A week after Iten celebrated double victory at the London Marathon, another North Rift town is partying following Rita Jeptoo’s course record-breaking victory in Monday’s Boston Marathon.
Jeptoo defended her title in the world’s oldest marathon, clocking two hours, 18 minutes and 57 seconds to erase compatriot Margaret Okayo’s course record that had stood at 2:20.42 for 12 years.
Tuigoin trading centre in Kapsabet town, about two kilometres from Jeptoo’s home, had two video halls filled to the brim with neighbours and family bursting into unbridled celebrations when the 33-year-old conquered Heartbreak Hill after breaking away from the lead pack to cruise all the way to the finish line.
PATH TO GREATNESS
Jeptoo’s mother, Grace Lagat, a devout Christian who always attributes her daughter’s success to divine intervention, burst into celebratory song and dance.
“She is a blessing to the family. God has blessed me, he (God) gave me a pastor [son] for inspiration and now my daughter has written our family’s name in the world’s record books, for the third time,” the overjoyed mother said.
Eldoret town was quiet after crowds attending self-proclaimed “prophet” David Owuor’s three-day crusade left on Sunday, leaving a mound of garbage and deserted streets in their wake.
But as Jeptoo headed to the finish line, patrons who has reserved part of their Easter spending to watch the Boston race at their favourite pubs erupted in cheers.
It has not been easy for Jeptoo, whose talent was nurtured in harsh conditions in the undulating hills of Chepsiro, Uasin Gishu County.
She was born in 1981 in Karona Village in Moiben, Uasin Gishu, before the family relocated to Kapcheplanget, a village sitting at the feet of Chepsiro Hills to the north, at the Elgeyo Marakwet border. The first-born in a peasant farming family of Paul and Grace Lagat shrugged off life’s hurdles that lay in her path to greatness.
Kapsabet-based Italian coach Claudio Berardelli identified her talent in 2001.
Mother of one Jeptoo, who maintained Kenya’s dominance in the women’s race following victories by Caroline Kilel in 2011 and Sharon Cherop the following year, won her first Boston Marathon title in 2006, months before taking time off from 2008 to 2010 to have her baby boy.
Running barefoot, she represented Trans Nzoia District in the 1996 primary school national athletics championships in the 1,500 metres, 3,000m and 800m races.
Her career breakthrough came at the 2004 Stockholm Marathon where she bagged gold while debuting over the distance as she hit a 2.35.14 personal best. She then vectored at the Milan Marathon later that year.
The Kapcheblanget Secondary School alumna did not perform well in the 2005 season, finishing third in the Turin Marathon and seventh at the Paris IAAF World Athletics Championships (2:24.22).
RITA JEPTOO'S FACTFILE
Date of birth: February 15, 1981
Place of birth: Karona Village, Uasin Gishu
Primary school: Kapcheplanget
Secondary school: Kapcheblanget
KCSE year: 1999
Major career achievements
2004 Stockholm Marathon (winner, 2:35.14)
Millan Marathon (winner, 2:28.11)
2005 World Championships (7th, 2:24.22)
2006 Paris Half Marathon (winner, 1:09.56)
2006 Boston Marathon (winner, 2:23.38)
2007 Lisbon Half Marathon (winner, 1.07.05)
2013 Boston Marathon (winner, 2:26.25)
2013 Chicago Marathon (winner, 2:19.57)
2014 Boston Marathon (winner, 2:18.57, course record and new PB)