist Vivian Cheruiyot is making a comeback from a two-year self-exile, having taken time off to deliver her first child, Allan Kiplagat.

Cheruiyot will be leading the women athletes as she battles her mind to conquer the fear and course in Iten.

"I have been training for some time, but am yet to get into any competition. At the moment am about 60 per cent ready. But the real competition is long away and cross country is not my best shot though. But I will see how my body reacts to competition and pick up the progression from there," she said Friday in Eldoret.

Pius Kiplagat, the Athletics Kenya Elgeyo County Chairman, said all arrangements are complete.

However, he said that with the high caliber of athletes in Iten both local and foreign the race will be of international standard.

"This being the town of athletes in the world, the event has gained international standards since apart from our many local athletes here, we have those from other countries like

New Zealand, Uganda, USA among others who normally train here," Kiplagat said.

But it is Kiptoo, who the focus will be on.

When he first donned a pair of running spikes just 10 years ago, but soon after his first race, he was posted to Burundi on a peace- keeping mission as part of his duties as a corporal in the Kenyan Air Force. Running had to take a back seat.

He then returned to Kenya in 2006, he joined the Armed Forces training team and quickly began to show promise. In 2007, his first full season as an athlete, he finished third at the Kenyan Cross Country Championships, second in the 5000m at the Kenyan Championships, and took gold and silver at the World Military Games. "I could see that I was improving step by step and I told myself that if I continued in the same vein, then I will reach my goal," said Kiptoo. "I want to make the team to China and need to start off in advance," said Kiptoo.

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