What you need to know:
- Daily Nation and NTV Kenya will Sunday focus on what it takes to become a marathon star
- A lot has been said about Jepchirchir, but it's her journey to stardom that plays in her mind whenever she is preparing for a race
- Jepchichir said that being named in the Boston Marathon elite field is an honour, and she is confident of good results
Olympic marathon champion Peres Jepchirchir has set her eyes on greater things.
A lot has been said about Jepchirchir, but it's her journey to stardom that plays in her mind whenever she is preparing for a race.
Daily Nation and NTV Kenya will Sunday focus on what it takes to become a marathon star.
It is a few minutes to 6am when we arrive at Jepchirchir’s home at Irimis in Kapsabet, Nandi County. We find Jepchirchir donned in her Adidas attire — her official sponsor— together with her pacemaker Vincent Koech.
On this day of the interview, she was preparing to do a long run of about 20 kilometres as part of preparations for the new season. She plans to compete in the Boston Marathon which will be her first race this year.
She is the fastest in the field having a personal best time of two hours, 17 minutes, 16 seconds (2:17:16) and will be competing against her compatriots Joyciline Jepkosgei (2:17:43), Edna Kiplagat (2:19:50), Maureen Chepkemoi (2:20:18), Viola Lagat (2:22:44), Purity Changwony (2:22:46), Mary Ngugi (2:25:20) and Monica Ngige (2:25:32).
Jepchichir said that being named in the Boston Marathon elite field is an honour, and she is confident of good results.
“Just like New York Marathon where I was making my debut, Boston Marathon is also new to me. I have always heard athletes saying that the course is tough. That is good reason for me to prepare well. The battle is on, and I have to face it because last year is gone,” she told Nation Sport.
The New York Marathon champion has a family to take care, of and in between our conversation, she tells me how important it is for one to have a family that supports her when she is either training, competing outside the country or even locally.
And last year she finished her season on a high note after winning the Olympic marathon title in Sapporo, Japan in a time of 2:27:20. Women’s marathon world record holder and compatriot Brigid Kosgei got silver.
The two-time world half marathon champion crossed the finish line in 2:27:20 ahead of Kosgei who timed 2:27:36 while USA’s Molly Seidel sealed the podium in 2:27:46.
Jepchirchir believes her victory in the women's race motivated the men's cast, led by defending champion Eliud Kipchoge to clinch victory the next day.
Her broad smile while crossing the line mirrored the joy in her heart after a year of challenges notably Covid-19 pandemic.
Back to her training on this day, they set off some a few minutes past 6.00am and after a short distance, they disappear into the tea plantations running at a moderate pace.
We take another route and meet the two on a rough road and track them as she acknowledges greetings from passers-by and other athletes who are training at the same time.
For the second time, they disappear in the tea plantations and we lose track forcing us to rush to the end of the course where we wait for about 15 minutes before they appear, her body dripping with sweat.
Her training on this day comes to an end after 20km along the Kapsabet-Eldoret highway. She cools down on her way home and arrives just in time to see her daughter Natalia Cherono off to school.
After freshening up at home, it's time for breakfast which is heavy on fruits.
“Fruits are essential for an athlete because they restore your energy. I don’t miss them in my fridge. I have to find some time and visit the market place where I can buy assorted fruits for the whole week,” she says.
She has different forms of training ranging from fartlek, long run, speed work and easy run in the evenings to ensure she has enough load that will boost her endurance during races.
Jepchirchir has to strike a balance between training and motherhood especially after enduring a tough childhood. Born in Kosachei in Turbo, Uasin Gishu County, Jepchirchir’s mother died when she was just two years old while her sister Sheila Koech was seven months old.
“My childhood was tough and it wasn’t easy and when our mother died, we went to stay with my uncle who took care of us until now we are adults. I grew up knowing them as my parents and I will forever thank them because they made me who I am today,” narrates Jepchirchir.
Jepchirchir started her education at Sambut Primary School before graduating to join Sambut High School in Uasin Gishu County. She later transferred to Kosirai Girls High School but decided to concentrated on her athletics career, a decision she doesn't regret.
Her uncle David Barno, who lives in Kamagut, Uasin Gishu County always follows Jepchirchir's races on television. Having lived with Jepchirchir from a tender age, he believes the sky is the limit for her.
“We brought up our daughter in a good way and when we realised that she is talented in athletics, we urged her to pursue it and would even accompany her to various competitions just to see how she runs.
“To date we are always glued on television whenever she has a race including the Olympic Games which happened at night due to the time difference. We sacrificed our sleep and were happy to see her even helping her compatriot Brigid Kosgei by urging her on. It was a touching moment and we were up on our seats when she crossed the line,” said Barno.
Jepchirchir's husband Davies Ng’eno doubles up as her training partner and coach. According to Ng’eno, Jepchirchir is a talented athlete who follows instructions and works hard in training.
Ng'eno noted that despite being a multiple champion, Jepchirchir is humble and always finds time for her family in her tight schedule.
“As a family we are really impressed by her good performance and this is because she follows instructions strictly. In fact, when the Covid-19 pandemic struck, she went on with training and it came as a blessing because when races resumed, she went on to do well in all the races she competed in,” says Ng’eno.
Her family, Kenyans and the whole world will be on high alert when she lines up for the Boston Marathon on April 18. Expectation will be high but for Jepchirchir it will be all about maintaining her winning streak.