Three times Vienna City marathon champion, Nancy Kiprop will be targeting podium position at the 50th edition of the New York Marathon that will be held on Sunday (7) November in New York City.
The 42 year-old finished in fourth position with a time of 2:26.21 at the 2019 edition behind Joyciline Jepkosgei who pulled 2:22.38 with Mary Keitany coming home in second in 2:23.32 and Ruti Aga third in a time of 2:25.51.
Kiprop has not competed in any race for two years and returns to the same course she launched her World Marathon majors career following her dominance at the Vienna City marathon.
“I have been off for two years and the same course I competed last, is the same course I will be running. The two years have been long but I have hope of reaching the podium,” said Kiprop who moved from Iten to Kaptagat as her training base.
KIprop will have to battle with the on-form Peres Jepchirchir who holds the fastest time on paper of 2:17.16 that she got at the 2020 Valencia Marathon.
She will also face Nancy Kiprop who was fourth the last time the race was held in 2019, and Viola Lagat, the younger sister of five-time Olympian Bernard Lagat.
While Lagat will be racing his elder brother the five times Olympian Bernard will be part of the broadcast team that will be doing commentary.
Kenya’s Peres Jepchirchir has been in stellar form over the last two seasons, and will be hoping to wrap up the year on a high at the 50th edition of the New York City Marathon that will be held on Sunday (7) in New York.
The 27 year comes to the TCS New York Marathon off not only winning the Olympic gold in Tokyo but six straight road race wins in her last six races.
“2021 has already been a magical year, and I am excited that it is not yet over,” Jepchirchir said in a New York Road Runners press release. “The excitement in Kenya around my performance in the Olympic Games has been very high, and I know that a victory in New York will mean so much to the people of Kenya.”
She claimed Olympic gold in on the course at the Tokyo games, to add on to her two record World half marathon titles, the last of which she won in 2020. Tegla Loroupe, Paula Radcliffe, and Lornah Kiplagat are the only women to win more than one half marathon world title.
Jepchirchir comes to this race with a personal best of 2:17.16 that she got at the 2020 Valencia Marathon. She is the fastest athlete on paper and she will be joined by Nancy Kiprop also from Kenya who was fourth the last time the race was held in 2019, and Viola Lagat, the younger sister of five-time Olympian Bernard Lagat.
In the family living room, the television on which Agnes Tirop’s 95-year-old grandfather used to watch his talented granddaughter compete was now the one broadcasting her funeral.
A portrait of the smiling young woman, who just two weeks earlier had set a world record for a 10,000 metre race in Germany, sat next to it, beneath a pile of red and white roses.
Agnes’s funeral took place on Oct 23, the same day she would have turned 26. Under a white gazebo with ribbons in the colours of the Kenyan flag, thousands of mourners, including top athletes and government officials, gathered near her parents’ home in Nandi County – known as the “source of champions” for its reputation in producing the world’s best runners – to bid the athlete farewell.
Agnes, who was found stabbed to death at home in the Rift Valley of western Kenya, was a rising star in the country’s highly competitive running circuit, finishing fourth in the 5,000m at the Tokyo Olympics.
“It’s just crazy because I still picture her running that race in Germany when we were all cheering for her,” said Viola Cheptoo Lagat, sister of Bernard Lagat and an athlete in her own right, who watched Agnes’s record-breaking final win.
“She was really happy as she had achieved one of her life goals to break a world record. Now she had big dreams.”
While a police investigation is still ongoing, Tirop’s partner, Ibrahim Rotich – reportedly 20 years her senior – is in custody and the main suspect, according to the region’s Directorate of Criminal Investigations, Andolo Munga. “The autopsy report and the suspect’s confession note, together with the murder weapons – a knife and a wooden club (rungu), have given us overwhelming evidence, which points to murder,” he told the Nation.
Friends and family say they had recently learnt of Rotich’s emotional, physical and financial abusive behaviour towards Agnes.
“After she came back from the Olympics, Agnes moved back home, as she told us this man [Rotich] had slapped her and threatened to break her legs with a rungu,” said Vincent Tirop, father of Agnes. “We told her to stay home and train, so every morning she’d run on that road outside,” he said, pointing to a rust-coloured track.
But as rainy season descended, the dirt road became a mudslide, Agnes decided to move 38 miles north to the Kenya Athletics training camp in Iten to prepare for her next race. Iten is also the town where she shared a home with Rotich. “We thought she would be safe there because the coach told us there were security guards watching over the grounds,” Vincent added.
‘I did not see Agnes, I thought she was asleep’
On the cool evening of Oct 11, Evelyn Tirop, the late athlete’s younger sister, who is also a runner, said Rotich arrived at the camp with a male friend requesting to see Agnes.
“Agnes told me they were forcing her to go back with them, so I accompanied her to his homestead,” said Evelyn, 20, who says she was concerned for her sister’s safety after learning of the abuse. “But they looked happy and he didn’t show any issues, so I went to sleep in the next room.”
The following morning, Evelyn woke early and found Rotich in the living room. She said he had a strange request: that she should go to the butcher to buy meat.
“It was only 7.30 in the morning, so I told him I could go later because I had to collect my certificate [from school],” she said. “I did not see Agnes, I thought she was asleep.”
Later that day, Evelyn says she received a call from Rotich telling her not to return to the house, as he and Agnes would be taking a trip to Nairobi. When she asked to speak with her sister, Rotich told her she was unavailable.
When she reached her parents’ village, Evelyn received another call, this time from a cousin of Rotich, who asked if she knew the whereabouts of Agnes because she and Rotich had had an altercation. An unease filled her stomach and the young girl tried phoning her sister multiple times, but the line was off.
Evelyn and her parents decided to report Agnes as missing to the Iten Police station. The next morning, Agnes was found dead, laying in a pool of blood.
Agnes’s closest friend and fellow athlete, Caroline Chepkoech, said she learnt of the news on her way back from the Boston Marathon. “I was shocked,” said the former African junior champion, “She was done with this guy; I don’t know how he convinced her to go back.”
Peres Jepchirchir said Agnes had opened up about the abuse after Jepchirchir, the Olympic marathon champion, questioned why she had missed a recent athletics marketing event. “She told me she had been injured by her boyfriend and showed me photos of her ear swollen,” said the 28-year-old. “She also showed me some photos of her boyfriend spending money in clubs with ladies.
She realised he was using her money in a bad way, so she decided to stop supporting him and he became very angry.”
“He was very jealous and controlling,” Cheptoo Lagat added. “He was draining her of her money, her energy and her spirit.”
‘She was like a mum to a lot of girls’
Friends describe Agnes as a religious person, who loved gospel music and dancing in church.
She was passionate about education, said Cheptoo Lagat, even though she had not been able to continue her own studies, and paid for the school fees of several local children. “She was like a mum to a lot of girls in the village,” she said. “They looked up to her as she had nothing growing up, and now, she was a world-class athlete.”
Kenya Athletics along with the government of Nandi County, family and friends, are creating a foundation in Agnes Tirop’s name to help victims of domestic violence, as well as setting up scholarships for girls.
“We’re going to raise our voices. We will not let her death be in vain,” said Cheptoo Lagat. “Everywhere she went she drew people close to her because of her warmth and her spirit and we want to honour her memory.”
Bernard Lagat won the USATF 10k Championships while competing in the AJC Peachtree Road Race in Atlanta, setting a new benchmark for Masters runners.
The 43-year-old clocked a time of 28:45 to finish first against an impressive field of top American road racers, including Haron Lagat, Tyler Pennel, and Sam Chelanga. This is his 15th national championship but first on the roads. Lagat is the oldest athlete to ever win the USATF 10K Championships title.
Now in its 17th year, USATF’s Athlete of the Week program is designed to recognize outstanding performers at all levels of the sport. USATF names a new honoree each week and features the athlete on USATF.org. Selections are based on top performances and results from the previous week.
After turning 43 last December, two-time Olympic medalist Bernard Lagat did not think he would make another appearance at an IAAF World Championships.
Beginning with the IAAF World Championships in Athletics in 2001, Lagat had qualified for 11 world championships, both indoors and outdoors, and had won three indoor titles and two outdoors. Although still competing, he was largely viewed as a “legend” athlete racing here and there for his own satisfaction in the twilight of his career.
Almost exactly a month later, the five-time Olympian from Tuscon, Ariz., lined up for the Aramco Houston Half-Marathon, a distance he had only run twice before. On an unusually cold Texas winter day, he kept an even pace and clocked a personal best and American over-40 record of 1:02:00 finishing in 15th place. He had no idea that his mark would qualify him for his 12th world championships, and his first as a road runner.
“It is a surprise,” Lagat told reporters here today at an outdoor press conference held at the finish line in the Ciudad De Les Artes y la Ciencias (City of Arts & Sciences) in the Jardin del Turia, Valencia’s huge park in the center of the city. “I think I used that word, like it was an accident. A lot of athletes were asking me in Houston, ‘hey Bernard are you trying to get the team?’ And I said, ‘look and see who is running here. Everybody is running. Therefore I’m just here to run a personal best.'”
Under USA Track & Field’s selection process, Lagat was actually sixth on the list (a full team is five athletes per gender). But two athletes above him, Christo Landry and Haron Lagat, were unable to accept their team spots, elevating Lagat to #4 on the list.
“I wasn’t looking into running the world championships,” Lagat admitted. “But then, that position made me fourth in the United States, and I said, ‘wow.’ They gave me the invitation and I said I’m taking it. I was really, really excited to be here.”
Lagat, who is the second-oldest competitor in the men’s field (the oldest is 43 year-old Maurice Turnock of Gibraltar who was born seven months before Lagat), doesn’t relish the half-marathon distance, at least not yet. He admitted that tomorrow’s race was going to hurt.
“It’s painful from mile-two,” Lagat said. “Since mile number two it starts to get painful. Mile-one is OK. I can run with these guys at 4:32, no big deal. I have 3:47 (personal best for the mile); so I can brag about that. The pain starts towards the half. As you keep going you just see everyone starting to leave you, and you’re on your own.”
If the weather cooperates, Lagat could improve his personal best, but beating Haile Gebreselasie’s world over-40 record of 1:01:09 would be a tall order, Lagat said.
“It’s going to be a tough one,” he said.
Nonetheless, Lagat plans to be as competitive as possible. That’s just how he’s wired.
“It is a big challenge for me, but I still have that competitive nature for myself,” Lagat said. “I always want to go out there and do the best that I can. We’ll see tomorrow how I’m going to fare.”