Kenya: Athlete Strikes Gold in Marathon Debut

Elgeyo Marakwet-based athlete Mercy Kipchumba has joined the millionaires' club after winning her first marathon race at the weekend.

The newly crowned Eldoret City Marathon champion's decision to switch from road races and half marathon to full marathon has paid off big time and she will be smiling all the way to the bank.

Kipchumba, and men's winner Victor Kipchirchir, each stand to pocket Sh3.5 million for their exploits.

Kipchumba, who trains with women's world marathon record holder Brigid Kosgei at Kapsait Athletics Training Camp in Elgeyo Marakwet County, appears poised to be the next big thing.

She crossed the finishing line in two hours, 28 minutes and 10 seconds (2:28:10) on Sunday, beating training mate Judith Korir to second placed in 2:28:31 while Jackline Chelal was third in 2:29:47.

Nation Sport Tuesday found Kipchumba at her sister's home in Strawberg, Uasin Gishu County, as she prepared to leave for Kapsait,150 kilometres away from Eldoret.

"At one time in the race I asked my friend Judith if we were just doing a long run because the course was good. I ran without any pressure," she said.

The athlete, 26, was initially based in Kaptagat, Elgeyo Marakwet County, where she started training in 2016 while living with her sister Emily Kiplagat.

Later, she was approached by coach Eric "Commando" Kimaiyo who asked her to join Kapsait Athletics Training Camp in 2019. Since then, her career has taken a turn for the better.

Kipchumba narrated how life was tough, and how her sister used to chip in.

"She helped me so much. I remember I used to struggle some times, and I would ask her to send me shopping via matatu and she would immediately do that," said Kipchumba, who went to Kapchepit Primary School before joining Chebara Girls High School where she completed her studies in 2015.

Kipchumba's victory in Eldoret has impressed many people in the athlethics fraternity, including her coach Kimaiyo.

In spite of the coronavirus pandemic, Kipchumba said she made the most of her time in training.

"I would like to sincerely thank coach Kimaiyo who ensured that we trained well in various areas," said Kipchumba.

When she joined Kapsait, she had hoped to train for half marathon races, but Kimaiyo advised her to go for full marathon since there was no 21km race in the Eldoret event, and she obliged.

"Mercy and Judith did a good job. They beat a strong field that included elite runners. After the Tokyo Olympics, the world will be looking at Kapsait," said Kimaiyo, in reference to Brigid who is preparing for the Games.

Kipchumba's sister Emily said that she is obedient and follows her superior's instructions, that is why she won. The athlete is looking forward to compete in international races.

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