Eliud Kipchoge, Rita Jeptoo, 2014 Bank of America Chicago Marathon winners, photo courtesy of The Bank of America Chicago Marathon
We asked Justin Lagat, our columnist from Kenya, to write his view of the two amazing victories in the Windy city yesterday. As Justin had interviewed both for us, he was both journalist, and he first experienced, fan. We hope you enjoy his column!
When Eliud Kipchoge and Rita Jeptoo won, so did I: A View from Kenya, by Justin Lagat
As a sports journalist, you inevitably meet many sports stars and icons. You learn a lot in the process. One thing I have learned is that, just like it is with the general public, there exist different characters and personalities in the athletic community. Some may give you false appointments when you request an interview with them. Others just refuse to be interviewed, but many others are nice and cooperative.
I first met Eliud Kipchoge some few weeks ago before the Chicago marathon. He was still sweating after finishing some track intervals with his training group and was still going to jog for about four kilometers to where they would board the vehicle to return to their training camp. He was already lagging behind as the rest had already begun to jog when I stopped him. I wanted to ask when I could conveniently meet him for an interview. He stopped and actually talked nicely to me, giving me his phone number and the most convenient day, place, and time to find him. My respect and admiration of him started from that day, and grew when he indeed kept his promises and was so supportive during the interview.
In fact, I had to mention that he is a man who keeps his word when I wrote down the interview.
Rita Jeptoo humbled me by creating time for me and finding the best place where I could conduct the interview with her. Rita Jeptoo also provided very valuable information to me regarding running that I haven’t even had enough time to write yet. She gave me information, as a journalist, and then advised me as a fellow athlete too. She made me also feel like I would be contributing to her success after I had asked her what she expected of the race in Chicago and she asked me to pray for her because only God knew what would happen there.
When you interview athletes and are touched by their stories and personalities, you would want to see them excel.
So, would have been right to guess that for my first time, while watching this year’s Chicago Marathon, I was sitting on the edge of my seat. I went through what managers and agents usually go through while their athletes are there running in major races; I also had two athletes in this race: Kipchoge and Jeptoo.
There were no TV channels showing the marathon live here in Kenya and two athletes who had seen me post some updates on social media and wondered where I was watching that had gotten excited and came to my house so that we could watch the race together through online streaming. We were glad to learn that we were rooting for the same athletes.
Even as Kipchoge and Rita were opening the gaps on their competitors on the last stages of the race, I was still tense and could only wait with my heart beating rapidly and my legs trembling until they crossed the finish line. I was afraid that anything could have happened.
There was a sigh of relief when Kipchoge won first. At least, I already had one victory in my pocket, as I waited to see what would happen with Rita, who had asked me to pray for her. Then, there she was, doing what she is best known for; accelerating in the last kilometers of the race and the gap between her and the rest rapidly growing.
I held my breath and waited, but I was already composing a tweet to congratulate her.
Finally, she did it. It became two victories for me at the 2014’s Bank of America Chicago Marathon.
What a happy day!