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Updated 02 March 2011
Lineth CHEPKURUI, Kenya (10km, Half Marathon, Cross Country)
Born 23 February, 1988, Bukacha, Bomet District, Rift Valley Province
Coach: Godfrey Kiprotich and Dieter Hogen
Team: Armed Forces
Manager: Tom Ratcliffe
Camp: KIMbia Boulder, Colorado / Iten
Lineth Chepkurui has blossomed into one of the most decorated road runners on the United States circuit, where she has bagged many honours since she arrived on the scene in 2005.
2010 was particularly a notable season for the athlete where she achieved the status of the fastest ever-female athlete over 12km, although the distance is not recognised as an official World record distance by IAAF. Her third successful victory of the Lilac Bloomsday Run in Spokane (2 May), where she breast the tape in 38:10 is recognised by The Association of Road Racing Statisticians (ARRS) as the outdoor women 12km "world record".
Chepkurui raced even faster (38:07) at the San Francisco Bay to Breakers 12km course race two weeks later (16 May), but for this effort, presumed to be the quickest ever done by a female athlete at the distance, the course failed ARRS requirements for it to be considered as a ‘world record’.
“I will do some 10km, half marathon and 25km races next year (2011) so that I can be officially recognised as a World record holder by IAAF. I have realised such recognition is very important although I’m very delighted to have closed the year among those who topped their distances worldwide,” Chepkurui said at a gala by Athletics Kenya (AK) on December 15 to reward top performing Kenyan runners.
The Kenya Air Force private is a distance runner to be reckoned with despite the fact she just turned 23. She will be running in her fourth successive World Cross in Punta Umbria, Spain and for the last three years, has seen fellow teammates vote her as assistant overall team captain.
Born to retired teachers, Chepkurui started running for fun as a pupil of Bukacha Primary School in her home area. "When I started running, I discovered that I could manage it and I just kept on running," she said.
Chepkurui enrolled in Kirimwok Secondary School (2001-2004) where she once qualified to represent her District at the Provincial School Championships over 10,000m. The following year, Chepkurui, then 16, moved to Iten, stepped up training and, in April, she took part in a local track meet, where she won. It was here that coaches discovered her.
In October 2005, the youngster, like many other hopefuls, turned up at the Stanchart Nairobi International Marathon well aware that top agents were present scouting talent. In the Half Marathon race, Chepkurui took the women's title with a 1:13:55 performance, just ahead of Sharon Cherop (1:13:57).
Later that month, Ben Kugat, of North Carolina, who had signed her up, arranged for her to travel to Dallas for the White Rock Half Marathon in November. Chepkurui made a dramatic international road race debut when she attacked the course around White Rock Lake, leading the women's field to a record-setting finish of 1:16.22. That earned her USD1500 in prize money.
Six days later, she pocketed another USD500 by finishing second to Ukrainian Tetyana Hladyr (26:00) in 26:25 at the SunTrust Richmond 8km event. That was followed by victory in the 5km race at the Potter Homes Turkey Trot, in Fredericksburg, in 16:36, and she rounded off a terrific breakthrough year by winning twice at the Run Barbados road races in December. She ran 35:29 to clinch the 10km victory and 1:21:21 to take the Half Marathon event the next day.
That laid a solid platform for a 2006 campaign in which Chepkurui put together a scintillating display of commanding form on the road race circuit. In March, the athlete now based in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, where she was running for KIMbia, started from where she had left off by taking top honours at the Carolina First Reedy River Run (10km) in Greenville in 33:42. She clocked 26:18 over 5 miles for her second successive victory at the Boston Run to Remember race later in the month.
A couple of minor placings followed before Chepkurui won the 3000m at the Duke Invitational in Durham, North Carolina, in April, in which month she also won the Texas Round-Up 10km road race (34:03) in Austin and, remarkably, a day later, after waking up at 2am for a five-hour drive to Washington, the Sallie Mae 10km (33:02).
Chepkurui beat her closest challenger, Olga Romanova, by three seconds to take home USD500. Reports in the Washington Times said: "Aside from travel fatigue, Chepkurui said she felt pressure – literally – from runner-up Romanova, who clipped her heels a couple of times." Chepkurui said: "It was frustrating. I told her to stop it." Chepkurui put an end to that by gapping Romanova in the final mile.
At the Bolder Boulder 10km team event, in Colorado, in May, Chepkurui (3rd, 33:44) was edged out by Sara Slattery (US, 33:42) and Dorota Gruca (Poland, 33:43) That earned her USD1500 and a share in the USD10,000 won by the Kenyan team that also featured Jemimah Jepligat and Sally Barsosio.
Form temporarily deserted her as she suffered a series of defeats, but she returned to winning ways with victory at the US Classic 10km road race in September (33:51) and at the Jefferson Hospital Philadelphia Distance Run Half Marathon (1:10.09) to become, at 18, the youngest female winner of the event. That was followed in October by another victory at the International Hutch Half Marathon in New Delhi, India (1:10.40).
In an effort to foster good relations between Kenyan athletes and those of bitter rivals, Ethiopia, Chepkurui was invited to the 2006 Toyota Great Ethiopian Run in November. She chased home runner Belaynesh Fekadu for long spells before the Ethiopian ran away with top honours in a course record 33:02.25. Chepkurui had to be content with second in 33:07.68, the best performance by a Kenyan female athlete at the event to date.
In December, Chepkurui took part in the Athletics Kenya 3rd Cross Country meet in Nyahururu, where she won the senior women's 8km race, capping an excellent year. Chepkurui was ranked 26th in the Road Race Management website's prize money list with USD43, 209.
Chepkurui began 2007 with victory at the Central Province Cross Country Trials in February, during which month she also finished 12th in the National Cross Country Championships in Mombasa. However, having been recruited by the Kenya Army, Chepkurui opted out of the National Trials to go for military training at the Defence College in Lanet.
Upon graduation as a Kenya Air Force private towards the end of September, she was soon resurrecting her athletics career. In November, she won the Tegla Loroupe Peace Race (10km), where Chepkurui took advantage of the women's race starting simultaneously with the men's to be paced to 37:27.
Having gained momentum, she then travelled to Lagos for the lucrative AFN/GLO International Half Marathon in December. Chepkurui went on to take the honours comfortably in 1:12.06, earning USD50,000.
Chepkurui began 2008 with the single aim of representing her country for the first time at the World Cross Country Championships in Edinburgh. She signalled her intentions by winning the tough senior race at Armed Forces Cross Country Championships on 26 January. "The Armed Forces Championships had quality runners like Irene Kwambai (third), Peninah Arusei (fourth) and Irene Lemika (ninth) who posed serious competition,” she said. “But I kept my composure to win.”
The private officer then took off for build-up in the US and finished second at the Richmond Marathon's half-marathon race (1:16:25), followed by a sixth (32:08) at the World's Best 10km road race in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Chepkurui returned to Kenya for the National Cross Country trials cum championships at Ngong Racecourse, in Nairobi, on 1 March, when she finished fourth to book her place in the Edinburgh-bound team. "It was my first time to qualify for the (World Cross) team and it feels good to train with the likes of Priscah Jepleting (Cherono) and Vivian Cheruiyot (who was later dropped)," she said at the time.
In Edinburgh, Chepkurui finished 12th, despite the belated discovery that she had been carrying an injury even before the national team left for the Scottish capital.
After taking a break from the end of May, Chepkurui returned to active competition with a second place finish at November’s Wareng Tuskys Cross Country in the women’s 8km race. That was followed by third placing at the 12km run of the Kass FM Marathon in the same town before she soared above all at the fifth KCB/AK Cross Country meeting in Nyahururu.
Chepkurui then bagged her second successive Kenyan Armed Forces cross country title in January 2009 with a powerful run in the mud that saw her snuff out the challenge of Beijing Olympics 18th place finisher (10,000m) Peninah Arusei.
At the national trials, Chepkurui ran into the national team for the Amman World Cross by finishing fourth, clinching the last automatic place. “I was delighted to join the national team and it is my aim to give a medal performance in Amman,” she said. “After that, I will decide based on the speed that I manage to clock whether to challenge for honours on the track or road.”
In Amman, Chepkurui ran another great race to finish fourth (26:23) and more importantly helped the Kenyan senior women’s team win the team title.
Then on 5 April, Chepkurui successfully defended her Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run title in Washington D.C, a full 23 seconds ahead of the runner-up. On 11 April, Chepkurui won the 2009 Crescent City Classic 10km in New Orleans, with a time of 32:24, three seconds ahead of compatriot and defending champion Genoveva Kigen.
The affable athlete then fell victim to controversial rulings made by her country’s federation, Athletics Kenya (AK) that cruelly ended her hopes of competing at first World Championships in Berlin. AK had made the directive the men and women 10,000m races at the 26/27 June National Championships would act as Berlin Trials for that distance and the top-two finishers would get the ticket.
Chepkurui duly obliged by trailing Linet Masai to the line in 32:57.3 in a slow race but she failed to beat the Berlin A qualification standard of 31:45.00. On 11 July, she finished third in 10,000m at the British National Championships in Birmingham in a personal best time of 31:31.92 in a race won by Meseret Defar fulfilling the requirement of A qualification but to her dismay, AK refused to sanction her for Berlin.
"Although she qualified, the time she ran (31:31.92) is her personal best in 10,000m and we do not foresee her improving it in Berlin," was the explanation offered by AK chief Isaiah Kiplagat for withdrawing the fourth finisher at Amman World Cross from the travelling party.
“It’s very disappointing to be subjected to this treatment but there is always another day and my chance will come eventually,” a downcast Chepkurui said at the time as Florence Kiplagat (who did not compete) and Grace Momanyi who was third in that race got the nod to partner Masai.
She soon returned to the road, beating a very competitive field to win the Atlanta Journal Constitution Peachtree Road Race after edging out Ethiopia’s Meseret Mengsitu by just one second, while also running a PB time of 31:31. She also collected USD32,500 in race earnings after sharing a USD35,000 bonus prize purse from the Professional Road Racing Organization with the men’s winner, Sammy Kitwara.
On 7January 2010, Chepkurui was among the elite invited for the Zayed Half Marathon in Abu Dhabi where she finished tenth in a time of 1:10:35.
Then on 23 January, she finished second in the women’s 8km at the Armed Forces Championships in a race won by Iness Chenonge. At the Kenya Cross Country trials, Chepkurui had a bad start and was sixth at the 6km mark, but she somehow summoned all of her energies slowly working her way up the field to finish an incredible second behind 10,000m World champion Linet Masai.
“I realised that I was lagging behind and I opted to increase pace. But I will like to stay closer to Masai so that we can run as a team,” she said after her brilliant burst of late energy that saw her eventually finish second in 27:03.5.
On her election as vice-captain, she said, "I do not know what the athletes see in me but it is a great honour to lead the team. I have to play my role as an athlete as well as take responsibility of overseeing what others need in the team," stated Chepkurui, the senior 8km runner who was elected to the same role last year.
At the Bydgoszcz World Cross, Chepkurui was among the front-runners, but the searing pace set by Masai scorched her towards the end as she finished fifth. “I had a very good chance of winning a medal in Poland, but poor tactics cost me. I went out too fast, which punished me in the end. That was a good lesson learnt.”
As custom, she hit the road with venom, stringing together a series of impressive performances, including the two races that got the world wagging in May. Career best victories at Crescent City, New Orleans (3 April, 10km/30:45/World Lead) and Cherry Blossom, Washington (11 April/10 miles/51:51) set her up for her unmatched performances at Lilac and Bay to Breakers.
After taking the Forces 10,000m title in 33:50.2 (21 May), her season’s best run of 32:29.99 (25 June) at the National Championships for fourth was not enough to land her a slot in her country’s team for the African Championships.
Three podium returns in her favoured American road race circuit followed through August, leading up to her personal best at the ING Rock n Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon of 67:47, where Ethiopia’s former World 5000m champion, Meseret Defar, beat her to second with her own lifetime best of 67:45 on 19 September. A second place finish at the second KCB/AK National Cross Country Series (8km) meet in Nyahururu on 18 December closed yet another rewarding calendar year.
Victories at both the Iten leg of the KCB series (8 January) and Defense Forces championships (22 January) opened the 2011 on a high and she sealed her place for Punta Umbria by gaining wildcard selection after a face-flat fall in the opening 2km loop knocked the stuffing out of her before she recovered to finish eighth at the 19 February IAAF Permit/National Championships.
“I’m grateful to receive one of the wildcards and I will fight for my team. It was almost turning into a nightmare after the fall but now, I can focus on achieving my aim of getting a World Cross medal. I learned my lessons last year and this time, I shall run my race, not to watch what others around me are doing. I perform well when I do my own things,” she stated.
Part of her earnings has been used to educate younger brother Peter Kibet, who is an aspiring 5000m runner and studies at Eldoret's Baraton University.
10,000m- 31:31.92 (2009)
10km: 30:45 (2010)
Half Marathon: 67:47 (2010)
10km: 2006 – 32:40; 2008 – 32:08, 2009 – 32:24; 30:45
Half Marathon: 2006 – 1:10:09; 2007 – 1:12:0; 2010 – 1:07:47
2005 1st Stanchart Nairobi Marathon, Half Marathon (1:13.55)
2005 1st White Rock Half Marathon (1:16.22, course record)
2006 1st Boston Marathon to Remember, Half Marathon
2006 1st Sallie Mae 10km, US (33:02)
2006 1st Jefferson Hospital Philadelphia Distance Run, Half Marathon (1:10.09).
2006 1st International Hutch Half Marathon, New Delhi, India (1:10.40)
2006 2nd Toyota Great Ethiopian Run, Addis Ababa (33:02)
2007 1st AFN/GLO International Half Marathon, Lagos (1:12.06)
2008 12th World Cross Country Championships (senior)
2009 4th World Cross Country Championships (senior)
2010 5th World Cross Country Championships (senior)
Prepared by James Wokabi and Mutwiri Mutuota for the IAAF ‘Focus on Athletes’ project. Copyright IAAF 2008-2011