FORT MEADE, Md. (Army News Service, Feb. 2, 2016) — Spc. Paul Chelimo came from behind to win the 3,000-meter race at the Nike "House of Track" meet in Portland, Oregon, Jan. 22, where his 7:44.68 finish set a record as the fastest 3K this year worldwide.
"It's a good feeling," said Chelimo, of the Army World Class Athlete Program, or WCAP, about passing Nike runner Eric Jenkins in the last 100 meters of the heat to sprint across the finish at Portland's new indoor track.
WCAP track coach Maj. Dan Browne said beating elite runner Jenkins was a huge deal and puts Chelimo on a "good trajectory" to qualify for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
Chelimo ran the first 1,000 meters in Portland near the back of the pack. Then he edged his way forward on the outside until briefly passing pace-setter Pablo Solares, pushing him to pick up speed. Solares fell back about half a lap before Chelimo crossed the 2K mark at 5:17. Then Jenkins took the lead as he and Chelimo pulled away from the rest of the pack in a battle to the finish.
"I'm just excited that I'm able to compete on the top level and I'm back in shape," Chelimo said after almost two years of struggling to get back to competition form since joining the Army and attending initial-entry training.
"I'm just so proud of these Soldiers," Browne said. "For them to join the service, then go through their training and get back to world-class form is a tremendous accomplishment."
This past October, Chelimo won the Army Ten-Miler with a time of 48:19. His teammate Spc. Nicholas Kipruto followed close behind, finishing a fraction of a second later. Spc. Shadrack Kipchirchir finished in third. Kipchirchir and Chelimo are both training with Browne at the Nike world headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon.
WCAP Oregon Project
Army distance runners are now training alongside Nike-sponsored runners at the Beaverton complex.
Browne said he's always believed "when you surround yourself with excellence, it spurs you on towards that. These Soldiers get to see some of the world's best athletes... it breeds that mentality of 'hey, I see what these guys are doing. I can do that too.'"
The WCAP team in Oregon has grown from one athlete in 2013 - Spc. Aaron Rono - to a crew of four. And Browne said he expects another elite marathon runner to soon be joining them.
It's an exciting time to be in Oregon, Browne said. The USA Track and Field Indoor, or USATF, Championships will take place on the new Portland track March 11-12. Then the World Indoor Championships will be held a week later on the same track, March 18-20. Finally, the U.S. Olympic track and field trials will take place in Eugene, Oregon, July 1-10.
Chelimo is training to run the 5,000-meter race in the Rio Olympics. He runs the trails at the Nike complex daily and also the outdoor track.
He runs between 75 and 90 miles a week with two to three hard workouts weekly. He's currently focusing on speed because that's what he said is important for the indoor 3K competition. Browne said Chelimo has a good shot at placing in the USATF Indoor Championship and earning a berth in the world championship. That meet will be a preview of the Rio Olympics, Browne said, with the world's top runners competing.
"The more I get to know Spc. Chelimo, the more I recognize the speed component is very important for him," Browne said. "I definitely look at putting him into faster intervals than I do my 10K-focused guys and my marathon-focused."
Browne is taking three of his runners to the USA Olympic marathon trials in Los Angeles, Feb. 13. Chelimo, however, will stay behind in Oregon and prepare for next month's indoor championships.
"I'm trying to do indoors just to get the speed," Chelimo said.
Before the 3K race that he won Jan. 22, Chelimo had just returned from Kenya where he spent 40 days in high-altitude training.
Chelimo was born in Iten, Kenya, Oct. 27, 1990. He attended Chebiemit Boys High School in Kenya before coming to the United States to attend college at Shorten University in Rome, Georgia. Then he transferred to the University of North Carolina at Greensboro where he ran on the track team.
He placed second in the NCAA National Championships in Eugene, Oregon, in 2013, with a 5K time of 13:40:41. His best time for the 3K before Jan. 22 was 7:49, run three years ago.
After college in May 2013, he joined the Army to become a water purification specialist. After basic combat training, he went to quartermaster advanced individual training on Fort Lee, Virginia. Then he joined the Army WCAP program and began training under Browne.
Browne competed in the 2004 Olympics in both the 10K and marathon. He is also a three-time winner of the Army Ten-Miler.
"He helps me every day," Chelimo said about Browne. "We do workouts together. He gives me the pace."
"Right now, it's a preparation for the Olympic trials," Chelimo said. "All the training now is based on that one day in July."