By John Kwoba
NAIROBI, Nov. 29 (Xinhua) -- The allure of representing Kenya at Commonwealth Games in marathon will inspire Bedan Karoki and Lani Rutto when the duo line up at the streets of Fukuoka on Sunday.
For a country, which has over 100 elite marathon runners, picking three is a hard choice for any coach and the athletes are keen to let their legs do the talking by winning in big cities marathons, of which Fukuoka, in Japan has ascended to owing its strong starting lineup.
Karoki will be running his second marathon, after his debut in April in London where he finished third clocking an inspirational 2:07:41.
But with compatriot's Rutto shadows hovering behind it will be hard to ignore him knowing he may be the difference between him and the trip to Gold Coast for the Commonwealth Games in April.
"I must take everyone serious. First the other opponents and then Kenyan rivals. The Commonwealth Games are big to me and I want to compete in Australia. That ticket may only be secured by winning in Fukuoka," said Karoki.
Rutto has been struggling with injury in the last two seasons and his only performance this season was in Prague where he failed to finish the race.
They will face stiff competition from Ugandan Stephen Kiprotich, the 2012 Olympic and 2013 world champion as well as from defending champion Yemane Tsegaye of Ethiopia.
The 28-year-old Kiprotich produced his lifetime best of 2:06:33 in Japan with his runner-up finish in Tokyo that year. In April's Hamburg Marathon, his most recent race over the distance, he finished second in 2:07:31.
Kiprotich has been training in Kenya at their Kaptagat-based Global Sports Communication camp and is coached by former world and Olympic steeplechase silver medalist Patrick Sang. Kiprotich took the decision to base his camp in Kenya in 2010 and it has not been a decision he has regretted.
"The reason I came here is it allowed me to concentrate on training," he said.
"Out of Kaptagat there is a lot of time for training. The altitude is good, the facilities are excellent, and the food is good. There are so many advantages I can't name them all compared with running in Uganda."
Nonetheless, it is a huge sacrifice to spend so much time away from his family, a wife and three children.
"I normally head home for three days every 10 days. It is hard sometimes but in life you have to endure some tough situations," Kiprotich said.
Others elite athletes to look out for are Amanuel Mesel of Eritrea, who has a personal best of 2:08:17 from 2013, and Sondre Moen, the Norwegian record holder at 2:10:07.
Daichi Kamino, a 1:01:04 half marathoner who excelled at the Hakone Ekiden, will be making his debut.