Updated 11 October 2007
Susan CHEPKEMEI, Kenya (Half Marathon/Marathon)
Born 25 June, 1975, Komol Village, West Pokot, Rift Valley, Kenya.
Height 1.64m, Weight 48kg
Manager: Jos Hermens
Susan Chepkemei, the first born in a family of eight, and the only runner in the family, is one of the nearly women of athletics. Suffering a succession of heartaches and near misses, Chepkemei has finished second in major competitions on more occasions than she would probably care to remember.
From cross country, to half marathon, full marathon to the track, she has second places littered all over the world in the last 17 years. Notable among them are her three runner-up finishes in the New York City Marathon and three seconds spots in the World Half Marathon Championships.
Chepkemei (1:09.40) finished second to Britain’s Paula Radcliffe in the 2000 World Half Marathon Championships at Veracruz, Mexico, and again the following year in Bristol, England (1:07.36). A third successive silver medal followed in the 2002 edition, in Brussels (1:09.13), when Ethiopian Berhane Adere denied her.
Chepkemei also has an eighth place from Vilamoura, Portugal, in 2003 (1:10.35) and a bronze (1:10.20) behind Constantina Dita-Tomescu (Romania) and Lornah Kiplagat (Netherlands) from Edmonton, Canada, in 2005. Ahead of what will be her sixth showing, Chepkemei remains optimistic saying, “I know one day I will be number one. This (Udine) could be it.”
The seasoned runner is also hoping to make an impact on her comeback from a tendon injury she sustained at last year’s New York City Marathon, where she finished tenth.
Chepkemei hails from West Pokot, the same area as former marathon world record holder Tegla Loroupe, who influenced her decision to start running. “When I was young, I used to tell people that I would like to run,” Chepkemei recalled. “I met somebody who knew Tegla Loroupe and one day, I met with her. She gave me a lot of courage, “You can do it. Keep running.”
Chepkemei made her national team debut in 1990 when she finished third in the junior race at the World Cross Country Championships, in Aix-les-Bains, France.
After skipping the following edition in Antwerp, Belgium, she returned in the 1992 World Cross Country, in Boston, US, where she finished sixteenth and Kenya placed third.
Without making a big impression in cross country in the senior ranks up until this time, Chepkemei then made her marathon debut in September 1998, when she ran the Berlin Marathon, finishing second in 2:28:19. In 1999, Chepkemei came in second in Rotterdam Marathon but shed off two minutes off her time (2:26:38).
In 2000, in Vilamoura, Chepkemei had what remains her best senior World Cross Country finish, taking third place and, in 2001, she recorded what remains her only marathon victory, winning Rotterdam (2:25:45). Later that year she won her first national 10,000m (33:23.3) and the Great North Run Half Marathon (1:08:40) in Newcastle, England. She set the world’s fastest half marathon time of 1:05:44 in April 2001 in Lisbon, albeit on a slightly downhill course.
2002 was Chepkemei’s best year on track and she beat a strong field to retain the national 10,000m title (32:38.3). She finished seventh over 5,000m (15:00:05) in the Bislett Games in Oslo and won silver at the Commonwealth Games, in Manchester, behind compatriot Salina Kosgei in a time of 31:32.04. Chepkemei made up for missing gold in Manchester the following month when she won the African Championships 10,000m title (31:45:14) in Radès, Tunisia.
After a largely unmemorable 2003, Chepkemei was involved in an epic battle with World record holder Radcliffe in the 2004 New York City Marathon. The two ran shoulder to shoulder for most of the race before Radcliffe’s assured finish edged her out by three seconds.
In 2005, Chepkemei won Lisbon Half Marathon (68:47) and gained the first of two third place finishes in the London Marathon (she was third again in 2006). Between London Marathons, in New York 2005, she took an early lead and looked certain to win the race when she suddenly developed stomach problems, vomiting along the way, and ended up second behind Jelena Prokopcuka, of Latvia.
In London 2006, Chepkemei ran her personal best in marathon (2:21.46) eight years after her debut. But, in New York seven months later, she registered her worst ever finish there, coming in tenth in 2:32:45. During the race, the chip on her right shoe slipped into the inside of her foot, pressing against her foot for most of the race.
She twice stopped to try and loosen the shoe but the chip continued to dig deeper to her flesh, resulting in a tendon injury that would keep her out for most of 2007. “I tried to fix it (the chip) and ran for a while but it loosened up again,” she said. “At the time, it was uncomfortable but after the race, it became very painful.” Despite this, New York remains her favourite race “It’s an amazing race. The spectators are fantastic, I love the people. They’re excellent. This race is like my second home.”
In February 2007, Chepkemei could manage only seventh place at the World's Best 10k, in Puerto Rico, timing 32.47. In March, she was second at the Lisbon Half Marathon (68:33) behind former Boston winner Rita Jeptoo. Chepkemei says that Udine will serve as the latest test to her recovery as well as preparedness for forthcoming marathon races.
10k: 2000 – 32:25; 2001 – 31:52; 2002 – 31:11; 2003 – 31:13; 2004 – 31:36; 2005 – 32:58; 2006 – 32:08; 2007 – 32:47.
Half Marathon: 2000 – 1:09.10; 2001 – 1:05.44; 2002 – 1:08.23; 2003 – 1:07.51; 2004 – 1:08.32; 2005 – 1:08.47; 2006 – 1:10.22; 2007 – 1:08.33
Marathon: 1998 – 2:28.19; 1999 – 2:26.38; 2001 – 2:25.12; 2002 – 2:23.19; 2003 – 2:23.12; 2004 – 2:23.13; 2005 – 2:24.00; 2006 – 2:21.46.
10k: 31:11 (2002)
Half Marathon: 1:05.44 (2001)
Marathon: 2:21.46 (2006)
1990 3rd, World Cross Country Championships (Junior)
1998 2nd, Berlin Marathon
1999 2nd, Rotterdam Marathon
2000 3rd, World Cross Country Championships
2000 2nd, World Half Marathon Championships
2001 4th, World Cross Country Championships
2001 1st, Rotterdam Marathon
2001 2nd, World Half Marathon Championships
2001 1st, Great North Run, England
2001 1st, Lisbon Half Marathon (WB 65:44)
2001 2nd, New York City Marathon
2002 1st, Lisbon Half Marathon
2002 2nd, World Half Marathon Championships
2002 2nd, 10,000m, Commonwealth Games
2002 1st, African Championships, 10,000m
2003 1st, Bogotá Half Marathon.
2003 1st, Vilamoura Half Marathon
2004 2nd, New York City Marathon
2005 3rd, World Half Marathon Championships
2005 1st, Lisbon Half Marathon
2005 3rd, London Marathon
2005 2nd, New York City Marathon
2006 2nd, Lisbon Half Marathon
2006 3rd, London Marathon
2007 2nd, Lisbon Half Marathon
Prepared by James Wokabi and Mutwiri Mutuota for the IAAF ‘Focus on Athletes’ project. Copyright IAAF 2007