Peres Jepchirchir’s road racing achievements make impressive reading.
Olympic Games Marathon gold medallist, two-time World Half Marathon champion, three world half marathon records in a career, New York Marathon champion.
All these athletics honours, and she is only 28.
Before then she has a chance to add more accolades starting, with the Boston Marathon on Monday April 18, where she hopes to win her fifth straight 42.2km race in just over two years.
“My preparations for Boston have been very good I have had enough time to prepare,” she told Olympics.com after an early morning training session from her home in Kapsabet.
“In Boston I am targeting the podium.” - Peres Jepchirchir to Olympics.com
Running a welcome escape from a difficult life
It has been quite some rise for the courageous distance runner, who announced herself on the global stage with gold at the 2016 World Half Marathon Championships in Cardiff.
After four years of training as a road runner, the young girl who grew up in a remote Kenyan farm in Kosaji in Turbo, was selected to represent her nation.
Jepchichir, who mainly raced 800m and 1500m races in school before attempting a few cross country runs nationally, leaped at the chance.
She dropped out of school due to lack of fees and saw running as a way to thrive in a large polygamous family of 24.
“Life was not easy,” she said in an interview with Kenyan TV KTN.
“We are 24 siblings and that is why I decided to work hard because we had minimal resources at home. Small scale farming was the only source of income to our family."
In Cardiff, she wasn’t considered a medal contender despite her string of road race victories, and was only the third-fastest runner in her team.
But she gallantly led her teammates to a 1-2-3 finish, the second time ever in Championships history that a country had won all available medals in the women’s event
That victory gave her confidence in her abilities.
“I will never forget the World Half in Cardiff in 2016,” she recalled.
“That’s the first time that I tested myself and realised that I could run with the best and I have the talent. I didn’t expect to win gold the first time I was representing Kenya.”
Jepchirchir broke a world record seventh months before giving birth
A year later she sped to the first world record of her career, lowering the half marathon world record by seven seconds in Ras Al Khaimah in the United Arab Emirates with her 1:05:06 run.
Even more staggering was that she was a few weeks pregnant during the February race and gave birth to her daughter eight months later in October 2017.
Her comeback from maternity was challenging but Jepchirchir thrived.
“I remember when my daughter Natalia was six months old, when I started training, sometimes I would wake up to change early to go for training, then she also wakes up…so I’d stay and breastfeed first…” she said.
“It wasn’t easy, but I worked extra hard to shed off the extra weight and return to my normal shape. Also having a baby motivated me in some way. I worked even harder knowing someone is depending on me.”
Despite a pandemic disrupted season, she lowered her personal best twice. A world record capped a near-perfect run as Jepchirchir retained her world half-title in 1:05.16 in 2020 in Gdynia, Poland.
Another morale-boosting win in Valencia in December 2020 sealed her move on to the marathon, with a performance that also earned her place on Kenya’s Olympic team.
The Kenyan star was just finding her footing over the 42.2km marathon distance, emboldened by her record-breaking exploits over the 21km race, but success in at the Tokyo 2020 event in Sapporo, in sweltering conditions, matched her expectations. She took her shot and gave her nation back-to-back Olympic women's marathon golds.
“While I was running (in Sapporo) and approaching the finish line, in my mind I was thinking, I have raised the name of my village, the entire family to be known from nowhere,” said Jepchichir who attempted to qualify for Rio 2016 in the 10000m.
“It was a great thing for me, it motivated me a lot. It has changed my life, I now believe in myself more after winning the Olympic marathon.” Peres Jepchirchir to Olympics.com
“To be an Olympian is a great thing. It has brought me a lot of honour and now as I go around running major marathons like New York, it helps a lot. To appear there, you get more recognition as an Olympic champion.”
Jepchirchir targeting marathon world record
And as most of the 73 finishers from the Olympic race wrapped up their season, there was one more 2021 tick box for the ambitious Jepchirchir.
“The New York Marathon! It was difficult after the short recovery because of the hot and humid conditions (in Sapporo). It took a long time for me to recover,” she said of the November 7th race.
“When I ran New York, I was not relaxed, I was struggling a little bit inside… and the course in New York is a hard one. It was tough, but I managed to win it.”
After pace-setting at the 2015 London Marathon, Jepchirchir had set her sights on racing her first major city race in Boston in 2020. The event was cancelled and she is looking forward to testing the famously hilly Boston course for the first time in 2022.
“I have had enough time to train, and I am hoping for the best…. I am going to target the podium.”
Another goal is certain.
“The other thing that would be my best is to attempt to run 2:15 in the marathon and maybe after Boston I can get a faster course to improve my P.B.”
"If I can run 2:15 then I will know it’s easy to run 2:14. I want to be a star...I am still young.”
“I have many targets like the world record in marathon. I have the world record for half marathon and now I need the world record in marathon,” the fifth fastest women's marathoner of all time said of her plans to attack compatriot’s Brigid Kosgei’s world record of 2:14:04.
Then on to the next big one….
“I want to defend my Olympic title in Paris 2024.”