This Is: Daniel Mateiko

Published 26 May 2024

Running is in Daniel Mateiko's blood. His father once ploughed the same path, enjoying success in local competitions and his older sister Valentina also calls the Global Sports Communication camp in Kaptagat her home. Two more brothers hope to follow in their footsteps.

It's a journey that started young, even if Daniel didn't start taking part in competitions until his final year of school.

In the foothills of Mount Elgon, aged barely four, he sat by a television and watched a Kenyan become a world champion for the first time.

It was 2003 and Mateiko sat there glued to the screen as his compatriot held off the great Hicham El Guerrouj and Kenenisa Bekele.

That man of course was Eliud Kipchoge. Ask Mateiko who inspired him and he will come back in an instant:


Fast forward 13 years and Mateiko left school, encouraged by his sister to move to a training centre near to the GSC camp.

"My sister inspired me a lot because she was the one who changed my mindset. She was the one that told me: - 'just go, instead of staying at home doing nothing, why can't you go to Kaptagat?'

Enjoying local success, slowly his reputation developed, year by year getting that little bit stronger and even training at times with the GSC group. 

Until one day in early 2020 he stood outside their gates. Patrick Sang had been impressed and others agreed. Mateiko was to become part of the NN Running Team.

Kipchoge, the athlete who had inspired him so much, was now his teammate. Nervous at first, the impact was almost immediate for Mateiko:

"I think when I arrived here, when they told you OK you are officially coming to the camp, actually the mindset changes itself because you are in an environment that people are chasing the same goal, where people believe in hard work and discipline."

Those lofty goals, those big dreams, for Mateiko seemed that little bit closer.

But it didn't last long. Within one week of his arrival, an outbreak of the global coronavirus pandemic. All athletes had to leave the camp, Mateiko heading nearby and training by himself.

"I knew that one day the pandemic would be over and my athletics career would still be going on."

Mateiko couldn't afford to interrupt his development and continued to work hard, waiting for the day when the world would open once more. 

Eventually of course it did. In November 2020 Mateiko headed east to neighbouring Elgeyo-Marakwet County, to take part in the Eldama Ravine Half Marathon.

A race that continues to show the depth of Kenyan domestic running, taking place at an altitude above 2000m, Mateiko knew that winning would be no simple task. 

Yet his win over the rolling hills in 63:01 was impressive. He had proved himself in Kenya and given an emphatic message to Sang and NN Running Team's Performance Director Valentijn Trouw that he deserved an opportunity to race against the world's best. 

That reward came in Hengelo where Mateiko made his first appearance at sea level over 10,000m, beating a host of Olympic contenders to finish sixth in 27:03.94.

Almost 25 seconds within the Olympic standard, it rightly gave Mateiko confidence heading into the trials for Tokyo.

In the Kasarani stadium in Nairobi, Mateiko raced smartly but fell a few seconds short of the Olympic team, watching on as his training partner Geoffrey Kamworor dominated the field, but it is his ability to keep a level head that has seen him prosper in the long term.

Mateiko reminds us:

"Sport consists of success and failure. There is no way to have sport without failure. I use it as a stepping stone towards my dream."

Indeed Mateiko would recover to make the team for the next year's World Championships in Eugene, Oregon, finishing eighth in the final.

Whilst an impressive championship debut for any 24-year-old, Mateiko has, and always will, aim higher.

At every stage of his career so far he’s stepped up, seeming to thrive off learning from any relative failure.

Mateiko has developed a reputation as one of the finest half-marathons on the planet, breaking 60 minutes on his first outing at sea level in Copenhagen in October 2021 and four weeks later becoming the tenth-fastest athlete in history thanks to a stunning 58:26 clocking in Valencia.

Running under 59 minutes five further times, he set the course record at the Antrim Coast Half Marathon in 2023 (58:36) but it is his pursuit of the Ras-Al-Khaimah Half Marathon title that shows the biggest insight into his mentality.

The half marathon, held each year in February, is perhaps the world’s most competitive and on his first outing there in 2022 Mateiko ran 58:45 for sixth place.

In 2023 he came back an improved athlete, helping to break up the field late on before being narrowly edged out over the final kilometres by Bernard Koech. That defeat would sting him.

2024 saw one of the finest fields ever assembled, World Marathon champion Tamirat Tola and defending champion Koech both present, but Mateiko ran throughout like a man inspired.

Happy to bide his time for the opening half, he dictated the race from thereon, exploding over the final kilometres to win in 58:45.

That win helped push Mateiko to number one in World Athletics Men’s Road Running rankings, cementing his status as one of the very best half-marathoners alive. 

It is an event where, still aged only 25, you would expect him to excel for years to come. 

Nevertheless for Mateiko, the easy path has never been the most tempting.

In October 2023 at the Chicago Marathon, you will have seen Mateiko as the man side by side with Kelvin Kiptum for three-quarters of the race, as the latter broke the world record.

That day Mateiko struggled over the final stages, eventually pulling out and a similar experience occurred at this year's London Marathon. 

Yet rather than be racked by disappointment, Mateiko is philosophical:

“If you fail you learn more, you learn that there are a few things to improve. I am a human being, I have weaknesses. I like the place where I encounter more obstacles."

Mateiko's story is a lesson to all humans, inside and outside of sport.

In stepping outside your comfort zone, in seeking challenges that will inevitably see you sometimes fall short, therein lies the personal growth. Therein also lies the satisfaction when one day you succeed.

It is a lesson he is taught every day by the man and teammate in Kipchoge he watched all those years ago on his television. 

One day don't be surprised to see Mateiko be the one to inspire the next generation.