Updated 06 October 2008
Pamela CHEPCHUMBA, Kenya (Half Marathon/Marathon)
Born: 8 March 1979, Kapsait Village, West Pokot, Rift Valley Province
Trains: Nike camp, Kapsait
Coach: Eric Kimaiyo
Manager: Federico Rosa
Family background: Married to fellow athlete, Boaz Kimaiyo; mother of two daughters, Mercy Chepkorir, who schools in Eldoret and Cynthia Chepkoech, who still lives at their farm in West Pokot. She is a fifth born in a family of 10. Her younger brother, Nicholas Koech, who specialises in road races (PBs: 10km: 28:37, 15km: 43:57) is the only other athlete in her family.
Motivation by teachers compelled one of the few Kenyan athletes to receive an IAAF ban for doping to pursue athletics while still a primary school pupil at Kapsait Primary in her home village.“I would run 5km to and from school each day and my teachers encouraged me to join school competitions that I easily won at Kapsait and national level,” she said.
Chepchumba exploded onto Kenya’s athletics scene at an early age. The runner first represented her country at the age of 13 at the 1992 World Cross Country Championships in Boston, Massachusetts, finishing 27th. She was just a Standard five pupil (sixth year of Kenya’s primary education system where pupils go for eight years). “That day I was still shocked from my first flight abroad. It was an unbelievable experience for me,” she said.
The next year saw her take silver at the same event in Amorebieta, Spain, and she was 7th in the 1994 World Cross Country Championships in Budapest. The 1995 World Cross Country in Durham, England, where she was 10th, marked her last appearance as a junior athlete in international competition as she opted to concentrate on her education. “Running was affecting my education and I choose to drop running so that I could finish school,” she said.
Chepchumba’s international junior cross-country career had seen her finish primary school three years behind schedule. “I would return and find my classmates had moved forward, hence I had to repeat classes,” she said.
She finally joined Kapkenda Secondary School in 1997 and, apart from racing in a number of road races in Europe, her athletics career took a back seat.
In 2000, Chepchumba came 2nd in the Göteborg Half Marathon (1:11.03, short course).
In November Chepchumba, then a final year student at Kapkenda, returned to the national team when she finished 5th at the World Half Marathon Championships in Veracruz, Mexico (1:11.33).
Later that year, she married Boaz Kimaiyo, the 2003 Eurocity Frankfurt Marathon champion, running the first sub 2:10 time in its history (2:09.28).
Chepchumba had a successful and busy 2001, competing in cross country, track and road races. She again made the national team to finish 5th in the 2001 Long Course race at the World Cross Country Championships in Ostend, helping Kenya to the team title.
A week later, she won the Monterrey Half Marathon, in Mexico (1:11.39), then two weeks later set her best 10km time (31:27) in Paderborn, Germany. On the track, she set PBs over 5000m in Hengelo (14:56.75) and over 3000m in Monaco (8:42.24).
In 2002, Chepchumba finished 9th in the World Cross Country Championships and 5th (1:09.30) in the World Half Marathon Championships in Brussels.
Then, shortly after finishing 6th in the 2003 World Cross Country (but she was successively disqualified) came her darkest hour when she tested positive for EPO and was banned for two years from April 30.
The news was greeted with shock in a country that prides itself with its runners winning cleanly. Fellow athletes reacted angrily and she became an isolated figure in the sport. Chepchumba retreated to farming and also took time to give birth to her second born, Cynthia, in 2004.
“That period is now all behind me now,” Chepchumba said. “I never want to talk about it anymore. Instead, I want to concentrate on all the good things about the sport and the joy of getting a second chance in the national team.”
As her ban neared expiry, she returned to training in earnest and, in September 2005, won the Maratonina Città di Udine Half Marathon in Italy (1:09.09).
A month later, Chepchumba ran at the high altitude Stanchart Nairobi International Marathon where she finished 3rd in 2:41.12. She suffered a hamstring injury that ended her season but returned in 2006 with a 3rd place finish in the Paris Marathon, in April, in a personal best of 2:29.48.
In May, she ran the 3000m steeplechase in 10:19.16 at the Bonneuil-sur-Marne meeting near Paris before a 1:11.07 victory in the Lisbon Half Marathon. Chepchumba then won the Milano 10km race in 31:53 on October 1 to close her season.
In the 2007 cross country season, Chepchumba began by winning the Eldoret 8km before finishing 3rd over the same distance in the trials for World Cross Country Championships at Ngong, Nairobi. In the World Championships, in Mombasa, she finished 6th helping Kenya to team silver behind Ethiopia. A week later, she won the Azpeitia Half Marathon in Spain (1:08.57).
In the Philadelphia Half Marathon in September, Chepchumba shook off Alice Timbilil in the home stretch to win in 1:08.45. Both athletes were then selected for the World Road Running Championships in Udine the following month.
“Being named in the team to Udine was an honour for me although I had to cancel my appearance at the Beijing Marathon,” Chepchumba said.” I am happy to run for my country.” Chepchumba says she chose road running over track racing because “my performances on track did not impress me very much.”
Ahead of World Road Running Championships, she suffered a bout of malaria but despite her troubled preparations, Chepchumba put up a brave performance in Udine to clinch bronze in a new personal best time of 1:08:06 as well as guiding Kenya’s women team to the overall team title.
In December 2007, Chepchumba set a new personal best in marathon as she won the Milan City Marathon in a remarkable 2:25:36 in what was only the fourth marathon of her career. It was a four minute improvement on her previous best of 2:29:48 set in Paris in 2006. “The course was nice and flat, it was not so cold as I expected,” Chepchumba said. “I thank the support of the fans along the course, which helped me to improve my PB.”
In February 2008, Chepchumba was in the United Arab Emirates for the Ras Al Khaimah Half Marathon, where she finished second in a photo finish that saw the first three women across the line accredited with the same time - 1:12:27.
Salina Kosgei, Atsede Habtamu and Chepchumba chased each other right to the tape with Salina’s desperate lunge edging out Chepchumba.
The following month Chepchumba was in Portugal for the Lisbon Half Marathon, where she renewed her rivalry with Salina Kosgei. Kosgei again emerged tops as Chepuchumba finished second in 1:09:59.
In April, she lined up for the fifth marathon of her career in Hamburg Germany where she finished a creditable second in 2:28:36.
In September, Chepchumba was back in Portugal for the Porto Half Marathon and this time there would be no stopping her as she went on to win in 1:10:27.
She was then selected to represent Kenya at the World Half Marathon Championships in Rio de Janeiro.
Half Marathon: 1999 – 1:12.27; 2000 – 1:11.03; 2001 – 1:11.39; 2002 – 1:09.30; 2005 – 1:09.09; 2006 – 1:11.07; 2007 – 1:08.45. 2008 – 1:09:59
3000m: 8:42.24 (2001)
5000m: 14:56.75 (2001)
10k: 31:19 (2007)
Half Marathon: 1:08:06 (2007)
Marathon: 2:25:36 (2007)
1992 27th World Cross Country Championships (Junior)
1993 2nd World Cross Country Championships (Junior)
1994 7th World Cross Country Championships (Junior)
1995 10th World Cross Country Championships (Junior)
2000 5th World Half Marathon Championships
2001 5th World Cross Country Championships
2002 9th World Cross Country Championships
2002 5th World Half Marathon Championships
2007 6th World Cross Country Championships
2007 3rd World Road Running Championships
2007 1st Milan Marathon
2008 2nd Ras Al Khaimah Half Marathon
2008 2nd Lisbon Half Marathon
2008 2nd Hamburg Marathon
2008 1st Porto Half Marathon
Prepared by James Wokabi and Mutwiri Mutuota for the IAAF ‘Focus on Athletes’ project. Copyright IAAF 2007