Sept. 3, 2014
For immediate release

Kenya native hopes talent can overcome challenges

Jane Kibii grew up in a magical place for running, the small town of Iten, Kenya providing the perfect elements to develop into a distance standout.

She lived about three miles from her school and would run with other kids there and back twice a day in the thin air at 8,000 feet above sea level in the Great Rift Valley.

“I just got into it,” she said. “We ran to school. We’d have to come back home for lunch. We’d run home and then run back to school.

“It (the altitude) helped a lot and the group of runners there is good for training.”

All six marathoners on the 2012 Kenya Olympic team trained in or near Iten, where running is a way to a better life. The town is also a hot spot for visitors from around the world looking for a training edge before a big race.

Elite training camps in the area have attracted the likes of Great Britain’s Paula Radcliffe and Mo Farah, Denmark’s Wilson Kipketer, American Bernard Lagat and Kenyan Peter Rono, all world champions or Olympic medalists.

The soft-spoken Kibii moved to the U.S. in 2006, spending a few years in North Carolina before coming to the Sacramento area in 2008 to train and try to earn a living with her running skills.

Talent? Kibii, 29, has a bundle. She owns personal bests of 32:23 in the 10k, 1:10:25 in the half marathon and 2:40:12 in the marathon.

She’s enjoyed plenty of success locally, winning the 2012 Credit Union SACTOWN Ten-Mile Run in 56:55, the 2013 Folsom Blues Breakout Half Marathon in 1:23:56 and the 2014 Shamrock’n Half Marathon in 1:16:01.

Kibii, a member of the Sacramento Running Association’s Elite Team who lives in Colfax, turned heads three months ago by finishing sixth in the Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego Half Marathon in 1:12:22 despite only training 40 miles a week because of injuries.

“I never realized how talented she is,” said Brad Poore, Kibii’s manager and an SRA teammate. “It’s almost criminal to be running only 40 miles a week with her talent.”

Challenges? Kibii has a few of those, including trying to find time to train as a single mom. Her daughter, Belvia, was born 16½ months ago on the day of the 2013 Boston Marathon.

“It’s really hard to train,” said Kibii, who is grateful for the financial assistance the SRA provides.

The SRA is happy to lend a hand.

“Jane is an amazing athlete with a compelling story, and the SRA is excited to be able to support her as she returns to top form,” SRA Executive Director Scott Abbott said. “Funding for the SRA Elite Team is targeted at helping elite runners in this community, like Jane, continue their development and ultimately achieve their full potential in the sport.

“There is a general lack of structure and support in the sport nationally for elite professional runners as they pursue their goals, and the SRA aims to fill that gap for local runners. Jane’s potential in the sport is limitless; however, lack of support and structure is ultimately what will stall her development, so it is our hope that we can find ways to support her, and other top local runners, to achieve at the highest levels.”

Kibii plans to run in the California International Marathon on Dec. 7, testing the waters in an event that might be her best distance.

“I think the marathon can be,” Poore said. “If she dedicates herself, gets the right mental attitude … if she can get that focus.

“She’s very, very smart racing. She knows her body extremely well. She knows how to pace herself. She’ll go into a race saying how out of shape she is … then she ends up winning.”

Kibii said she’s hoping for a breakout performance in the CIM.

“Sacramento is like my home now and I want to try and win a big race like this,” she said. “I also want to see how my body will react with 26 miles, especially training by myself. I also want to run and have fun with my fellow runners.”