Category Archives: Features

Faith Kipyegon eyes Genzebe Dibaba’s World Record

Two times Olympic Games 1500m champion Faith Kipyegon has set her eyes on breaking the World Record in the coming season.

The double World 1,500m champion said that she has tried on many occasions but missed by a small margin.

“I have been trying to set the world record but I have been missing it by a small margin. This time, I’m praying that all things go the right way to secure the record,” she said.

The 27 year-old who missed the 1500m world record by just three-tenths of a second at the Monaco Diamond League as she went ahead to claim the Diamond league title for the third time.

The 2014 Commonwealth Games champions clocked 3:50.37 missing the world record of 3:50.07 that was set in 2015 at the same venue by Ethiopia’s Genzebe Dibaba.

Kipyegon, who defended her Olympic Games 1,500m in Tokyo last summer after winning in 2016, became the second fastest woman in the world, setting the National Record during the Monaco Meeting said that she has great hopes on the new season.

“I can say for the world record I am still headed up towards next year and hopefully am going to try my best and break the world record,” she added.

Kipyego was Speaking in Kapsabet, Nandi County during the installation of Air Quality Sensor that was graced by Sports Cabinet Secretary Ababu Namwamba.

“Training in areas of Kaptagat is perfect. It has good air quality for breathing and that can be achieved by planting trees. I came from Keringet where the air was good again then to Kaptagat and it is working well. And I would like to see other places like West Pokot or Turkana having good air because we see the drought is really big in such areas. People are really suffering because of climate change,” said Kipyego.

Kipyegon burst into limelight at the age of 16-years during the 2010 World Cross Country Championships, where she finished outside the podium in the junior race. The following year she declared herself to the world with her first of two junior global cross-country titles just weeks before setting a new 1500m Championship Record at the World Youth championships in Lille, France.

Faith Chepngetich Kipyegon of Kenya in action in the IAAF World Cross Country Championships women junior’s race (© Getty Images)

The Bomet born girl who used to run without shoes in primary school sailed to the senior team after getting the qualifying time during the Kenyan Olympics trials where she made it to the team that left for the London 2012 Games.

The then 18-year-old made her debut at the World champs in 2013 in Moscow, where she managed to pick a fourth place and since Beijing 2015, Kipyegon has been on the podium four times, twicetopping it.

Kipyego took her maternity leave for 21 months after giving birth to a bouncing baby girl, Alyn, in 2018 and when she came back she was forced to shift and also change coaches for her comeback. She moved to Global Sports Communication where joined the renown coach Patrick Kipsang who understood how her body was working after the maternity leave.

Doping questions after breaking Record were ‘crushing’

Ciara Mageean has said it was “crushing” for some people to raise doping questions on social media after she smashed the Irish 1500m record.

Mageean took 2.22 seconds off the previous record, set by Sonia O’Sullivan 27 years ago, at a Diamond League meeting in Brussels in September.

“It was very tough,” Mageean told BBC Sport when asked how it felt to hear about comments that appeared on social media after she produced the record time.

Mageean’s new Irish record – 3:56.63 – was part of a remarkable summer for the Portaferry runner, who won Commonwealth and European silver before her first first sub four-minute run over the distance helped her defeat Laura Muir to win the meeting.

“I wasn’t aware of those things until the very end of my season because whenever I did find out, it was a bit crushing, it was upsetting.

“The week after, when I had finished my season, I was a bit down, because I was like ‘why are people saying this?’.”

Mageean won silver for Ireland at the European Championships in August. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES

She added: “I know the athlete that I am, that I toe the line as a clean athlete. I want to hang my spikes up proud of the athlete that I am, and I will.

“I don’t think it will ever make it easier for me, for people to ask such things. They are entitled to their own opinions but I know that I am clean and that performance is all based on me.

“It is tough, but athletics is a sport in which we are very open and honest about drug cheats in our sport and we hold them to high account and we make them accountable for the mistakes and choices they have made.”

Mageean followed up her impressive win over Muir – who had beaten her to gold at the Commonwealth Games and European Championships – with another strong performance in the Diamond League 1500m final a week later, finishing second behind Olympic champion Faith Kipyegon in Zurich.

Her Irish record of 3:56.63 was considerably faster than the 30-year-old had run at that distance in races building up to that meeting, but she said anyone who had followed her season would have known she was capable of such a big performance.

And she added that a message from her coach, Helen Clitheroe, helped her deal with those posing questions about her record-breaking run.

“It [her record-breaking run] didn’t come as a surprise to me,” she continued.

“I knew I could go sub-58 and I thought I could go sub-57. I knew I was in really good shape so the .56 I was really ecstatic with.”

Olympic final target to make up for disappointments

Currently enjoying a trip home to County Down from her Manchester base, Mageean spoke of how satisfied she was with her performances this season – but has her eyes firmly fixed on her next two big goals.

Having chosen not to compete at this summer’s delayed 2021 World Championships, she is looking forward to the Worlds in Budapest next year – then, of course, there is the Paris Olympics in 2024, where she will be determined to reach a final for the first time in what would be her third attempt.

“I’ve been disappointed by the two Olympics that I have been to. I haven’t got my rings tattooed on me yet because I was always disappointed afterwards,” she explained.

“That might change as I’ve been trying to convince myself and Helen, and everyone who went, that it was an achievement being there, and hopefully we can go together and get that [the tattoo] done.

“Yes, the big focus is the World Championships next year and the Paris Olympics. How do I replicate the performances I have had now? I don’t have the answer but it is something myself and my team around me are certainly gong to try to figure out.

“Hopefully I can do it because that is the new pressure, to be able to be as good as myself again, to emulate that 3.56 and to continue to perform at this level that I know I have the potential to do.”

And, after a summer that saw her break that Irish 1500m record and win those silver medals, which did she enjoy most?

“The time is obviously fantastic and it has been a monkey on my back for some time,” she added.

“People in athletics would say that time means so much more than the medals in your hand but to be honest I always came into athletics to win medals. It is my aim to stand on the podium.

“To be able win a medal for Northern Ireland and Ireland in the same year, to represent them both is truly special. I wouldn’t trade these for any time, I definitely wouldn’t.”

Defining moment for John Korir in Chicago

Two times Los Angeles marathon champion John Kipkosgei Korir will be making his debut at the World Marathon Majors when he will be lining up at the 43rd Edition of the Bank of America Chicago Marathon that will be held on Sunday 9th October 2022 in Chicago, Illinois, United States.

The young brother to two time Los Angeles marathon champion Wesley Korir, is determined to set his personal best when he runs against top athletes from across the world.

After winning both Ottawa and Los Angeles among other road races, Korir is optimistic that Kenyans will win the title but mostly he wants to win.

“I have been training well and heading to Chicago I want to run my best and carry the title home. I know it will be so competitive but a win will be a plus for me. I want to win in my first World majors, setting my personal best” said Korir.

He stated that when he will start competing in the world marathon majors, he doesn’t want to run lower races but to keep up the spirit.

“This will be my first world majors and when I will be running at it, I don’t want to run lower races. I want to remain on top and keep the temple high,” he said.

Since he competed in Los Angeles in March, Korir has not competed anywhere and says that the preparation for such a big marathon needs between three to four months.

“I have been consisted in training, together with my teammates and great coaches and running programs. I heavily depend on teammates since they make sure that I run well, they set pace for me among others,” he said.

He added that since he started running, he has never had pacemakers and since Chicago has, it will be an advantage for him.

“I have run, there were n pacemakers but Chicago has pacemakers. That means I have to adjust and run better times than any other. Majority of the athletes that I will be competing with, have had many majors’ marathons unlike who is making a debut. However, some of them have had many races like the world championships but for me I have been resting since March. With pacemakers, we use the same pace but in other races, we use our own pace.

His training mate Edwin Kibichiy said that he met Korir way back in the USA and since then they have been training together.

“When I met Korir, he always has been of great importance to me and other training mates. He is a top athlete now and being his team mate is something important and uplifting each other,” said Kibichiy.

With Korir preparing for a big race like Chicago, Kibichiy said that he needs proper training and sometimes he may be fatigued so he needs support from teammates.

“As teammates, we help in work outs, then running at a certain pace and team mates will make sure that they keep you running at a certain race. We are not going to let him down. Running requires motivation like training for long run like 40km alone, you need someone to support you,” he explained.

“The training should be compatible and we run almost the same race. As he is preparing for 40km, we pace to 35km then we let him complete the race as he is the main athlete training for the major. We start on a slow then we finish with high speed as communication is very key in training,” he added.

They tried to stop him, but the Ghost Runner always got away

Easter Monday, 1957. A heavy gloom settled over Doncaster as crowds gathered for the half marathon ending in Sheffield.

The starting area was swarming with race stewards, many carrying a photo of the man they had been instructed to stop at all costs.

To the officials he was a gatecrasher, a scoundrel who must be prevented from racing. To almost everybody else, he was a downtrodden champion battling injustice.

Runners now pressed forward as the start time neared. The local mayor raised his arm to the clouds and with the crack of his starting pistol, the race was under way. Seconds later, another sound ripped through the air.

A spectator huddled beneath a long coat and a large hat had thrown his disguise clear, revealing his racing attire as he jumped, numberless, into the race. The spectators thundered their approval, and the stewards flailed as he skipped around them to join the runners disappearing down the road.

John Tarrant’s sporting career fused triumph and tragedy. One of Britain’s finest long-distance athletes of the late 1950s and 1960s, he ran multiple world records but was denied his full share of glory by the stubborn authorities who banned him from racing.

Tarrant wouldn’t let them stop him. He was a dogged and brilliant competitor. A numberless outlaw. They called him the Ghost Runner.

Born in London in 1932 to parents John and Edna, Tarrant lived his early years in poverty but they were loving nonetheless. His brother Vic arrived in 1935 and, for a time, life progressed as childhood should.

However, in 1940, with their mother’s health failing and their father called up to man London’s anti-aircraft batteries, the brothers were sent to Lamorbey Children’s Home in Kent. There they would remain for the next seven years.

A stark setting at the best of times, life at Lamorbey was intensified by the terror of the Blitz. It got worse for the Tarrant boys. Two years later, their mother Edna died from tuberculosis.

It wasn’t until August 1947 that their father collected them. Recently remarried and with a new-born baby, he moved the family to the Derbyshire town of Buxton, on the edge of the Peak District.

In this beautiful and savagely hilly landscape, the young Tarrant took to running with a stubborn zealousness that quickly consumed him. It became his catharsis. Soon he was known for a capacity to push himself further than most would even consider attempting.

“He used running as his psychological help,” says Nicola Tyler, who is chair of the Ghost Runners running club in Hereford and was trained by Tarrant’s brother Vic for many years.

“After that kind of childhood, of course, you’re going to be angry and rebellious.”

In 1949, aged 17, Tarrant took up boxing and participated in Buxton’s inaugural fight night. He competed a further seven times over two years, earning himself a total of £17 – worth about £400 today. Full of heart but lacking much prowess, he quit the sport in 1951, blissfully unaware how damaging his inglorious stint as a professional boxer would turn out to be.

Various manual labour jobs came and went, usually discarded in search of more time to run. Even on honeymoon after his marriage to Edith Light in 1953, Tarrant took along his training gear. With his weekly mileage quickly climbing, he’d set his sights on the Olympics – but first he needed to join a club.

British athletics in the 1950s was governed according to a moral standard supposedly inspired by the Ancient Greeks but which stank of inequality and exclusion.

Held up as a symbol of integrity, amateur sports were not to be sullied by those who had ever received payment for competing. It was a rule which, as Britain clawed itself out of the wreckage of World War Two, disproportionately affected the poor.

Most got round the issue by simply not disclosing any earnings, but Tarrant felt it only right to formally declare his boxing exploits when applying to join the Amateur Athletic Association (AAA).

Two weeks later a letter arrived returning his six shillings subscription fee. He was informed that he was now banned from amateur athletics for life – including events such as the de facto British championships and trial races for Olympic selection. He bombarded officials with replies, pleading his case, but to no avail.

Driven by a burning sense of injustice, Tarrant and his brother Vic concocted a plan. Why not simply run unregistered in the AAA races? Not only would it allow him to compete, it might even spark a debate within the media.

Things began badly, however. Various misfortunes meant they arrived late to race starts in Macclesfield and Leeds. Nothing was left to chance when Tarrant arrived in Liverpool for the city’s marathon on 11 August 1956.

After discreetly changing, he wound his way through crowds to the start line, the only man without a number.

As the race began, he attached himself to the leading pack before bursting clear after 11 miles. Rarely one for finesse or race strategy, Tarrant would come with one gear – full throttle – and a relentless, almost reckless approach to competition.

In this case, his rookie exuberance held up until mile 19 when he was caught by the chasing pack. His body racked with exhaustion and cramp, he slumped to the ground two miles from the finish.

Despite this disappointment, Tarrant’s endeavours in Liverpool had caught the eye. After he gave an impromptu press conference before boarding the train back to Buxton, a new nickname spread, courtesy of the Daily Express: the Ghost Runner.

Over the coming years he would repeat the trick again and again, gatecrashing races across the country. As media attention and public interest grew, he would frequently need to slalom through a pack of stewards desperately trying to catch him at the start of races. When he won, which he began to do frequently, his success would be met either with eerie silence or a public scolding over the loudspeakers.

And yet, despite the official line, Tarrant had become a hugely popular character who would be cheered on by hundreds, sometimes thousands, of spectators.

“Tarrant was an unattractive human sledgehammer of a runner but with an indomitable spirit,” says Bill Jones, author of The Ghost Runner – The Tragedy of the Man They Couldn’t Catch.

“He ticked all the right boxes in the 1950s of the young, angry, working-class hero.”

In 1958 a letter finally arrived from the AAA informing Tarrant that his ban had been overturned. Although exact reasoning was not given, the decision came just one month after Harold Abraham – 100m gold medallist at the 1924 Paris Olympics and influential member of various athletic committees – wrote an article highlighting crude deficiencies in the case against Tarrant.

But elation quickly gave way to renewed resentment. It emerged that while Tarrant had been cleared to run in British races, he would remain banned from representing his country internationally.

His dream of running at the Olympics crushed, Tarrant nonetheless went on to dominate the domestic scene, establishing himself as one of the best long-distance runners in Britain.

The 1960s saw him win a blizzard of events, including the London to Brighton 54-mile race twice, the Liverpool to Blackpool 48-mile race three times, and the Exeter to Plymouth 44-mile race five times. He set world records at 40 and 100 miles – to go with his Territorial Army 110-mile march record set in 1959.

But just as in Liverpool, there were also numerous races where he failed to finish, often because of the stomach complaints that plagued his career. On any given day he could reign supreme or be seen staggering away, arms clutched around his abdomen.

By the mid-1960s, a sense of dissatisfaction was setting in. The desire for a new challenge, and to compete around the world, now consumed Tarrant.

South Africa’s Comrades Marathon, linking Durban and Pietermaritzburg, describes itself as the oldest ultra-marathon in the world, stretching for about 55 miles through KwaZulu-Natal province.

In 1968 it was still an exclusively white male race. Black competitors, and women, were formally excluded. But a few still raced nonetheless.

Tarrant was among the interlopers that year, after South African officials rejected his application to run following pressure from the AAA. For the first time in his life, the Ghost Runner joined other phantoms on the fringes.

A fourth-place finish was more than respectable, but below par in the eyes of Tarrant. He returned the following year, this time while entertaining the idea of emigrating.

His second Comrades looked like being a complete disaster but was salvaged by a gutsy display that saw him finish 28th after suffering debilitating stomach issues along the way – far beyond what had seemed possible at halfway.

Tarrant took on the Comrades twice more, in 1970 and 1971, failing to finish both times. His dream of conquering the gruelling contest remained unfulfilled, but it did lead to arguably his defining moment.

During the 1969 Comrades, whispers began circulating about a new, multi-ethnic race that would be open to all. As the date neared, it remained unclear whether it would go ahead and how many – if any – white runners would compete.

On the morning of 6 September 1970, as runners gathered in Stanger for the Gold Top Marathon, a 50-mile race to Durban, there was a solitary white competitor: John Tarrant. He won it in five hours 43 minutes.

The following year the number of white runners doubled, with a 15-year-old Dave Upfold, who had begun training with Tarrant occasionally, also competing.

“We were expecting the police, maybe even the army,” says Upfold.

“In 1971 we simply weren’t allowed to compete together, but there was nothing.

“It was the start of the acceptance that people of colour could run, and run well.

“By 1975, the Comrades was fully integrated with women and all ethnicities taking part, and Tarrant was certainly part of that.”

Tarrant also won that 1971 Gold Top, improving his time by three minutes, but serious problems were emerging.

Six weeks later he suffered a massive haemorrhage and woke up vomiting blood. Doctors failed to diagnose a cause so he was discharged from hospital and soon back running over 100 miles a week. All was clearly not well, but quite remarkably, one final epic remained.

On 23 October 1971, 12 runners, including a 39-year-old Tarrant, began the Radox 100 Mile track race held at the Uxbridge Sports Centre in west London.

By mile 60 he was struggling badly, alternating between walking and slowly jogging, with race leader Ron Bentley 17 minutes ahead. The once imperious ghost was fading dramatically and few held much hope of him finishing, let alone winning.

But as he had done time and time again, Tarrant dug deep into what propelled him and battled on. Slowly the gap began to shrink until he was just two laps behind Bentley. Suddenly the unthinkable seemed possible.

In the end, thanks to a late burst, Bentley finished 14 minutes ahead of second-placed Tarrant, who ended his last major race in an appalling condition – his lips blue, froth seeping from his mouth as he collapsed at the finish line. Eventually his brother Vic, his steadfast rock throughout the years, shepherded him into a waiting car and the Ghost Runner disappeared. Forever.

“It was Tarrant’s greatest race,” said race organiser Eddie Gutteridge in Jones’ book, The Ghost Runner.

“He was in bits, mortally ill as we now know. God knows how he did it. It moved you to be there.”

Two years later Tarrant was finally diagnosed with stomach cancer. He died on 18 January 1975, aged just 42.

Today, in his adopted home of Hereford, close to the town’s running club, stands a sculpture in his honour – created, somewhat symbolically, by vulnerable teenagers living in a residential home nearby.

“He believed in fairness. Fairness for himself, fairness for everybody, equality for all,” says Upfold. “Nearly 50 years after his death, people still remember the name John Tarrant.”

Tyler adds: “He wasn’t allowed to officially win, but he was still determined to show people what he could do.

“It wasn’t just about running. It was about overcoming adversity and believing in yourself. That’s why people still love this story.”

Abel Kirui: Kenya must bring the championships marathon record back home

Two-time World Athletics championships marathon champion Abel Kirui has urged Kenyan marathoners not to sleep but work hard to reclaim the championships record that was taken by Ethiopian Tamirat Tola.

Tola broke the championships record set by Kirui during the 2009 World championships in Berlin when he clocked 2:06.54 but it was lowered to 2:05.36.

“My world marathon championships record has been broken after thirteen years, but I was not bothered so much but we need to bring the record back. The record has been broken, gone to Ethiopia but as Kenyans we must not sleep, we need this record back,” he said.

The former Olympic Games marathon silver medalist missed to represent Kenya because he was not selected in the team to represent the country.

“All in all, the championships were good and I was pleased by the results in Oregon being number four in the world is not easy thing. Having competed and won two times, it is not an easy task because
each athlete prepares 100% for the championships,” he said.

However, he addressed some technicalities that Athletics Kenya should handle to avoid future challenges for athletes like early preparations, psychology, moral support, visa challenges so that they are composed for their minds to be ready “For an athlete to produce good results, we need to have six months of preparations. I wish we could have early selection and early preparations. These two months’ selections to the world event can’t have good results. If you talk to Eliud Kipchoge on how he started his preparations, it took him longer than expected,” said the former Chicago marathon champion.

At the Commonwealth Games, Kirui was full of praise for marathon team captain by his training mate at the Global Sports Communication Jonathan Korir.
“The team is still young and Korir is good, ready to run for medals. He is too close to Eliud for many programmes and am sure he will give up something good and the projection will be positive,” he said.

“Being a captain is an opportunity for leadership which is a gift. Imagine getting the Kenyan flag from the president is a big honour, making history. One has to motivate the team to lead, you are an example in discipline and you need to show it to the world,” he added.

With many athletes switching allegiance to other nations, he commented that they are all Kenyans and their earnings come to develop in Kenya, not their new found lover.

“Kenya has a lot of talents. There is no challenge that Kenyans are going out there and competing against Kenyans. This is a sign that the country is a factory producing more raw materials that they can export to
other countries. I have no problem with them changing nationalities.
Imagine they miss a chance to compete for Kenya and then they get it elsewhere, then they come and compete, it is exciting,” he said.

“In these other nations, they are given good money unlike Kenyan and they will come and invest in Kenya. Our country should also motivate athletes so that they don’t change their nationalities.”

At the World under 20 championships in Cali, Colombia, Kirui said that they should go and retain their overall title they had won at the two championships, starting from the 2018 in Tampere and 2021 in Nairobi.

“If you have been following the junior athletes, they are fine, disciplined, most of the time they produce good results and are not afraid of that. They should retain their title. I want them to be number one in the world just as they did last year and 2018.”

Cynthia Jerop: How my late mother discovered my talent, became my first coach

Returning into athletics career after maternity leave, Cynthia Jerop is not a typical athlete, running the shows across the world but her enthusiasm into athletics was inspired by her late mother who discovered her talent at a tender age.

The former world cross country junior bronze medalist has ensured that the legacy of her late mother Rhoda Bulbul is kept safe and secured as she runs the shows across the world to earn a profitable life, remembering in her heydays when she could be woken up to go for morning training.

Through her inspiration, Jerop decided to use her name Bulbul in all her social media platforms including Facebook just to remember her in all endeavors.

“Am slowly returning into action, with the second marathon set to kick in in August, I want to compete well. And is the best way I can remember my mother. I use her name in social media to appreciate the efforts she made to ensure my success,” she said.

It was tears of sorrow that when her career picked up, winning races across the world, her mother, the mentor, who served as her coach passed on, leaving her languishing, thinking on how to start a new life without her. Almost giving up her career but as young as she was, she had to extend her training skills to secure a chance in marathons.

“I was stressed out, failing in so many races and my activities. It was one of the worst moments in my life when my mother, who was the motivator, the only person I looked upon for guidance and training but once she died, All the systems were set back to factory settings, thinking on how I could start a new life without her but I had to think of my future without her and kept the spirit of never giving up,” said Jerop.

She says that her mother saw the potential in her as an athlete and started training her every morning before going to school and in the evening.

“She used to ride a bicycle as I was running. That is the kind of training I started with. Imagine my mother on a bicycle either behind or in front to ensure that I keep the pace with her. It was hard but I had to endure the pain and now even if she is not here with me as I enjoy the fruits of her labour, I run for her,” she added.

She said that she saw her talent while in class five at Tulon primary school in Nandi County and decided to nurture it.

“At that time, I was young but she forced me to train to say I will be the greatest runner that will be celebrated across the world and here I am in her absence being celebrated. She motivated me, saying that giving up is not a solution in life but meant for the cowards. Unfortunately, she died without enjoying her fruits she laboured for,” she said.

Jerop stormed into the limelight when she won bronze at the World Cross Country championships in 2009 in the junior category.

Since 2009, it took long for her to run after switching to road races to earn money as she claims there is no money on track but during the 2012 Shinda Na Rabbit, she finished 4th in 10,000m.

In 2015 her mother’s condition was deteriorating and took a break in athletics where her mother wanted to stay with her at home. Unfortunately, she passed on in 2016 forcing her to remain without a mentor and motivator.

“The month of April 2016 will always be in my memories. My mother died and I had no one to train me. following her death, I had to take care of our family,” she said.

Following the recovery from the pain, she decided to take on road running to earn money and went ahead to win the 2017 Eindhoven half marathon. But 2018 was her year of success when she first won the Inaugural Kaptagat Half marathon, went ahead to claim the Chemususu 10km title before winding the year with Kass International marathon win.

She also won the 2017 inaugural Bomet half marathon.

In 2020, before coronavirus hit the sporting world, she was preparing for the Seoul Marathon that was postponed due to the virus. Recovering from a tendon injury that has kept her out of competition for almost a year, Jerop was optimistic that she could have run better.

“Before the injury, I had won silver at the Venice marathon and I was preparing for the Seoul marathon but the pandemic, just like any other sports person across the world, was affected in a big way,” she said.

In 2018 she also finished second at the annual Standard Chartered Nairobi marathon.

She said that she was well prepared for Seoul, which was to take place on 22nd March in Korea after Venice where she finished second behind champion Judith Kosgei.

“After the postponement, I now take on light training like 15km to 21km especially during morning hours never knowing where I will start the race but I have to be ready.  Apart from training, I engage in maize, vegetable to kill boredom,” she said.

“Before the race cancellation, I was fit enough to win the Seoul title with my personal best. My training programme so far has been going on fine despite doing little and I am confident that I will do well when competition resumes,” she said.

The Kapsabet based runner enjoys her Personal best of 2:25.54 set in 2019 when she was second at the Los Angeles Marathon after losing to Ethiopia’s Askale Merachi (2:24.11) as Kenyan Lucy Karimi (2:26.15) was third.

“I wanted my PB but that will have to wait for a long,” said the former Hannover half marathon runner.

In 2019, she won the Madoka half marathon (78.55) after defeating then then defending champion Delvine Maringor (79.20), winner used to train with Olympic marathon champion Peres Jepchirchir, Eindhoven Marathon winner Georgina Rono and Alice Cherono before the coronavirus made it impossible to work in groups.

Jerop also finished second at the Tubonglore half marathon in 73:22 behind Nancy Jelagat- (71:59) with Zeddy Cherop completing the podium in 74:38.

“It has been my dream, just like other athletes across the world will want to compete at the marathon majors and that will be my dream. I have been trying my best to secure an opportunity for such an event to come my way,” said Jerop.

The World Marathon majors consists of Tokyo, Berlin, London, Chicago, Boston and New York City marathons.

Caster Semenya: ‘I am the greatest that has ever done it’

Let’s start at the finish, with the last question I put to Caster Semenya: When the time comes for the two-time Olympic 800m champion to hang up her spikes, how does she think the world will remember her career?

“I am the greatest that has ever done it,” she says. “That’s what I’ll be remembered for: being great, my talents. I feel unapologetic (about them) and I want people to remember the greatness.”

The 31-year-old South African is the headline star at Tuesday’s BAM Cork City Sports, where she will race over 3000m. It’s Semenya’s first visit to Ireland, and after she laughs about the “European weather” she admits “everything is good” since her arrival last Friday.

Her goal on Tuesday is simple, and relatively modest: to run under 8:50, a time that would rank her outside the top 50 on the women’s top lists for 2022 – strange territory for an athlete who was for so long indomitable.

But these days things are different. Semenya has been unable to compete at distances between 400m and the mile since 2019, when the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) ruled in favour of her sport’s governing body, the IAAF (now World Athletics), that athletes with differences in sexual development (DSDs) had to reduce their testosterone below five nmol/L to compete in the women’s category.

In 2020 Semenya appealed the decision to the Swiss Federal Supreme Court, which upheld the ruling, saying the regulations were “necessary, reasonable and proportionate” to ensure fair competition in women’s sport.

Individuals with 46 XY DSD are usually born with internal testes that cause their natural testosterone to sit in the male range of 7.7-29.4nmol/L, well above the typical female range of 0.12-1.79nmol/L. Semenya has since opted not to lower her testosterone by taking medication, which she said caused her to feel sick, gain weight and suffer panic attacks following a similar ruling on athletes with hyperandrogenism back in 2011.

While the regulations could eventually extend to other events, right now they apply only to track events where the link between testosterone and performance is most pronounced, leaving athletes with DSDs free to compete below 400m or above the mile.

Semenya switched to 200m in 2020 in a bid to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics but after clocking a best of 23.49, well outside the qualifying standard, she moved up to 5000m. She ran a personal best of 15:31.50 at the South African Championships in April, shy of what was needed to make this month’s World Championships, but missing that is “not really a problem” – her chief goal remains the Paris Olympics in 2024.

“The transition has not been easy, I’m a power athlete,” she says. “I’m a tall figure, I’m more muscular so I have to work on being very lean. Now it’s a matter of mastering how to run distance, and it’s coming. Rome was not built in a day.”

These days, Semenya covers 130km a week in training with a long run of 30km. “It was not easy the first year but now I’m getting used to it and I started enjoying distance more than speed.”

She’s coached by her wife, Violet, and they have two daughters, with their youngest celebrating her first birthday on Tuesday.

“This race is dedicated to her,” she says. Her eldest daughter, Oratile, will turn three in a few days. How has life changed for Semenya since she became a mother?

“It makes you a better person, you see life in a different way. Before it was all about myself but now I live for my family. There’s no difference on the track but when I walk off it, I’m a parent and I have to live based on my kids.”

Will her experience in recent years inform her approach as a parent?

“Yeah,” she says. “The main goal for me is to teach them to understand their rights – how to fight for themselves, how to live for themselves, not for any other people.”

Semenya continues to fight her cause. Early last year, following the federal court ruling, she took a case against Switzerland at the European Court of Human Rights, which has yet to be heard.

“It’s not about winning, I don’t really care about the outcome,” she says. “It’s about raising awareness about what’s happening with the authorities, how selfish they are, their motives. My optimal goal is just to expose those errors and then fight for justice – always.

“People need to realise that when you’re here for athletes, you better mean it. If you’re a leader and you say sport is for all, you should act like that.”

In recent weeks, swimming’s world governing body barred transgender women from elite female competitions if they had experienced any part of male puberty, and several other sports are likely to follow suit. While it’s obviously a very different issue to DSD athletes, there are some similarities, which triggers the question: what did Semenya make of that ruling?

“I really don’t have an answer because I don’t know,” she says. “As I’m not transgender, I don’t know how they’re feeling. It’s very complex and a complicated question so, for me, I wouldn’t answer for something I have no experience about.”

An athlete Semenya does feel a strong kinship with is her old rival Francine Niyonsaba, the Burundian who won silver behind her at the Rio Olympics and who moved up in distance following introduction of the DSD regulations. Niyonsaba is currently the quickest woman in the world over 3000m this year.

“We’re very good friends and, yeah, it’d be great if we could have that rivalry again at 5K,” says Semenya. “She always wants what’s best for me, I always want what’s best for her. We encourage each other.”

I ask Semenya about her daughters, and whether they might grow up to be runners. “I hope they do tennis, not running,” she says. “Running can be hard. You don’t want your kids to go through what you went through.”

Despite all she’s dealt with, Semenya remains a fan of the sport. She and her wife coach a running group in South Africa and despite not competing at the Tokyo Olympics last year, she followed the action from afar, saying it was “exceptionally good.”

Semenya still wants to be at the Paris Games in 2024, even if it’s not at her favoured distance.

“The goal was to run the 800 until I’m 35, but unfortunately I had to stop before time,” she says. “But the dreams never change. As an Olympian, you always want to be the greatest. At the moment it’s all about enjoying what I do. Being able to run, it’s a blessing.”


How Amputee Athlete Made History by Running 104 Marathons in 104 Days

In 2020, when amputee ultra runner Jacky Hunt-Broersma saw that Alyssa Amos Clark had broken the record for running 95 marathons in as many days, she thought to herself, “Well, that would be interesting to try and do. Especially running on a prosthetic leg …”

Two years later, in late April, 46-year-old Hunt-Broersma broke the record, which could take up to a year for Guinness World Records to ratify, with 104 marathons in 104 days, including the Boston Marathon’s para-athletic race (which was Day 92).

Her original challenge was 100 in 100, but a British woman, Kate Jayden, set that record just days prior to Hunt-Broersma’s finish, so the challenge was extended to 102, and then she added two more days. For fun.

A South African who resides in Arizona with her husband and children, Hunt-Broersma lost her lower left leg to Ewing sarcoma, a rare form of cancer that affects tissue around the bones, in 2001.

As part of her challenge, she raised over $192,000 for Amputee Blade Runners, to help people access expensive prosthetics, but her primary ambition was simply a personal challenge, and to put in some “base miles” for a 240-mile ultra run in Utah later this year.

“Here in the States, running blades are really expensive and health insurance doesn’t cover it, they see it as a luxury. So I thought it would be a great way to raise money for charity and it would be a good way to give back,” Hunt-Broersma told ESPN.

“Running is something, even though I wasn’t doing it [before surgery], you kind of take for granted, because you could just put a pair of shoes on and go.”

Hunt-Broersma always lived a fit lifestyle but described herself as “a glass half full” in regard to her athletic capabilities: “I thought running ultras was crazy, if I’m totally honest. ‘Why would you do that?'”

But then, after her surgery, she found motivation from the stubborn place inside her, the same place that saw her fight cancer. She says amputees are often told by medical professionals about things they can no longer do, and it irritated her.

She said: “You kind of get put in this box of being disabled and it’s just really annoying and I’m super stubborn and like, ‘Well, no, I want to give running a go, I want to try it and just see.'”

She took the plunge and invested $10,000 in a running blade [because regular prosthetics are unsuitable] and she enjoyed “pushing boundaries and having fun with it.”

She found that after the surgery she struggled with body acceptance, and running gave her something to be proud of: “Running really changed my life and it gave me a more sense of acceptance of my body and just more … ‘I can do things, I can do hard things!’

“So I’m more proud of who I am and what my body looks like, and I’m so grateful for running because it definitely has changed my perception.”

And her body did change, though not in the way you’d imagine, because she was careful not to lose weight despite all the running she was doing.

The whole challenge involved 2,728 miles (4,390 kilometers), and an excess of 250,000 calories, but it didn’t mean Hunt-Broersma could eat what she wanted. There’s a lot of trial and error in the fuelling process for long-distance running, and it varies from person to person.

She quickly realised she had to fuel not only for recovery and load for the next day, but as she was running across lunch time most days, to ensure she ate enough overall.

“I actually gained weight, but it’s more muscle,” she said. “I’ve been very conscious not to lose weight, because I just felt like if I did, then that means I’m just not getting what I need to fuel every day.”

You make peace with the pain’

Hunt-Broersma is a coach by day, and reduced her commitments while taking on this challenge, which became somewhat of a full-time job.

Every day, she would get the same heavy-leg feeling runners know so well. Sometimes the fatigue would stick around for a few days, and others she would feel fresh again — in the same way all runners experience good days and bad days … just more frequently.

She explained: “You kind of get used to that feeling, it’s just become my new normal so you just get out of bed and it’s like, ‘Oh yeah my body’s feeling tired,’ but you keep moving and keep going.

“And you make peace with the pain, just because you have a target, so you just suck it up and you know what you just need to get on with it.

“The hardest thing was mentally, getting up in the morning. … But somehow you just kind of motivate yourself. You get out of bed and think, ‘I just actually want to do something else today, I didn’t actually want to run. I don’t know, just go to the store maybe, and just go walk around, I’d be quite happy to do that.’

“And then you think it’s like a job, and there’s days where you don’t want to go to your job, but you have to get paid in the end, and so that’s how I kind of had to try to focus on that. It’s forcing yourself to do it just because you know what the end target is.”

There were “ugly” points during the runs, too. She recalled one day, 15 miles in: “I just sat down and cried some really ugly tears, and I was like, ‘I can’t do this anymore, I’m done, I’m tired, my body is healing.’

“On those days part of you knows how disappointed you would be to give up and the other part, is like, ‘Just focus on getting to the next step.’ I focus on breaking it down. Get to the next mile and then before you know it you’re at the end and it’s like, ‘Oh I’ve done another marathon, there we go.’

“It has very much been a roller coaster, sometimes I’ve felt absolutely awful … and then other days I feel great. I don’t know why, I don’t know how I’m doing it, I thought I’m some kind of freak and let’s just get it done.”

But the motivation is always sadistically self-inflicted: “I hate quitting on anything so I’m just like, ‘No, you did this yourself, you need to just do it.’

“It just shows running is so much more mental than anything so if you can train your brain to keep pushing through then you’re OK … and the longer I’ve been going, the easier that has been and my body has adapted to the mileage.”

Other low moments included the tread on her prosthetic coming off in the final few days. A challenge so long throws up many unknowns, including how much load the prosthetic could take, and she had to phone her husband to bring some glue.

‘Every day is the same …’

At the end of every day, Hunt-Broersma would be pictured holding a sign up with her total count and post on social media where she built up a growing following. She was always smiling, with the relief that it was another day ticked off, focusing on one day at a time rather than the bigger picture.

“You know, it’s kind of like you’re sleepwalking a little bit. You know every day is the same, and you just feel like you just get out of bed, get dressed, eat your breakfast and then you get running again and it’s just it’s the weirdest sensation,” she said.

She had a third job to manage too. Parenting became a tag-team effort as her husband, who also does ultra races, prepared for his own 24-hour race.

The routine was: Get up, get ready, take her two children to school, run a marathon, and finish in time to pick them up or be there when they walked home, before an evening of the usual parenting tasks like homework, dinner, household chores.

There was no luxury of resting, massages, or putting her feet up for the evening: “I had to make do with what time I had, so it’s just literally just putting it in, some days I started a little later … we made it work somehow.”

Her routes varied. She usually prefers to run trails, but from a time perspective road running was quicker and easier to fit into the day. She was often joined by other people, which was a welcome distraction, with plenty more offering support via messages.

There was also the Arizona heat in the middle of the day to consider. And her stump, which would be aggravated and swollen by the constant hard impact of road running, attracted many questions from other amputees.

She threw in some treadmill days which has a softer impact, and some days she ran laps around a long gravel track near the school, so as to not stray too far from home. Her children would see her and prove to their peers she really was running every day.

She added: “They’d tell their friends at school, but their friends said, ‘No we don’t believe that, you’re lying,’ and my son the other day replied, ‘What did your mom do? My mom can run 100 marathons in 100 days.'”

The inspiration filters down and set a tone with the children for their ambitions.

“I’m hoping it will teach my kids that it’s like it’s good to push the limits and [they’ll] see that when they grow up,” she said.


Battle of greats as Girma face Burka in Otawa

Ethiopia’s Tigist Girma will defend her title at the 47th edition of the Ottawa Marathon now renamed to Tartan Ottawa International Marathon that will be held on May 29, 2022 in Ottawa, Canada.

The 28-year-old will battle for honors with the 2018 winner Gelete Burka who is also the course record holder with a time of 2:22.17.

The race organizer has put these two world-class Ethiopians to try and attack the race course that was set in 2018. Burka comes to this race with the second fastest time of 2:20.45 that she got at the 2018 Dubai Marathon where she finished in sixth place while Tigist comes with the fastest time on paper of 2:19.52 that she got at the 2019 Amsterdam Marathon where she took the silver medal.

Tigist who finished in position five at the Tokyo Olympics with a time of 2:21.56, a World Marathon Major and sixth place in Valencia in 2:19.56, trains together with Ruti Aga the 2019 Tokyo Marathon winner, Mare Dibaba, the 2015 world marathon champion and the 2016 Olympic bronze medalist. She is trained by the Ethiopian Olympic marathon coach Haji Adilo.

“I was injured a few times. After the Olympics I didn’t have much of good training, but now I am in good shape and want to do better,” said Tigist. “I want to put my signature in Ottawa for the second time.”

Burka has represented Ethiopia in six successive world outdoor championships and three Olympics. In Rio Olympics six years ago, she finished fifth in the 10,000m with a personal best of 30:26.66. Had it not been for a slight on the part of the Ethiopian Athletics Federation (EAF) a year later, she might never have turned to the marathon.

“In 2017 I was in Netherlands at the Ethiopian trials for the world championships. I took the top honors in 10,000m with a time of 30:40.87, but the EAF never selected me to the team for the world championships in London,” she explains her smile having vanished now. “After that I stopped track and that is the point when I went to the marathon. So, I trained for the Dubai Marathon where I ran a life time best of 2:20.45.” A year later she won the 2019 Paris Marathon in 2:22.47, then finished third in Chicago in a time of 2:20.55.

“Ottawa is a good memory for me,” she continues. “When I was training I had a bit of a leg problem with an injury to my calf and I came to Ottawa with that injury. Also I got those stomach cramps. It was not easy. That’s why I smiled when I came to the finish,” said Burka.

Burka is faithful to her church, The Glorious Life Church where attends without fail as she is also an usher and a member of the forty-member choir.

The 36 year-old has a rich cabinet as she is the 2008 World Indoor 1500m Champion, the 2006 World Cross Country champion

“The training is going on well and with one month to go I will be in great shape for the course” Burka concluded.

Ethiopian women have enjoyed a 10-year winning streak at the Ottawa Marathon before the COVID-19 pandemic forced the event’s cancellation for the past two years.

Eliud Kipchoge: “I struggle with motivation sometimes”

Even for the greatest, running life can be a struggle.

The world’s fastest marathoner Eliud Kipchoge admits that he’s had to dig deep to find the strength to keep going.

Kenya’s Double Olympic men’s marathon champion says he often turns to the millions who have been inspired by his runs, his grandeur achievements, and his motivating quotes.

“I struggle with motivation, but I try all the time to get inspired by fans messages around the world,” Kipchoge said on Wednesday (6 April) during a webinar organised by his NN Running Team to mark five years of the athletics management group.

“I have been inspiring people around the world and [the thought of this] is what sometimes gives me the energy to jump out of bed and do the necessary.”

Marathon man Kipchoge on how he keeps focus

 As amazing as his athletic accomplishments are, the world record holder has always been forthright on how much sometimes his passion hurts.

“In the journey of life, there [are] ups and downs. In marathon, there [are] a lot of challenges, ups and downs. There is pain in training, pain in running,” he shared on the documentary titled Kipchoge: The Last Milestone that focused on his successful attempt to become the first person to run a marathon in under two hours.

The 37-year-old champion cemented his position as the greatest distance runner of all time, by becoming the first man in 40 years to win marathon gold at successive Olympic Games, when he won at Tokyo 2020 in 2021.

And, as he targets an unprecedented third Olympic marathon title at Paris 2024, Kipchoge gave a sneak peak on how he manages to stay focused on his staggering racing goals.

“[When I am running] Many things are always crossing my mind from West to North, East to South, but I try to block them and concentrate fully on the road, concentrate fully on the task ahead and finishing the race,” the Kenyan, who enjoys his long runs, offered.

“After training for four months [for a race] I know that the only way to block what’s in my mind and concentrate fully is by making my mind easy and block any [distracting] messages coming in.”

During the hour-long webinar, the NN Running Team shared insights from the their management, physiotherapist, nutritionist, and Patrick Sang, the lead coach at the simple Kaptagat training camp.

“Running is a team sport. It is no longer an individual event as people think,” four-time Olympic medallist Kipchoge said.

“When NN formed the running team we discovered that the team is especially important especially in marathon running, helping each other both physically and mentally.”

That team was formed in April 2017 by Jos Hermens, who assembled the some of the best distance runners in the world, led by the two fastest marathoners, Ethiopia’s triple Olympic champion Kenenisa Bekele, and Kipchoge, to train in structured training camps.

It’s a concept that the man who has won 14 of the 16 major marathons in his career claims has made him a better runner. Kipchoge also explained that during the pandemic he found it difficult to go back to training alone due to lockdown restrictions.

What next for Eliud Kipchoge in 2022

 Kipchoge He opened his season on March 6 running the fastest time ever in Japan of 2:02:40 to win the Tokyo Marathon.

Since then, he has tapered down his training, focusing more on the gym sessions despite not ‘liking the weightlifting’ bit, but he’s enjoying working on his core muscles.

The huge Kelly Clarkson fan has not yet decided if he will do a marathon towards the end of the year, but has just added a new sport on his bucket list.

“I am bad at swimming. I don’t know how to swim…that’s on my bucket list…”