Isiah Kiplangat Koech is an Kenyan long-distance runner who specialises in the 5000 metres.
The seed to his running career was sowed at the 2009 World Youth Championships in Athletics in Brixen, Italy, Koech won a gold medal over 3000 metres, setting a new world youth leading time with 7:51.51.
Koech made his nation’s squad for 2010 Bydgoszcz World Cross, where he finished just outside the medals in fourth. While preparing for the Moncton World Juniors, Koech snapped a muscle on his right ankle, ruling him out of action until October.
Koech resumed to action at the fourth KCB/AK National Cross Country Series meeting in Kangaru where he was runner-up in the junior 8km race in the November run that marked the beginning of his comeback.. On 8 January 2011, Iten hosted the last KCB/AK weekend meet, where any lingering doubts he was nearing his best shape were dispelled by a commanding 26 seconds victory over his Poland teammate and bronze winner, Japheth Korir (24:35.0 against 25:01.8).
On 11 February 2011 he was then off to Europe where he became just the fourth man to run the 5000 m indoor under 13 minutes in Düsseldorf and Gent. In Germany, Koech humbled one of the doyens of distance running, Eliud Kipchoge the 2003 World 5000m champion, as he became only the fourth man to run under 13 minutes indoors when he clinched victory in 12:53.29, a World junior record, while Kipchoge also dipped under the barrier.
Two days later, Koech landed in Belgium for the Flanders Indoor Meeting to take part in the 3000m race. What happened next saw the 17-year-old command international headlines since he set a second World junior Indoor record of 7:37.50.
A couple of days later, he returned home to prepare for the National Cross Country Championships. And at Nairobi’s Uhuru Gardens, Koech charged away to complete the 8km course in 23:25.9 and lead the junior field, confirming his place for the Punta Umbria World Cross in Spain.
Despite being a provisional favourite for the junior race at the 2011 IAAF World Cross Country Championships, he ended the race in tenth place, although he did help Kenya to the team title alongside Geoffrey Kipsang and Patrick Mutunga Mwikya. Moving into the senior ranks, he ran over 5000 m at the 2011 World Championships in Athletics and closely finished behind the medallists to place fourth overall.
He prepared for a stab at the Daegu World Championships team by embarking on the Diamond League circuit with commendable results, starting with an excellent second place finish in 12:54.59 over 5000m in Rome, the fastest mark by a junior since 2006 and eighth of all-time. He followed up with a third place over Two Miles (8:14.16) in Eugene and fourth in New York (13:07.22).
Back in Nairobi, Koech once again found the fast legs to lead Thomas Longosiwa and Kipchoge across the line to win the Daegu Trials 5000m in 13:21.91.
Before heading to Korea as a strong medal prospect, Koech sparred against potential rivals for the world title at the Herculis Diamond League meet in Monaco, where he finished third behind Britain’s Mo Farah and American Bernard Lagat in 12:54.18, improving his position in the all-time junior lists to sixth as the front pair ran national and Area records respectively to underpin the intensity of that race.
At the World Championships, Koech did become the first Kenyan across the line, but placed just outside the medals at 4th place. He closed the year with a resounding victory over 10.5km at the Lotto cross country meet in Brussels, crossing the line 45 seconds ahead of his rivals.
Koech opened the 2012 season on the European indoor circuit, with 13:02.36 for second in the Düsseldorf 5000m. He marked another resounding milestone when he turned up on Valentine’s Day in Liévin, France and scorched to 7:32.89 over 3000m, bettering his own World junior indoor record from Gent 2011 in finishing second to Edwin Soi. In Stockholm less than two weeks later, he defeated a classy field clocking 7:33.55.
Outdoors, he breezed to 7:32.43 for fourth over 3000m at the opening Diamond League meet in Doha before winning the Ostrava Golden Spike (7:37.14). Koech then again faced the world’s best in Eugene, finishing second to the superior kick of Farah in 12:57.63, a World junior leading mark behind the Somali-born Briton’s 12:56.98. He notably dipped ahead of triple Olympic champion and World record holder, Kenenisa Bekele of Ethiopia, attempting a return to the top to defend his Olympic titles after a series of injury-plagues years, who was fourth.
Before heading to London, Koech lined up at his third Diamond League meeting, in Paris St. Denis, for what was to be the most amazing race ever run over 5000m. The Ethiopians had their last chance to make the London-bound team (their Olympic selections are done on times) and pushed the pace hard, with Dejen Gebremeskel prevailing in 12:46.81 (the fastest mark since 2005, elevating him to the fifth performer of all-time) over 18-year-old Hagos Gebrhiwet’s 12:47.53 – a new World junior record – with Koech third in 12:48.64 (the second-fastest junior and eighth of all-time) and overall six athletes under 12:50 and 11 under 13 minutes.
At the 2012 Kenyan Olympic trials he ran the fastest ever 5000 m time in Kenya to win the race and guarantee his first Olympic selection.