The 2019 London marathon is set to take place on Sunday, April 27 and Kenya has been well represented by five very capable women. Vivian Cheruiyot, Mary Keitany, Gladys Cherono, Brigid Kosgei and Linet Masai will carry the Kenya flag as they battle it out for the honour of being the world’s best runners.
We look at their lives and get to know what makes these women tick.
The petite 36 year-old was born near Keiyo Valley, Elgeyo-Marakwet County. A young Vivian attended Chemwabul Primary School in Keiyo where she started competing in school competitions in 1996 while in Standard Four (now Grade Four).
A year later, she was discovered by veteran coach David Maiyo. She took part in the World Cross Country Championships in 1997 and won the trials but couldn’t join the national team because she was too young.
In 1998, now old enough, Cheruiyot joined the national team enabling her to make her international debut in the World Cross in Marrakech. She continued to take part in both national and international competitions while still a primary school pupil.
On completing her primary school education, she joined Sing’ore Girls’ High School in 2002 where she was able to fully pursue athletics.
She is married to Moses Kiplagat who is also her personal coach and manager. The two have a son Allan Kiprono Kiplagat, born in October 2013.
Apart from her career as a runner, Vivian and her husband have family businesses, real estate and practice farming.
Their home life is atypical to most homes. The two wake up at 5am to train together after which her husband manages their home and businesses leaving Vivian to focus on her career.
She is the most decorated Kenyan female athlete in history. In 2009, President Mwai Kibaki awarded her the Order of the Grand Warrior of Kenya.
She has served as an Inspector at the Kenya Police Force. In 2012 Cheruiyot was named Female Athlete of the Year by US Track and Field Magazine and decorated as Laureus Female Athlete of the Year.
Mary Jepkosgei Keitany was born in Kisok Village, Kabarnet, Baringo County. She first came to international attention in 2007 when she won her first silver medal at the World Half Marathon Championships.
The 37-year-old first started running while in primary school which she attended first at Kanjulul Primary School and then at Kisok Primary School. During this period, running was more like a hobby. Having been born to parents who were farmers, Keitany worked on the family farm for a year after completing her primary school education.
In 2002 she joined Hidden Talent Academy to pursue her secondary school education where she now started taking part in athletics as a competitor. 2003 saw her first taking part in a national competition competing in the 5000m race and later in 2006 she took part her first international race in Lisbon, Portugal.
2007 was a memorable year for Keitany. She and husband Charles Koech, a fellow athlete, tied the knot, a fete which marked the highlight for the amazing year Keitany had in the competitions she took part in.
Their son, Jared Kipchumba, was born in June 22, 2008 during which time Keitany took a year off to focus on her pregnancy and new-born. Her second-born Samantha was born in 2013.
In her comeback year, 2009, she was trapped in a lift for 50 minutes in Birmingham, UK while in the company of other top athletes as they headed to a press conference. Keitany didn’t let the incident hinder her performance in the race she ran a few days later. She won.
She set the world record for the women’s-only race at the London Marathon in 2017. Keitany has also won the New York City Marathon four times between 2014 and 2016.
Born in Kericho County, the 36-year-old is married to Joseph Bwambok. They have a home in Kapsabet, Nandi County.
She has been competing globally for 15 years having started her done her first race in Spain in 2004.
The 25-year-old is the new kid on the block. She won the 2018 Chicago Marathon.
The 29 year-old Linet Chepkwemoi Masai was born in Kapsokwony, a small town in Mount Elgon Constituency, Bungoma County. She is the fourth born in a family of six.
Seeing her elder brother Moses Ndiema Masai, also a gold medallist, run and win internationally, she felt inspired her to start running.
She went to Kapsagom Primary School and later joined Bishop Okiring Kamneru High School to pursue her secondary education, where she started taking part in national competitions. Her first big win was in 2007 at the World Cross championships where she stepped out of the shadows and made a name for herself winning the gold.
Masai rose through the ranks in the police force to be made a Corporal. As a result of her wins (and those of her brother’s) she has been able to uplift her poor family, develop their homestead and buy additional pieces of land.
The soft spoken world record holder received the Order of the Grand Warrior of Kenya award in 2009 from then President Mwai Kibaki. She is one of the youngest awardees to receive the honour.
Her role model is Catherine Ndereba, who won the Boston Marathon four times, whom she hopes to emulate.