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Eldoret City Marathon winners to walk away with Sh3.5m each

ATHLETICS By Stephen Rutto and Jonathan Komen | October 21st 2021


Victor Kipchirchir (L) and Mercy Kipchumba after winning their respective races during the third edition of Eldoret City Marathon in June in Eldoret. [Christopher Kipsang and Peter Ochieng, Standard]

It is only a matter of hours before top performers of the Eldoret City Marathon are feted in a momentous award ceremony.

Tomorrow, winners of the third edition of the race; Victor Kipchirchir from Uasin Gishu County and Mercy Kipchumba from Elgeyo Marakwet County will walk into the venue of the award ceremony with a small pocket change, but each one of them will walk away with Sh3.5 million.

Kipchirchir clinched the men’s title while Kipchumba triumphed in the star-studded women’s category in the June 6 marathon.

Race director Moses Tanui says preparations for the prize giving ceremony are complete, and the local organizing committee was ready to award the top 20 athletes in each category.

“I have never won that amount of money in any international race. I am happy for the win and the expected prize money because 2020 was a challenging season. I was in top form but there were no races. I continued training because athletics is my only career,” Kipchirchirch says.

Kipchirchir was making a comeback from an injury when he surprisingly produced a spectacular win, in a challenging course.

He was born and raised in Kabenes in Uasin Gishu County and he lives in Sogomo on the outskirts of Eldoret town.

Kipchirchir says he attended Mumetet primary school, but could not transit to secondary school because his parents were unable to raise fees.

“I never participated in any sporting activities while in primary school. In 2009, my brother Gilbert Koech took me to Iten where I started training. I started athletics as a career in 2010,” Kipchirchir says.

Kipchirchir, who trains at the Rosa Associati Athletics training camp in Kaptagat alongside Chicago marathon champion and Olympian Lawrence Cherono, says he lined up for his debut international road race at the City half marathon where he clocked 59:31.

Locally, he competed at the 2010 Kabarnet half marathon where he finished fourth. He also lined up at the 2011 and 2012 editions of Eldoret’s Discovery Cross Country where he finished third in the two races. Kipchirchir ran his debut marathon in Valencia in 2016 and produced an impressive 2:07. He returned to Valencia in 2018 but finished 11th, clocking 2:10.

“I was involved in a road accident just three days after the 2018 Valencia marathon, and that kept me out of training for more than two years. I was driving and one of my car’s tyre burst and the vehicle rolled,” he recalls.

“One day, I hope to compete at the Berlin marathon because it is a fast course. Berlin also attracts a quality line up and I want to compete with the fastest athletes in the marathon. I paced Geoffrey Mutai there in 2012. I competed in the German City in 2013 but dropped at the 30km mark.”

Mercy Kipchumba started racing in 2016 after completing her secondary school studies at Chebara Girls. She completed her studies in 2015.

The surprise winner was born in Kapchebit village in Marakwet West, 25 years ago.

She trains in Kapsait alongside women’s marathon world record holder Brigid Kosgei, and under renowned coach Eric Kimaiyo.

“An athlete who trains in Kaptagat asked me to train there to secure an education scholarship to the US, but I didn’t make the cut because I scored a D plus in high school. “The coach advised me to train for competitive races and I started training in 2017, but in 2018 I took a maternity leave after I got married in the neighbouring Emkew village,” Kipchumba says.

She says she was introduced to coach Eric Kimaiyo by an athlete she met in Kaptagat.

“I train under the same programme with Brigid (Kosgei). We do the long runs and speed work together with her. She is an inspiration to me. With time, I have matched her speed. Sometimes I close in on her during speed works, and sometimes she is strong for me,” she says.

She adds: “Kimaiyo is a strict coach who doesn’t entertain indiscipline. We call him commando because of that. You have to strictly follow his programme, failure to which, he will expel you.”

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