Stuart Weir just finished covering the 2018 Commonwealth Games for me, and is on the way, with his every patient wife, to Doha, Qatar to cover the first Diamond League meet of the season. Doha is one of my favorites.
This is Stuart’s piece on Vivian Cheruiyot, an athlete he has known since her double wins in Daegu, Korea in 2011. Also please note that, if you look below the article, Stuart Weir’s bio appears. After several years of writing 20-30 pieces a year, the always throughtful Englishman who I thought was a Scotsman has gone big time.
One of the things I enjoy most about my life travelling to about 20 events in the year is when someone I know wins. This week’s London Marathon victory by Vivian Cheruiyot was such a moment.
I remember clearly when I first met Vivian. It was at the 2011 World Championships in Daegu, Korea. I was in the main press centre and there was an announcement that some athletes were about to plant a tree. My work must have been rather boring as I decided to go along. There was Vivian and her husband, Moses. We talked. I was immediately struck by how friendly they both were. She agreed to do an interview with me after she had run the 5000m and 10000m. She won both.
I spoke to her at the winners’ press conference and discovered that she was leaving first thing next morning so no time for an interview – and an easy get-out. Not Vivian. She had made a promise and would keep it. “I can’t do the interview tomorrow but I can do it now!”, she said.
I had the pleasure of seeing her win silver and bronze at London 2012. Then she took a career break to have her son, Allan, in 2013. By 2015 she was World Champion again, winning the 10000m in Beijing – the third World Championship in which I had seen her win a medal.
In the 2016 Olympics she took gold and silver. Another precious memory was meeting her in the Olympic Village the day after her gold medal. I greeted her with a “Good morning, Olympic Champion”. She gave me a big hug.
Rio was her last track race as she switched to road racing, targeting the London Marathon 2017 as her first marathon. She explained that she felt the time was right to take on the new challenge. She said: “I have been running for almost 18 years – track and cross country. Because of my age – I am 33 – I decided to do a marathon while I am still strong. I choose London for my first marathon because London is my second home. I love London because of the people. They are very supportive and are always cheering you on”.
I spoke to her before the race – a telephone interview when she arranged a time and answered the phone when I rang. Typical integrity! I was struck by how sensible her attitude was. She told me: “In London 2017 I want to run for the experience. I want to run without pressure because it is my first marathon. I don’t want to say that I will run a particular time because that is my first marathon and I want to run without pressure”. She came fourth.
I next saw her at the Great North Run in September 2017 when she came second to Mary Keitany. The critics said that if she could not beat Keitany over a half marathon she would never beat her over a full marathon. Vivian just said: “I’m happy to be second because I’m still new in road races. And I know I’m going to improve. Maybe when I come back next year. To come from 5000m and 10000m up to a half marathon – it’s not something that is easy. But I’m so happy because today I did my best”.
And she proved the doubters wrong this week.