Running mums chase glory in streets of Valencia

Athletes Almaz Ayana, Joan Chelimo Melly, Worknesh Degefa, and Melat Kejeta on a photocall on December 2, 20223 in Valencia, Spain.

Photo credit: Pool |

What you need to know:

  • Athletes strike a fine balance between competing at the top level and raising families.

As athletes line up at the start line at this year’s Valencia Marathon in Spain today, the focus will be on the running mothers who are here to win titles and prove to the world that one can juggle sports and motherhood.

The inclusion of running mothers in the elite women category of the Valencia Marathon demonstrates a recognition of their dedication and determination to pursue both their athletic careers and motherhood simultaneously.

Kenyan-born Romanian Joan Chelimo has struck a fine balance between a demanding training schedule in Kenya and seeing about her child’s studies in France. She says it involves careful planning and a strong support network from family, coaches and her training mates to stay connected with her child while focusing on her training programme.

Her story speaks volumes about the sacrifices athletes make to excel in athletics while ensuring their childrens's future is secured.

“My daughter, Ariana Kechei, has always been the inspiration for me because I have to continue working hard for her to get a better life,” she told Nation Sport on Saturday in Valencia.

“I’m glad I’m back in competition after being out for some time. It was really hard for me at first, but after considering all options, I took the recovering period positively and even turned out to cheer my training mates as they went for international competitions,” said Chelimo.

She changed her nationality in May 2021 but has been training in Kenya despite representing another country.

Kenya's Celestine Chepchirchir has a seven-year-old daughter, Sharleen Chebet.

For her, family motivates her to push herself to the limit to guarantee her daughter a good life.

“My family has been an inspiration for me and I have to always work hard because this is the career path I chose and they have always supported me as a running mother. I’m a proud one,” said Chepchirchir.

Such is the case for Ethiopian athletes Worknesh Degefa, who has a personal best of two hours, 17 minutes and 41 seconds, Hiwot Gebrekidan (2:19:10) and Almaz Ayana (2:17: 20). The three are determined to do well in sports and are also raising children back home.

Ayana is a decorated track runner who took up road running at the Amsterdam Marathon last year.

The 2020 Dubai Marathon champion Degefa reckons bringing up her two children while maintaining a strict training regime comes with challenges. She said her family gives her a reason to wake up early every morning to train.

“We have families back at home and it is always a challenge balancing both sports and family life, but again we have to work hard because they are the reason we compete and make a living,” said Degefa.

Valencia Marathon Race Director Paco Borao said he is happy to see the event grow each year.