Kenya’s track stars who have dominated their field for decades
Check out the biographical data of the athletes on the World Athletics portal and you will be taken on a mental flight straight to Kenya.
Two adjectives – consistency and longevity – come to mind. From Leah Malot, the 10,000m champion at the 1987 All Africa Games, who competed actively for 32 years, to Vivian Cheruiyot (5,000m), the story is the same.
But until 2013, Malot lined up on the same courses and tracks with other big stars, like Asbel Kiprop, as they vied for places in the national and major championships.
Malot, who is an MCA in Uasin Gishu, says the word fear is not in her dictionary.
“In our time, we sacrificed our lifestyle a lot to train hard. Unlike today, there have been no cases of athletes taking alcohol, engaging in sexual misconduct and doping.
“Some athletes today prefer to take the doping shortcut to make easy money. That’s why most of them are not consistent,” said Malot, a Moi University graduate in business management.
She loves the Bible verse, Isaiah 40: “Those who wait on the Lord will have their strength renewed, they will soar on wings like eagles, they will run and not weary, they will walk and not faint.
Lydia Cheromei, who was part of the national team at the World Junior Championships in Bulgaria in 1990, is still an active athlete having finished second in the Eldoret Marathon last year.
“I am on maternity leave and will be back soon. I don’t plan to retire anytime soon,” Cheromei said.
Sally Barsosio, who won Kenya’s first gold medal in the 10,000m in 1997 in Athens, Greece, while a fourth year student with Sing’ore Girls in Elgeyo Marakwet, is also an active athlete.
She made her national team debut in 1995 at the All Africa Games in South Africa. She works at KDF and credits her long time on the track to discipline.
Another athlete, Edna Kiplagat, has competed in all six WMM races, twice at the World Championships and at the Olympics – a feat no athlete on the planet has achieved except American Shalane Flanagan, who did it for fun last year.
Flanagan took on the unprecedented challenge of running all six World Marathon Majors in 42 days at the New York City Marathon last November.
Edna has produced some good shows in the WMM series. Example of her business card: she is the winner of the London Marathon in 2014 and the second place in 2011, 2012, 2013 as well as the 10th place in 2015.
In addition, Edna was the winner of the New York Marathon in 2010, the ninth in 2013, the 12th in 2014 and the fourth in 2017 as well as the winner of the Boston Marathon in 2017, the ninth in 2018 and the second place in 2019 and 2021. In 2016 she finished third in the Tokyo and Chicago marathons and fourth in the Berlin marathon in 2018. She won the world championships in 2011 and 2013 but finished a distant 19th at the London Olympics in 2012.
She was 2012/2013 WMM series runner up and another runner up behind Rita Jeptoo, the 2013/2014 WMM series winner.
Edna, a two-time marathon world champion, raises dairy cows at her home in Iten and continues to eat traditional foods. In their home on the Iten escarpment, they have set aside land that is full of a variety of traditional vegetables.
She relies on the quarter-acre plot for natural food. “We were advised to take organic or natural foods. We plant them using organic fertilizers because it reduces stomach upset,” Edna said.
She says she normally cooks her meals with regular milk cream, as artificial foods have a high possibility of exposing her to positive doping tests.
For Vivian, she first made the national team in 1997 as a young girl and couldn’t be left alone in the rooms at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Marrakesh, Morocco, in 1998. She slept with the team’s chaperone.
She also has no kind words for athletes who engage in extramarital affairs and indulge in alcoholism. At 38, Vivian plans to continue competing until she turns 40.