Since winning the 2015 NCAA indoor and outdoor titles in the men’s 800 meters, former Iowa State runner Edward Kemboi has been in search of a sponsor.
“It’s been kind of hard for me,” Kemboi said. “It motivates me because I know what I’m working for. If I end up running fast, it’s going to be an advantage for me. Every race I’m going to stay hungry.”
Kemboi didn’t run a particularly fast time in the Oregon Twilight men’s 800 Friday, in part because of windy conditions at Hayward Field. But he did manage to finish first in 1:48.13, ahead of 2016 Rio Olympics hopefuls and sponsored runners Casimir Loxsom and Brandon Johnson. Loxsom finished just behind Kemboi in 1:48.16, and Johnson took third in 1:48.70.
Johnson led the pack for much of the first lap, but rounding the last 200 meters, Loxsom kicked past Johnson into first. Loxsom thought he had the race won and didn’t anticipate Kemboi chasing him down.
“I was competitive that last 200, but Kemboi snuck up on me a little bit,” Loxsom said. “I kind of eased off and saw he was right there. I tried to pick it back up and get the lean, but I missed it.”
The Oregon Twilight was Loxsom’s first race of the outdoor season. He’s already posted a qualifying time for Olympic Trials, but a nagging groin injury has kept Loxsom from training in full capacity with his Brooks Beasts Track Club teammates. On Friday, he was simply happy to be back on the track.
“It feels a little foreign to me,” Loxsom said. “I haven’t raced since U.S. indoors. I just wanted to get back out and run the 800.”
Meanwhile, Kemboi’s path to a sponsor remains a work in progress. Kemboi moved from Iowa to Portland in April to train with High Performance West Track Club and coach Jonathan Marcus, but still doesn’t have a contract.
Coming from a cooler climate in Iowa, Kemboi struggled at first to get acclimated to the Pacific Northwest. When he twisted his ankle in practice two weeks ago and sat out five days, Kemboi was beginning to question his move to Portland.
“At first I thought, ‘This is not a good place to be,’” Kemboi said. “Then all of a sudden I talked to my coach and he was like, ‘It’s just a matter of transition. Just wait.’ It’s going well now.”
Loxsom and Johnson, who are sponsored by Brooks Beasts and Nike, respectively, are already established professionals. They are where Kemboi wants to be.
“Sometimes I tell my coach, ‘I should run the race because there are some big names on it,’ but I’m going to be an underdog,” Kemboi said. “I’m just going to do my thing. I don’t care who you are – I just want to compete.”