I paid a visit to the Olympic silver medalist at this year's Games, Priscah Jeptoo, at her training place in Kapsabet to ask her a few questions concerning her experience at the Olympics, her training and her future plans. This is what she had to say as we chatted over a mug of 10 O'clock tea in her sitting room.
Runblogrun: What was your experience at making it to represent your country at the Olympics?
Jeptoo: First of all, an athletes' big dream is to make it to the Olympics one day and I was so excited when this dream finally became a reality to me -there were many others who were hoping to take my place. I saw it as a great opportunity to establish my name in the field of running. At the Games, I was so elated at how the world regards athletics, judging from the treatment and the respect which was being given to the athletes there. I also made friends there with Tiki Gelena among other athletes from the rest of the world. We exchanged contacts and can now communicate occasionally.
Runblogrun: Did you expect to win a medal?
Jeptoo: No. My target was to at least try and make it to the top five. Judging from the PB times of my competitors, I felt I didn't have a chance. Towards the end of the race where there were only a few of us leading, with only myself and Mary Keitany being the two Kenyans still at the leading pack, I had hopes that Mary Keitany was going to win and I wanted to stay close to her and give her the morale of running in the company of a compatriot. In my mind I wanted a 1-2 win for Kenya and I was ready to settle for a second position behind Keitany.
Before I could know what was going on, Gelena of Ethiopia surprised us by pulling away quickly and accelerating towards the finish. I tried to react, but was a bit too late. I could see that I was actually beginning to gain some ground on her as we approached the tape and I may have gotten to her had the distance been extended a little. All in all, I actually learned a lesson that anyone can win a race and we should not always expect it to go to the pre-race favorites.
Runblogrun: What do you think worked in your favor as compared to the pre-race favorites?
Jeptoo: I think it was because I did not put it in my mind that the weather was unfavorable. I had run before in rainy weather at the Turin Marathon and so the conditions were not new to me. I was confident in the training I had done and was ready for anything.
Besides that, while the rest of the Kenyan Olympic marathon team went to a residential training camp in Iten, I was left to train with my coach here in Kapsabet after I felt uncomfortable with the climate at Iten.
Runblogrun: Are any of your siblings into running as well?
Jeptoo: I am the first born child, the rest are still in high school and a second born, now in form two, is already showing some talent in running as well and I guess she will take after me.
Runblogrun: Compared with their male counterparts, the Kenyan women are not dominating the long distance running as much across the world. Why is it so?
Jeptoo: The number of Kenyan men who have undertaken to run is by far greater than that of the women. Before a Kenyan man makes it enough to be noticed here, in order to get an agent to register him in a race abroad, he has to encounter a very tough competition in the local races here. This makes the Kenyan men train extra hard, and anyone who gets lucky to go and run abroad is well prepared, and will even find the races out there much easier. On the other hand, the women face little competition here locally because of their fewer numbers. They also easily get noticed by agents in the local races before they train hard enough.
Also, when women athletes make some wrong decisions in life, like getting married to the wrong person or having a kid, most of them find it hard to come back to running again.
However, at the moment, more women here in Kenya are beginning to take running seriously after watching the recent success of others, and I am optimistic that very soon Kenyan women will increase in their numbers and begin dominating the events as well.
Runblogrun: What race are you going to run next?
Jeptoo: My main focus now is on the London City Marathon next year. However, I will be running a number of other races before that as some form of training and preparation.
Since I ran at the Olympics, I have not run a long run that has exceeded 1hr 40 minutes and only did two speed workouts before going to run in the Lisbon half marathon recently. In fact, I was surprised when I won it as I had just gone there because my appearance had been requested by the race organizer. I was going there purposely for the sake of my appearance only.
I will run some cross country meetings early next year to better my speed, and if I will find a half marathon with a fast course around February or March, it will be good for me to try and improve my time in the event. In any decision we are going to make with my coach, our priority is on the London Marathon and any other race will only act as a build up to the marathon.
I concluded the interview with the promising star and thanked her. She did the same to me adding that she was happy to share her experiences.