For Helah Kiprop and her family, running is a way of life

Kenyan runner Helah Kiprop’s three children like running and her husband is the coach and pacemaker. She is competing at the 2017 Kolkata 25k run

other sports Updated: Dec 16, 2017 21:59 IST
Dhiman Sarkar
Dhiman Sarkar
Helah Kiprop,David Marus,Athletics
Helah Kiprop (right) is competing at the 2017 Kolkata 25k run.(PTI)

She ran to school and back and ever since, it has been a way of life for Kenya’s Helah Kiprop. Now it is like that for her family too.

Kiprop, 32, is a mother of three and married to Ugandan David Marus who is her coach, pacemaker and a runner himself. Their children, Faith, 13, Dishon, 10, and seven-year-old Alvah, too like burning the track.

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“Sometimes when their school is closed, they train with us on the track. They all like running,” said Kiprop, who is a top draw in the women’s section of the Tata Steel Kolkata 25k run here on Sunday even though this is her first race over that distance.

Like Kiprop, her children go to school by foot though not always. “It is less than two kilometres but sometimes they also take their bicycles,” said Kiprop, who was seventh in the world championships last August clocking 2:28:19.

The high point of her trip to London this year --- she also did the London Marathon where too she finished seventh in 2:25:39 --- was meeting Paula Radcliffe, one of her idols. Radcliffe’s best of 2:15:25 is the fastest by any woman in a marathon and came in 2003 when men and women ran together.

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Compatriot Mary Keitany, who won the London marathon with a world record 2:17.01, the fastest since men and women started running separately, is another of her idols as is the legendary Kipchoge Kieno who inspired Kenya to run with four Olympic medals, including two gold medals, in the 1968 and 1972 Games.

“After that (Kieno’s feat), Kenya introduced running in schools and helped many give expression to their talent,” said Kiprop, winner of the Seoul Marathon in 2014 and Tokyo in 2016.

Kiprop said she ran for fun since she was in ‘Class 4’. “There were two routes to school, which was only 2.5km away, but we had to go up and down a hill. We would always run on the longer route,’ she said. On most days that meant running to and from school four times and that included coming home for lunch.

That led to many from the area near Iten in Kenya, where she now lives, becoming international runners, said Kiprop.

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Running was also how she met Marus, in France in 2003. They got married in 2005, Kiprop said, looking embarrassed that she remembered the year with some difficulty.

Marus is 31 and Kiprop said when her schedule is not that taxing, he trains for his runs. “He has no coach though.”

Kiprop accepted that it is not easy for them as a family even though it helps they have people looking after the children. “After training, when we have time we usually rest….”

But the mother in her hasn’t set a deadline for the runner. The Tokyo Olympics remains on the radar after she could not finish in Rio. “I also want to improve my best of 2:21:27 (achieved on way to winning in Tokyo Marathon in 2016),” she said.

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Asked whether she got bored of it all Kiprop said: “Sometimes, when you train for many hours, or if you have just run a marathon, you feel tired and want to rest. One month later, you are ready to go again.”

First Published: Dec 16, 2017 21:53 IST