Ruth Chepng’etich: I’ll go for it next time’
Kenya’s Ruth Chepng’etich defended her Chicago Marathon title in a dominant display on Sunday, but was left disheartened after coming very close to breaking the world record.
As she starts her journey to Kenya today from Chicago for recovery, the former world marathon champion reflected on the 14 seconds that stood between her and compatriot Brigid Kosgei who is the current world record holder in a time of 2:14.04 set on the same course in 2019.
“I’ll just try to get it another time,” she told People Sport in an exclusive interview after the Sunday race.
Chepngetich broke the tape in 2:14.18 to successfully defend her 2021 title and in the process won approximately Sh9 million in prize money in addition to her undisclosed appearance fee and other personal bonuses her management negotiated with race organizers.
“I know where the 14 seconds were lost, it was a perfect race, maybe in the last 400m or 200m. That near miss will push me,” said Chepngetich who in July failed in her quest to win back-to-back world titles after her triumph in Doha, Qatar, in 2019.
At the World Athletics Championships in Oregon, USA, she pulled out of the race citing stomach problems.
“One can’t be the other, but I feel relieved in a way because I was forced to drop out of the world Championships race few months ago here in the US,” she clarified.
On Sunday, her intent was so clear that she even dropped one of her two male pacesetters, afterwards crediting Geoffrey Pyego for her good run, her last standing male pace setter.
“I want to humbly thank Pyego for pushing me during the race, for most part of the race, it was just the two of us, yes I take credit but this is as much for him as it is my victory. A pacemaker makes or breaks the race. If they slow down, your time is gone and everyone, organizers, sponsors, fans looks at you,” said the soft spoken athlete.
Chepngetich built up an early lead and had established an astonishing 3min 42sec advantage over the chasing pack by the halfway point. Charging to the line with no one else was in sight, the 2019 world champion was in a race against the clock as she tried to break the world record but came up 14 seconds short of compatriot Kosgei’s mark, set on the same flat course three years ago.
“I wanted to break the world record ... but I’m happy,” Chepngetich said. “Next year I’m ready to come back again.”
American Emily Sisson finished second in 2:18:29 and Kenyan Vivian Jerono Kiplagat third.
Chepngetich who grew up in Kericho County in eastern Kenya, born to parents who keep poultry and grow maize now is the second-fastest marathon in history.
She hit her first 5K in 15:11, a pace that put her ahead of many of the elite men and, if she held it, would project to a 2:09 finish. By the halfway point, which she split in 1:05:44.
“The weather played a big part too,” said the 28-year-old who is the only athlete in the family of five and caught the running bug early at about nine years old.
She says she was around 16 running became more than just a hobby, when Chepngetich completed secondary school in 2015, she turned to athletics full-time and began training with older athletes in Kericho where a local coach gave her training tips.
That same year she competed in one of her first professional races in Nairobi, a 10km run where she came third.
A few months later, in Morocco, in her first competition abroad, she finished third again in a half-marathon.
The performances were encouraging and in 2017 wins in Adana, Paris, Milan and Istanbul and improving times gave her more confidence that she could be a professional athlete. Later that year, she won her first marathon race in Istanbul and as they say the rest is history.
And when she does return to her camp in Ngong, an hour from Kenya’s capital Nairobi, no doubt moments from the Sunday race will be replaying in her head, hoping to make amends soon.
“I think I have ideas where the world record would currently stand if I had done something abit different, maybe running a little more conservatively in the first half, but for now I will take a break and recharge for my next conquest, “ she concluded.