Why 53-year-old man has to run 400km per month - The touching story of Kiplagat Chebii

Kiplagat Chebii poses for a picture during one of his running expeditions [COURTESY]

For Kiplagat Chebii, 2020 will be a year of breaking records.

By December 2020, he wants to have run 3,600kms and walked 800kms. With three months break every quarter, for him to achieve his target, he must cover 400kms per month. That is 20 half marathons in a month which is equivalent to covering 21kms every day for 20 days. Chebii tells Game Yetu how he plans to achieve this target.

20 years ago you battled obesity. How was life like?

It is true. About 20 years ago, I weighed 98kgs and my height was 5’4’. I was mutu fupi round. I faced very many challenges with that weight. I often ran out of breath after scaling a small hill or a flight of stairs, I would sweat a lot at night and by morning my bedding was wet. I had disturbed sleeping patterns, tying my shoelaces was a problem and I could not keep a genuine relationship with the opposite sex.

My heart would beat very fast, my public transport, medical and food budget was excessively high, my dressing included an oversize coat and shirt that struggled to confine my sagging belly in one place. I suffered back and knee pains, I was mocked and ridiculed and suffered discriminating fares in public transport. Bicycle rides ended in bent tyre reams.

My doctors warned me of a bleak future if I did not take urgent action. This was done through the guidance of a friend Dr. Joseph Sulo MOH Eldoret District Hospital, Sister Maina from Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital and my friend John Gitari, then a teacher at Testimony School, Eldoret. They recommended various drugs but the top of the list was an exercise training regime. I was told the ideal weight for my height was between 53kgs and 64.8kgs.

Chebii had to lose alot of weight to begin 'enjoying life' [COURTESY]

What motivated you to start running?

My running journey was fuelled by the motivation to refuse to be a slave of a bad lifestyle. I knew if I was to effectively roll out a successful weight loss regime, and stand a chance of a comfortable run, I had to shed the excess weight by starting with my diet. I opted for natural foods like yams, sweet potatoes, saget, kunde, mrenda, managu, pumpkin leaves, etc. The major step to my running journey was to cut weight through healthy eating meaning I had to exercise lots of discipline and wean off the fatty and junk foods that I had gotten addicted to.

After some months of discipline healthy eating, I embarked on a haphazard hybrid of walking and jogging regime from the office to my house in the morning and evening and started taking stairs instead of using a lift for leg muscle strengthening.

After a year or so of discipline and determination, I was able to execute runs up to 5kms and later by year three, I was hitting the half marathon mark through hilly terrains of Eldoret and Baringo.

The biggest lesson I learned from that jogging leap is that no one can imprison the ability of one’s mind without their consent.

Do you have a trainer/coach?

I don’t have any. I draw inspiration by reading and following stories online about iconic great distance runners like Paul Tergat, coach Douglas Wakiihuri, Catherine Ndereba, Vivian Cheruiyot, the Dibaba sisters - Genzebe and Tirunesh, Heile Gebrselassie, Kenenisa Bekele, Lynn Jennings from USA and Almaz Ayana.

They have helped me discern my running discipline patterns /splits /speed works/endurance and recoveries-the key running ingredients.

I also draw a lot from the paid-up training plans prescribed by the Adidas Runtastic team application which provides a platform of various tailor-made plans for strength training, speed, and endurance.

Where do you get the motivation to run?

What motivates me is that there is a better version of me that is yet to sprout that believes the impossible can be possible and that age should not be an impediment to setting a clear purpose.

What motivates me is that there is a better version of me that is yet to sprout that believes the impossible can be possible - Chebii [COURTESY]

As a 53-year-old, I have pushed my running limits. I run up to 10 half marathons, two full marathons and one or two ultra runs in a month. This for me is the power of mental transformation and a positive attitude.

I also get my motivation from my worldwide Adidas Runtastic team and my local running local team called Team Pepea Kenya . We compete with each other, get advice and we are happy for each other successes. We help each other meet our monthly and yearly targets.

In May, you ran/walked a total of +800kms. Is this the longest distance you have run in a month?

Yes, this is the longest run I have done in the year 2020. I achieve this by running regular distances of over 30kms and more ultras which are distances beyond the 42 km full marathon. I have ran ultras from Nairobi to Machakos (67kms) and from Nairobi to Naivasha (87kms) and planning to attempt two days ultra-running from Nairobi to Nakuru (157kms). 

What goes on in your head as you run?

As John Mason once said, “Our business in life is not to get ahead of others but to get ahead of ourselves, to break our own records, to outstrip our yesterday by our today and to do our work with more force than ever before”.

While running, I feel proud of the positive journey I have trodden on and the biggest lesson is that nothing in life comes on a silver platter. One has to seize control of their thoughts to live and realize a certain worthy course in life.

This feeling helps fuel positively my running knowing at the end of my running I will continue to achieve a better health style and mental alertness that is key in pursuit of other goals in life.

Chebii participating in the Kakamega Forest Run with Sports CS Amina Mohamed and Kalonzo Musyoka [COURTESY]

What’s your diet like?

My diet is largely local foods and white meat especially fish and chicken kienyeji with small portions of ugali and rice. I seldom eat red meat and obtain most of my sugar from fruits and pure honey from Baringo that bees extract from Acacia tree that has medicinal values of antioxidant and anti-microbes.

I also supplement my carbohydrates by taking energy biscuits in moderation and when I do long runs I take lots of water that has a bit of salt and sugar in it to replace the loss of sugar and salt through excessive sweating.

I also take sweet potatoes and yams for my carbs loads and I detox every Saturday of the week and supplement this by taking local vegetables.

What is your breakfast like in the morning you are running over 42kms?

My long run is powered by what I consume the night before my run. I eat lots of carbohydrates and proteins which usually don’t get fully digested and used up when we go to sleep.

So when I wake up the morning of my intended run, the energy reserves from foods eaten the previous night is what powers me. I either take warm water or a cup of tea/milk with energy biscuits. I carry bottled water or take tea with sugar or take fresh juice or in worst-case scenario when my energy levels are dangerously low, I take water and an energy drink. Bananas don’t seem to give me the energy kick I need.

At the end of a long run like 50kms, how does your body feel like?

Rich Davis says “Long distance is 90 per cent mental and the other half is physical!”

Who inspires you?

There are a number of personalities who inspire me: The late Dr Geoffrey Griffin the founder of Starehe Boys Centre who picked me up from a humble poor family and was able to put a broad smile on my face through education. Now I hold an MBA and CPA. The powerful message I derived from him is that success is a state of mind and that once you replace negative thoughts with positive ones, you will start having positive results and that one may face challenges of being brought up in a poor family, but that person if they embrace a positive attitude and do not allow themselves to be defined by their past, the brightest future belongs to them-again, what a man thinketh, they becometh.

Make running a hobby or a passion - fall in love with it - Chebii [COURTESY]

For those who would like to start running, what advice would you give them?

The time is now. Do not procrastinate, running has no side effects and is free. Make running a hobby or a passion - fall in love with it. Let running be your lifestyle that will help boost your physical and mental health and relieve stress. Running is fun and you can join a running club where you can make new friends who you share the same aspirations of achieving your purpose in life. Look for a mentor within the team and walk the journey to attaining your running goals together.

Proper Running shoes are important. What should people factor when buying running shoes?

Proper shoes just like good car tyres can improve running surface traction and thus will make a runner use less energy to propel themselves-worn out shoes means sliding struggling runs while shoes worn out on the heel section can cause foot and ankle damages.

A good shoe should be lighter, has inbuilt shock absorbers, padded inner soles that allow for blood circulation and well-aerated through small porous holes which can also double as water draining from inside the shoe. The shoe should not be so tight that it can cause toe blisters.

A good shoe makes you enjoy your run and one does not need to buy new shoes if one cannot afford-there are very good second-hand sports shoes that are as good as new and they cost fairly cheap at Gikomba and Toi market in Kibera.

Have you participated in any competitions?

I do not participate in competitive running, I do my runs as a passion/hobby and for worthy causes

Apart from running, what does Chebii do?

I am the immediate past President of the Rotary Club of Karengata and Chairman, Kodi Road Residents Association. I like travelling, mountain climbing, swimming and dancing as a hobby and I read lots of motivational books. I neither smoke cigarettes nor drink alcohol.


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