Interview with Peres Jepchirchir: World records, Olympics and being shortlisted for World Athletics Female Athlete of the Year

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© Copyright – 2020 – Athletics Illustrated

Peres Jepchirchir is a Kenyan distance runner who currently specialises primarily in the half-marathon distance.

She earned gold during the 2016 and 2020 World Athletics Half Marathon Championships.

Her personal best is a world-class 65:06, which she set on February 10th in 2017 in the United Arab Emirates. In 2020, she twice broke the half marathon record for a women’s only race. She did so once in September in Prague and again in October Gdynia, Poland, crossing the line in the time of 65:16, for the second World Championships win.

The mixed (men and women) half marathon world record is 64:28 by Brigid Kosgei from the 2019 Great North Run. She also holds the world marathon record of 2:14:04 from Chicago 2019.

Jepchirchir’s next big goal is to perform at a world-class level in the marathon at the 2021 Valencia Marathon. Her current personal best at the distance is 2:23:50 from the Saitama International Marathon in Japan, which the 27-year-old ran one year ago.

Personal bests

5K – 15:51
10K 30:55
20K 61:40
Half-marathon 65:06
Marathon 2:23:50

Interview

Christopher Kelsall: You are one of the 10 finalists for World Athletics Female Athlete of the Year. How does that sound to you?

Peres Jepchirchir:
I am very happy about that because it is a high recognition of the two world records that I ran in 2020.

CK:
Congratulations on winning your second World Athletics Half Marathon Championships. How do you feel about the way you raced the event in Poland?

PJ: I was ready to run fast that day but a race without pacemakers is more complicated. Fortunately my teammate Joyciline Jepkosgei pushed the pace a lot the first 10km and there was a good selection. I was not able to go alone but I knew I am good in the last 400m and finally I succeed.

CK: Can you take me through the race?

PJ: In addition to what I already mentioned, I was always in control of my body and the pace was ok for me. The course was not easy because there were a lot of turns and hills. I decided to wait until the final 3km to push the pace but when there was the fall of some athletes and fortunately for me, I was able to jump the two athletes in front of me on the ground. I had to recover 10m of the gap and I decided to wait for the last 300m. I also realized at the 15km I was on the way for the world record and that was an extra motivation to try to win.

Image from World Athletics campaign to vote for Peres Jepchirchir as a candidate for Female Athlete of the Year

CK: Having the two fastest women’s only times in the event, do you feel that you focus better at running “in the moment” as they say and don’t need a deep men’s field to draw on, say in comparison to your competitors?

PJ: No. Honestly running with men pacers is much easier and we women we can run much faster because the only thing we have to do is follow the correct and fast pace to achieve what we are looking for. I think in a different faster course and with men pacers, I can be able to run near the world record or also maybe to beat it.

CK: In 2015, you ran a road 10km race in the time of 30:55, which is just 26 seconds off of the women’s only world record for that distance. Is that another record that you would like to go after?

PJ: In Prague this year when I ran the first world record only women race in the half-marathon I ran 30:34 through the first 10km. I think it is very possible but it’s difficult to organize a race only for women in 10km especially at the time of Covid-19 where we don’t have many races.

CK: When I interviewed Mary Keitany in 2013, she said that she wouldn’t move back down to 5,000m or 10,000m because it wouldn’t help her marathon performance. She previously had the half-marathon record, which she set in preparation for her London Marathon win. You have run 2:23:50, which is fast, however, how much faster do you feel you can go in the marathon considering your half-marathon performances?

PJ: Yes there is no reason to run 5000m or 10000m also for me.I think in Valencia Marathon

my next race if everything goes well in my preparation and the day of the race I can run under 2:20. It is not for sure because marathon training is very different than half-marathon training but I am confident to run fast.

CK: At what age did you discover running in a serious way?

PJ: Thirteen years old. At school, we had some races and I saw I was fast but when I was 16 years old I started training a few days a week.

CK: Who were your heroes growing up?

PJ: Tegla Loroupe was the inspiration. At that time she was breaking the world record in the marathon and winning NY Marathon many times.

CK: Do you keep track of your weekly running volume? How many kilometres per week do you get up to?

PJ: No I don’t track my running volume, but I think around 180 to 200km every week.

CK: Any chance that you will attempt to make the Kenyan Tokyo Olympic team? If so, which distance would you try to achieve that in?

PJ: I’m not so fast in 10,000m although I can also try to run the Kenyan trials for the Olympic Games.

I hope to run fast in Valencia and maybe Athletics Kenya can consider me on the three-women team for the Olympics in the marathon.

CK: Should the half-marathon be included in the Olympics?

PJ: Yes, it can be a good idea but I don’t think it will happen. We have already the marathon as for the tradition in the Olympic Games.

CK:
You almost seem to specialise in the half-marathon. If you think about it, the distance is odd, 21.1K, obviously half of the marathon. How do you feel about the 20K, does the distance deserve to be timed at more events? Like 20K en route to 21.1K or even have a prestigious 20K championships, as the half-marathon enjoys?

PJ:
Tradition is important in athletics and it is history. The half marathon was not so important many years ago but it’s important now. I don’t think 20km is important because it doesn’t really have a tradition to it. The half marathon is of course 50% the distance of a marathon and makes more sense now.

CK: You are also a very strong cross-country runner. How do you feel about cross-country being included in the Paris Olympics?

PJ: It can be a fantastic idea but I hope it doesn’t mean they will take out 10,000m from the track.

CK: Some people have suggested that cross-country should be included in the Winter Olympics. How do you feel about that idea?

PJ: It can be more interesting but it depends on how they will run a cross country, IN THE SNOW??

Editor’s note:
(Although some minor grammar improvements were made, she indeed wrote in all caps with double question marks).

CK: You have raced all over the world. Where are your favourite locations to compete in?

PJ: My favourite locations are in Europe where normally the races are very well organised and where I had my best results but I did not have so many experiences around the world because already I was out for two years when I had Natalia, my daughter, after 2017 first my first world record.

CK: Russia appears to be having not only a doping problem but a complete ethics issue from the athletes all the way up to the top administration. They are going into their appeal with the Court of Arbitration for Sport. Should their ban continue or have they suffered enough?

PJ:
World Athletics knows what is correct the correct thing to do. I have not as much information as World Athletics has and I’m not able to tell you what is correct or wrong.

CK: It seems that the World Anti-Doping Agency and the Athletics Integrity Unit have caught a great number of athletes now than ever before. Apparently, this is due to the whereabouts rules, Athlete Biological Passport, and better testing methods. Does more need to be done still? Or are these solutions effective enough?

PJ: I think with the Athlete Biological Passport and the whereabouts it’s a big jump to fight the doping. World Athletics must continue in this way.

CK: What are your running goals for 2021?

PJ:
To run new personal bests in all distances and be able to run at the Olympic Games in the marathon event.

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