2014 Bank of America Chicago Marathon Diary: Rita Jeptoo Keeps her fingers crossed, by Justin Lagat

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Rita Jeptoo won Chicago in blazing glory last year! Boston 2014, 
photo by PhotoRun.net

Originally Published october 6, 2014. 

Rita Jeptoo is prepared to defend her Chicago Marathon title. Can she win, and win the WMM with one hundred points? Justin Lagat interviewed Rita here just before she left Eldoret to visit the Windy City. Stay tuned for race next weekend, October 12! 

(Editor's note: Updated October 10. Rita Jeptoo is in a class by herself in Chicago. Unfortunately, her feet will do the talking here, as Rita, while she speaks English, is not comfortable speaking in front of groups. I wanted several reporters, however, get some thoughtful comments from Rita. Her running on Sunday, October 12 should be amazing. I would not be surprised if she runs 2:17! )
Rita Jeptoo Keeps her fingers crossed, by Justin Lagat

"There is the presence of other strong elite runners in this race and as to what will happen there, I can only leave it to God," said Rita Jeptoo.

She is on the verge of making history if she wins the marathon in Chicago on Sunday as, in doing so, she will become the first athlete to ever win the WMM title by garnering all the 100 total points that one can possibly earn in one season, but she doesn't think nor talk much about it. Her main focus will be to try and defend her Chicago Marathon title this weekend according to what she told RunBlogRun in Eldoret as she finalized her training before heading out for her major race.

In the 2012/2013 season, she lost the WMM title to her friend and compatriot, Priscah Jeptoo and was happy for her. "Ednah, who follows me this time round in points, is also my friend and if it happens that I don't win the title again and it goes to her, I shall also be happy for her. We are all Kenyans," she said.

She says that her training has so far been going on very well and she hasn't had any problems.

Rita will be in the same race with Jemimah Sumgong who she trains most of the time with and are also in the same management, but it will be everyone for herself during the race.

"We train together with Sumgong, but everyone will be running her own race in Chicago. Only that the fact that we are all Kenyans and friends, including with Florence Kiplagat, the Kenyan patriotism in us will ensure that we will encourage each other before reaching the final stages of the race where each one will fight to win for herself."

Rita is one athlete whose wisdom when it comes to answering questions from journalists and her knowledge about running and life in general has fascinated me in the number of times I have talked with her. Take for example when I asked her whether she thought Florence Kiplagat is going to be a real threat to her in Chicago; she preferred not to answer the question basing it on Florence, but as some form of advice to any runner preparing to go out to run a big race.

"Every elite athlete who will be running in Chicago marathon has been training knowing very well that the others will also be there in the race. Others know that Rita will be there, and I also know that they will be there. In their training and preparations, they take into account the strengths and weaknesses of those they will be competing against and make plans on how they will ensure they win. I have also been taking that into consideration during my training and doing my homework well," Rita said.

According to Rita, besides training hard and smart ahead of a major race, tactics also happen during the race as one judge their opponents and decide when it is the right time to make a move. She told me how she had been listening intently to the breathing patterns of other competitors during her Boston Marathon in April and knew exactly when it was the right time to make the move that eventually gave her the win.

In the last two consecutive races, she has been improving on her personal best times from 2:19.57 last year in Chicago to 2:18.57 this year in Boston. Will she improve her time yet again here? It remains to be seen and she also doesn't rule out the possibility of that happening, although that will not be part of her main plans for this year's race.

Most people have observed that Rita runs well in the last stages of a marathon race. She also thinks the same about herself. She told me that it was like she was feeling the race harder during the first stages of the Boston marathon than when she was in the later stages running towards the finish line. This will be one thing to observe while she runs at the Chicago marathon this weekend.

My expectation for the race is that she hopefully makes history by becoming the first athlete to ever collect all the 100 points that can be won in one WMM season.

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