Every time Henry Sugut lines up to race, he shoots for a personal best—but come October 20, when he’ll make his North American debut at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon, he’ll have added incentive to run fast.
Should the Kenyan marathoner run less than a minute over his 2:06:58 personal best, he’ll break his countryman Kenneth Mungara’s course record of 2:07:58, set in 2010. If he wins the race in course-record time, it would mean a $55,000 payday—$20,000 for the win and a $35,000 course-record bonus.
As Athletics Illustrated points out, land in Kenya sells for about $5,000 an acre, and Sugut, a 28-year-old married father of two, could use the prize money as a down payment for his future.
“I grew up in Nakuru district, Rongai division, in a village called Visoi,” said Sugut, who runs in order to provide for his family. “For now, I have not decided what I will do after I finish running, but farming is the one thing in my mind.”
Although Sugut has never been to North America, he has a history of winning marathons and setting course records. His personal best came last year in Vienna, where he sliced 40 seconds off of the previous mark, set by fellow Kenyan Abel Kirui. He won that event for a third straight time this year.
“I have not heard so much about Toronto,” Sugut said. “That’s why I want to come and participate.”
Race directors will help the cause by providing Sugut with pacemakers, and given that he’s spent the last decade training in Kaptagat with some of the world’s best, he’s feeling confident about the Canadian trip.
“The training is going well,” he told Athletics Illustrated. “I am so happy how the body is responding. I have been doing long runs and, on the routes we have been going, I see a lot of improvement as far as time is concerned. My fitness level, I can compare as almost the same as when I was running last year. For sure, it is good shape.”
“Our races are to our sport what Wimbledon and the Australian, U.S., and French Opens are to tennis, and what the Masters, U.S., and British Opens and PGA Championship are to golf. Each race has the history, the tradition, the honor roll of legendary champions, and a special place in the eyes of all to make them stand apart from the other events.” Mary Wittenberg