Questions to Vivian Cheruiyot
I first met Vivian in 2011 at the Daegu World Championships. We have kept in touch. I have interviewed her at least 4 times – including August 2020. This is not one interview bit highlights of all my conversations with her.
How soon did you realise you had a special talent for running?
I realized I had a talent when I started running in primary school. Then I made the team for world cross country in Italy I think it was 1997. I won the junior trials and I was still young so I knew I had a talent.
You won your first World Championship medal in 2009 in the 5000m. What do you remember of that race?
I remember that one because it was between the Kenyans and the Ethiopians. Meseret Defar was a strong lady and people thought she was going to win the race but we showed a lot of determination to do our best. When I was on the starting line, I was not thinking that I would win but it was my turn and my time
In Daegu 2011 World Championships you won two gold medals. Did you expect that?
I think it was because of the training and the hard work I had done. All athletes are training to win a medal. I was in good shape and I decided with my manager to try the 5000m and 10000m. I could not believe that I was double world champion. I think I was good at both distances but most of the time I was running the 5000m.
What was your biggest success on the track?
Winning an Olympic gold medal in Rio because it was the one thing I had not previously done in my athletics career. It was something I was looking for all the way through my career and I was thinking if I don’t get it in Rio on the track, perhaps in 2020 God will give it to me in the marathon. Achieving it meant that my career in athletics was complete and I thank God.
In Rio I was in good shape and when we did the 10,000, I did my personal best. In Kenya I had been doing very well in my training. I was disappointed because every time it comes to the Olympics year it seemed I couldn’t win a gold medal. In 2012 I did the 5000m and 10000m and got silver and bronze. So I was asking myself: “why every time in world championship can I win medals but the Olympics why every time I don’t get gold medals”. I was questioning myself but I thought there is still time and I can still run. And I won the 5000m
The 5000m in Rio was an exciting race; what were your tactics?
We planned our race well. We looked at the way she [Ayala] was running. I watched the way she was running and she was quicker in the middle of the race. She was running 66 and perhaps we were doing 68 so we were watching the race she was doing. In the last two kilometres I hear the commentator say that she was doing 72 and we were doing 68 so I thought “we are quicker than her” so we decided to elevate the pace. It was unbelievable and I thank God. It was my last race on the track it was so nice to end with a medal, so nice for me.
Why did you decide to change from track to marathon?
I have been running for almost 18 years – track and cross country. I decided because of my age. I was 33 and I wanted to do a marathon while I was still strong.
Why did you decide to run your first marathon in London?
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.
Did your training change a lot when you started running marathons?
It did not change so much, a little bit because of the longer runs. There is no difference except for long runs and the speed for marathon is not the same with the speed for track races. For the Marathon I need to do longer runs. When running track, 15K is the longest you do. Now I do 30K, 40K. I don’t enjoy the 40K! They are difficult but you have to it if you want to run marathons. In a long run you can set the pace but in track workouts you have to chase the pace but I still do track workouts. In a week I might run 105K.
Some marathon runners say you have to learn to run more slowly.
Sometimes you think you are not running fast and that you are not in shape. But I was told that I had to reduce my speed because in the marathon you cannot do the same speed as on the track. I have to reduce my speed. I am used to running faster at the track, in training I have to train my mind that I am running at the speed for marathon.
How difficult to come back after son born?
It was not so difficult because when I was going on maternity leave I had planned everything. I did not want to come back too quickly. I wanted to have my baby and take 8 months after delivery. So I stayed away 8 months. The problem was just the weight. I was 54 kilos and I had to reduce that to 40.
You are a Christian, how does that influence your life?
Since I started my career, I have seen a lot that God has done for me. Where I was 10-15 years ago and where I am now is so different. He is the one who gives us strength and everything, so without God everything is impossible. Without him you cannot succeed in your life. It is not my strength it is God’s strength. Without Jesus I would not be succeeding the way I am because without him, I could not do anything.
How did you feel about the postponement of the Olympics?
I wanted to do the Olympic marathon in 2020 but they are postponed until next year and I don’t know if they [Kenyan team] will select the same people as for this year or if they will make changes. I want to do the Olympic Marathon but it won’t be a big issue for me. I’ll be OK.