AthleticsJoshua Cheptegei

Cheptegei Marathon Debut: Can the Ugandan Silverback Conquer Marathon Distance?


Joshua Cheptegei arrived in Valencia on Wednesday night ahead of his first ever Marathon, the Valencia Marathon Trinidad Alfonso, a World Athletics Platinum Label road race, on Sunday 3rd December.

The Spanish City is a holy ground of sort for Cheptegei since it was the same place he set his 10,000m world record of 26:11.00 in 2020, two months after breaking the 5,000m World record in Monaco.

Cheptegei announced his marathon debut in July this year before he cemented his legacy as one of the best track athletes in history by winning the third consecutive World Athletics Championships gold in the 10,000m in Budapest, Hungary a month later.

“I feel it is time to expand my horizon. I have been running on the track for 10 years now,” – Joshua Cheptegei on joining marathon running.

The ‘Ugandan Silverback’ as he is reffered to by some says his inspiration comes from his childhood hero Stephen Kiprotich, whose 2012 Olympic triumph lit a fire in a 15 year old high school student in his home town Kapchorwa that boy has since gone on to set the world of running ablaze, Cheptegei has probably surpassed his idol as Uganda’s most successful athlete.

The other is Eliud Kipchoge, his team mate at the NN running team, in whose footsteps Cheptegei seems to be following, the Kenya was formally a 5,000m specialist but his transition to marathon in the evening of his career has come with impressive success, running five of the fastest nine marathons in history.

“For me, Valencia was of course the best choice. It had to be Valencia because of the history of running there. I wouldn’t want to do a debut in a place I’m not familiar with – so for me that was Valencia”. – Cheptegei on why he chose the Valencia marathon.

Cheptegei spoke about his expectations ahead of this new adventure, he is not skying his expectations to Gold but says the best would be a podium finish. Besides having to run 26.2 miles which is four times his usual climax of 10,000m.

He will face stiff competition from the man who previously held both the 5k and 10k World records before him, that’s the Ethiopia Kenenisa Bekele who had a dream had a dream marathon debut, winning the Paris Marathon in 2014.

A start that even Cheptegei would dream of on Sunday but will need to overcome fellow East Africans, Tanzania’s Gabriel Geay, one of the few men on earth to have won a marathon that had Eliud Kipchoge and the Kenyan, Kibiwott Kandie who recently won the Valencia half marathon in October.

However, this is Cheptegei we are talking about. A man who is capable of defying all odds, he knows what victory tastes like and you would be wrong to think he can settle for anything less.

About hanging his boots on the glittering track career he has lived, Cheptegei is still at crossroads. – “For next year my focus will be on the track at the Paris Olympic Games, but hopefully my marathon debut will be a good experience and then I can decide after the Olympic Games what my next steps will be.”
Marathon time: 11:15am, in Kampala – Uganda

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