Sharon Cherop’s superb victory at the 2010 Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon was a turning point in her career and now the 31-year-old Kenyan has confirmed she will return to where it all began and contest the IAAF Gold Label Road Race on 18 October.
“It changed my life completely because it was a very big victory in terms of money for me and helped my family a lot,” she reflected on her course record of 2:22:43 five years ago.
“Moreover, it was my first big victory in an international marathon. I was then able to get a bronze medal (at the 2011 IAAF World Championships) in Daegu and to win the 2012 Boston Marathon.”
Until that day in Toronto she had only really dabbled with the marathon and her personal best prior to 2010 was 2:33:53, which she ran in the high altitude of Nairobi.
Following her Toronto breakthrough, invitations came in from all over the world and she also represented her country.
Cherop’s husband, Matthew Bowen, is also a marathoner of note and sometimes trains with her.
He ran a personal best of 2:10:57 at the 2013 Rennes Marathon. Both runners were born in Marakwet but they have moved to Eldoret, about 80 kilometres away, to train.
“I train under the coach Gabriele Nicola,” said Cherop. “Among the group are Mary Keitany (former London and New York Marathon winner), Flomena Daniel (2014 Commonwealth Games champion), Agnes Kiprop (2:23:54 marathoner) and Helen Kirop (2014 Seoul Marathon champion). We run two times a day for five days a week. Normally, I run 180 kilometres a week, sometimes up to 201 kilometres a week.
“We have track sessions or ‘fartlek’ or long distance training. Sometime we do runs of 40 kilometres. When we go to the track it can be 15x600m or 5x3000m, it’s a mix of long and short distances. When we go instead for the fartlek we can do one minute fast, or two minutes fast and one minute slow, or three minutes fast and one minute slow. When we go for long distance, running 35 kilometres or more, we can try to improve the pace in the last seven or eight kilometres.”
Marakwet is hilly terrain and when she is preparing for hilly races, like Boston, she will return to this familiar area to train alone.
Building for the future
“I live in Eldoret where I have built my house but spend some time also in Marakwet my native place,” she added.
“Of course, the house was built with the money I have earned in my career. It’s a very big house with three floors. It’s on the top of a hill outside Eldoret on the way to Iten.
It’s big because I have some relatives living with me and my mother as well.”
Cherop and Bowen have a six-year-old daughter named Natalia. Two of her younger relatives look after her when her parents are training or travelling.
Spare time that she used to have when Natalia was younger has been taken up by her daughter’s natural inquisitiveness.
“Yes I like to read novels but more and more in the last times I’m so busy with training and family issues that I don’t have much time,” Cherop added.
“Sometimes, if I’m alone travelling, I read but if Natalia is with me I should stay more with her. I like to play with her and to explain whatever she is asking. Sometimes she asks so many questions.”
While Cherop’s preparations for Toronto are so far going very well she cautions that the course record is not the primary purpose of returning to Toronto.
“I know that I have to prepare well and to be able to win,” she declared.”Time is important but to win a race is more important. I prefer to win in Toronto in two hours 24 minutes than to run 2:22 in Dubai and be number five.”
At present, she is affiliated with the Kenyan Armed Forces Club and although she once had thoughts of working for the Armed Forces after she retires from running she now has started a thriving business with her husband.
“I built many small houses in Iten near the University and we are renting to the students,” she explained. “Matthew is the one who follows the construction and all the plans and now is following the rent of the houses.”
If Cherop does well in Toronto, a construction boom in Iten beckons.
Paul Gains (organisers) for the IAAF