In Praise of Edna Kiplagat, by Stuart Weir
Stuart Weir wrote this piece for us, among the many he has written at the London 2017 championships. I enjoy Stuart’s journey into the minds of various athletes, and that realization that you are learning something about the focus of the article is a revelation.
Edna Kiplagat, Rose Chelimo and Amy Cragg battled for the three medals in the London Marathon on Sunday, August 6. Stuart Weir wrote this piece on Edna Kiplgat, who, it is obvious, he admires.
With about five minutes of the race to go, I thought I would be writing about Edna Kiplagat’s third world title. She had just taken the lead and seemed to be pulling away from Bahrain’s Rose Chelimo, but Chelimo had a bit left in the tank and came through to win by 7 seconds.
Kipligat has nothing to be ashamed of! Her achievements include two world championship golds and a silver plus wins in the London, New York and Boston marathons, not to mention three second places in city marathons.
She said London 2017 was as difficult a race as she has ever been part of: “I think the last 3km was the most difficult. All the way I worked so hard, so the last 3km was too long for me and slightly uphill. I think I was too tired after the previous sprints. I thought I had broken her [Chelimo] but she was so strong this time and managed to outsprint me”.
Kiplagat also explained why she prioritizes the World Championships: “World championship results are important because you compete with athletes from many countries. In city marathons you compete with the best but only a few.”
The 2011 World Championships are a special memory for her: “It was the first time I had represented my country in the World Championships and I was happy that I won the race. Becoming a gold medallist was wonderful and it gave me confidence to win more championships. It was a great success for Kenya and the first time my country won all three medals [in the marathon]. It was a great achievement”.
It is 12 years since she ran her first marathon, in Las Vegas 2005: “I did not do well because of a lack of experience of marathon running. I was 10th in 2:40″. She may be 37 but feels far from finished, adding: “Hopefully my body will get stronger and I keep training so I can come back and go for a major gold again”.
Edna Kiplagat is an amazing athlete but there is a lot more to her than running. She is an inspector in the Kenyan police. She sees herself as a role-model especially for girls in her country, mentoring girls and seeking to empower women to play a bigger role in their communities.
When her sister died of breast cancer, she adopted her sister’s two children and set up the Edna Kiplagat Foundation to raise awareness of breast cancer. Her family has now grown to 5 children with two of her own and one adopted from a neighbor who died in childbirth.
Part of her motivation comes from her Christian faith: She told me: “I am a Christian and a strong believer. As a Christian I have peace of mind and I believe everything is possible when I trust in the Lord”. I pushed on the impact of faith – did she pray when she was running? Her reply: “Stuart, not just when I run”. Interviewer put in his place.