Kenya: Valary Aiyabei - Vegetables Vendor Who Conquered the Marathon

26 September 2020

Frankfurt Marathon champion Valary Jemeli Aiyabei is currently ranked as the 10th fastest woman in marathon history.

This is after breaking the course record in Frankfurt last year, winning in two hours, 19 minutes and 10 seconds.

But she's not done yet and will be seeking to move up the pecking order at the London Marathon next Sunday.

Her's is an amazing story of a late bloomer who started off selling vegetables to eke out a living before taking to athletics.

In London, she will be competing against compatriots, defending champion Brigid Kosgei, 2018 champion Vivian Cheruiyot, world marathon champion Ruth Chepng'etich and debutant Edith Chelimo.

Aiyabei told Nation Sport that her preparations for the London race are complete and that she looks forward to a good race.

"My training was injury free and I'm happy because despite the Covid-19 challenges, I managed to train well and I'm just waiting for the race day," said Aiyabei.

She also said that training in a group helps athletes gauge their limit but she has been training alone which she feels that she has done well so far.

"It's my first time to compete in London Marathon and I will be doing my best despite the fact that I was training alone. I trust I did well and finished my training programme and I will be implementing what I have done so far," she added.

Went there to set up business

Aiyabei joins the long list of athletes who started their training and ventured straight into the road and marathon races. She trains in Iten, Elgeyo Marakwet County, where she has called home since 2011 when she went there to set up business but decided to join athletes who used to train every day.

Aiyabei comes from a humble background and after graduating from Kapkitony High School in Elgeyo Marakwet, life was hard and she decided to shift base to Iten where she started a small business to keep her going. The athlete decided to look for some income generation and her mind clicked Iten, a busy town full of athletes training for various races where she thought there could be good circulation of cash.

It was while she was selling her vegetables and fruits, that she could see athletes training every day and she was attracted to the sport.

"Poverty pushed me to Iten town where I used to hear that athletes were camping and I wanted to go there and make money. In my interaction with them, I came to love the sport and I started training in the morning and evening every day," said Aiyabei.

She started training on road races and she later had her first child, Michelle Chebet, before getting back to serious training.

That led her to the Kass Marathon in 2012 where she emerged ninth, giving her more inspiration to continue training. She once again competed in the Kass Marathon, winning in 2015.

Won in Barcelona

In 2016, Aiyabei won the Barcelona Marathon before winning the Prague Marathon in 2017.

She later lined up for Beijing Marathon in 2018 where she also won.

She started the 2019 season well by winning the second edition of Eldoret City Marathon in April where she clocked 2:27:17 ahead of Kapsait's Vivian Kiplagat who timed 2:28:06 while Elizabeth Rumokol came in third clocking 2:33:01.

In September, Aiyabei defended her Kabarak Half Marathon title after timing 1:15.1 ahead of Lydia Njeri who clocked 1:17.4 with Lydia Simiyu coming a distant third in 1:18.40.

This she said it was her final preparations towards the big race. Following her win in Frankfurt, Aiyabei said she wanted to record her personal best and she was happy to have smashed the course record.

"With good training I'm very much sure that I can still lower that time but my target is to also run a world record time in the near future," said Aiyabei.

At the Frankfurt Marathon, Aiyabei broke from the leading pack with her husband Ken Tarus pacing for her in the initial stages before he dropped out of the race after feeling unwell.

"It was tough running alone when the pacemaker dropped but I kept going because I wanted to win the race. Breaking early saved me because the Ethiopian athlete (Kebede) looked strong and she would have beaten me in the final part of the race," said Aiyabei.

Aiyabei's Bio

Name: Valary Jemeli Aiyabei

Date of birth: June 8, 1991

Place of birth: Metkei, Elgeyo-Marakwet County

Personal best times

10 kilometres: 31:12

Half Marathon: 1:06:14

Marathon: 2:19:10

More From: Nation

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