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Brigid Kosgei is the women’s marathon world record holder. She ran the 2019 Chicago Marathon in the time of 2:14:04. On that day, she bettered Paula Radcliffe’s 2:15:25, which stood for 16 years. Kosgei also owns the women’s mixed-event half-marathon world record, which she set at 64:28 at the 2019 Great North Run.

The mother of two is one of seven children and the only one in her family that trains and competes in athletics. 

In October Kosgei had a tough go in the London Marathon due to the cool, breezy and rainy weather. Her next effort will be at the RAK Half Marathon in the United Arab Emirates in February.

Brigid Kosgei. Photo credit Rosa Associati

Joining her will be Kenyans Joyciline Jepkosgei and Peres Jepchirchir who both ran the Valencia Marathon on Dec. 6. They went into the race with personal bests of 2:22:38 and 2:23:50, respectively. A few Ethiopians were seeded higher, but it was no surprise that the two Kenyans would go 1-2 recording times of 2:17:16 and 2:18:40, respectively. Jepchirchir will be racing Kosgei in February over the half-marathon distance.

Jepchirchir owns the women’s only half-marathon world record at 65:16 from the Gdynia, Poland World Athletics Half Marathon Championships. She previously held the same record with a 65:34 performance during the 2020 Prague half Marathon. Kosgei will be looking to be the first woman to run sub-64 in February, according to her agent Federico Rosa.

Personal bests:

5K — 15:13
10K — 29:54
15K — 48:54
Half marathon — 64:28 (WR) and 64:49
Marathon — 2:14:04 (WR)

The interview

Christopher Kelsall: Congratulations on your world records. When you took the marathon world record, did you go into the race aiming specifically to better Paula Radcliffe’s 2:15:25?

Brigid Kosgei: Thank you very much. Yes, I did try to go for it in that race. During training, I was in very good shape so according to my coach, he felt that we should try to go after the world record. So, we went to better Paula’s time and of course, I ended up running 2:14:04 in Chicago last year.

CK: Mary Keitany has the women’s only marathon record at 2:17:01 from London 2017. Is running with men worth three minutes?

BK: For sure it helps to have male pacers. They do help a lot during the marathon by cutting the wind and pacing. but I don’t think at that level they are not quite worth that many minutes in the marathon.

CK: How do you respond physically to the new carbon-plated shoes? Did you notice a difference the first time that you tried them out?

BK: I find the shoes good very good but putting in good training volume and appropriate speed work and planning is also very important. 

Brigid Kosgei at London Marathon. Photo credit: World Athletics

CK: Will you be going after the women’s only marathon record too?

BK: We will see what will be possible to run in the future, in London this year with the loop at St. James Park the weather was terrible so that race did not turn out as planned. So, let’s see what happens during the next marathon.

CK: You seem to like the Chicago Marathon having run it three years in a row. Will you be back when it is run again? Perhaps in 2021?

BK: I don’t know yet. My plan right now is to focus on the Tokyo Olympics Games marathon coming up next summer, for now. That is what I am focussing on for now and going forward. But yes, I like the Chicago Marathon a lot.

CK: Putting aside the uncertainty of the race schedule due to the pandemic, which races do you hope to be ready for next?

BK: Olympic Games is the most important. 

CK: You told the BBC, “When I think back to my humble beginnings and the challenges, we went through growing up, I tell myself I cannot go back to that life and it pushes me to do well.” Can you describe some of those struggles?

BK: We were a very poor and humble family and we struggled for everything, so yes, I am not going back to that life. This is what pushes me to train and race well. 

CK: How can you describe the coaching style of Eric Kimaiyo?

BK: Eric Kimaiyo is a very good coach and he is very dedicated, and he always pushes us hard to achieve the best. Sometimes he is very tough though.

CK: What does a typical off-season and in-season training week look like for you?

BK: When I am in the off-season, I like to spend time with my children as much as possible and always go for jogging and light training at that time. When it is in-training season, I spend all week at camp and never go back home except only on Sundays and all that day is training and then resting up for the next training period. 

CK: How do you feel about how the World Anti-Doping Agency and the Athletics Integrity Unit are doing with their fight against performance enhancing drugs?

BK: I think they are doing a good job. 

From Instagram: @brigidkosgeithereal

CK: Russia is appealing their ban. As they have been banned since 2015, do you feel the nation has learned their lesson and it is time to reinstate them?

BK: I am sorry for the athletes that are innocent and cannot compete, but I don’t know about the nation. 

CK: There are some Kenyan athletes who have tested positive during out of competition testing. A few have suggested foul play, like getting warning phone calls, and taking bribes. Do you think that there is a problem with the recruitment process of doping control officers in Kenya?

BK: I have been tested many times, so I don’t know. I haven’t noticed anything.

CK: Which is you favourite training session?

BK: I like the speed work the best.

CK: What is your next goal? 

BK: I want to have a good result in the Olympic Games marathon at the Tokyo Olympics. But of course, the race will take place in Sapporo, 800kms to the north of Tokyo on the island of Hokkaido, so it may not be as hot as Tokyo, after the heat of Doha, which was a lot. I am also racing in the RAK Half Marathon on Sunday, February 19 in the United Arab Emirates on Al Marjan Island in Ras Al Khaimah. There will be a strong field at that race like there was in Valencia where the world records were set.