Peres Jepchirchir: 'I unleashed everything I had'

peres jepchirchir wins the london marathon 2024
Peres Jepchirchir: 'I unleashed everything I had' Karwai Tang

Peres Jepchirchir made history at the London Marathon last weekend, taking the tape in 2:16:16 to break the women-only world record (run without the aid of male pacers).

The 30-year-old Kenyan athlete is the Olympic champion in the women’s marathon and her win likely secures her a spot on the Kenyan Olympic team to defend her title in Paris this summer.

On an unseasonably chilly morning in the capital, Jepchirchir shadowed the leaders for the majority of the race and, with 10km to go, locked herself in battle with race favourite and women’s marathon record holder Tigst Assefa, Kenya’s 2021 London champion Joyciline Jepkosgei and last year’s runner-up Megertu Alemu of Ethiopia.

But with around 600m to go, she executed a phenomenally strong finishing kick to break free from the group, which her competitors hadn’t the speed to follow.

It’s the first time Jepchirchir has won the London Marathon, and her winning time is the fastest ever by a woman on the iconic course.

We caught up with Jepchirchir to find out more about her winning race strategy and the endless hours of training and preparation that went into it.

How does it feel to have won the London Marathon and to have broken the women’s only world record?

'I'm am very happy for this victory. It was important for me to come back to win London after not being able to compete in New York City Marathon last fall due to a late injury. But winning this weekend – and in a world record time – means I have surely booked my ticket to the Paris Olympics. The ladies were all so strong and fast, and conditions were not perfect with the cold and wind, but I never give up. I also wanted to be sure that I did not lose in the finale like last time here. Despite my expectations, today I've surpassed myself and achieved a personal best.'

What does the chance to defend your Olympic title this summer mean to you?

'I'm overjoyed to have qualified for the Olympics, and I'm truly grateful for this opportunity to represent my country again. Being in Paris is a dream come true, and my utmost wish is to perform well and defend my title. I understand the challenges ahead won't be easy. The course is extremely difficult in some points and there will be many exceptional athletes, but I'm committed to giving it my all.'

You broke away from the lead group with 600m to go – is this finishing kick something you had practised a lot in training?

'Tigist was slightly in front of me and I didn't want to get boxed in or stuck behind her and allow her to make the first move (also because she obviously has very good speed) so I slowed a moment to enable me to move around her, and I attacked hard to create a gap and put enough distance as possible to not allow her to come back at me. I unleashed everything I had. That's the moment I knew victory was within my grasp.'

You’ve never finished outside the top three in a major marathon. How do you perform so strong time and time again?

'Consistency, discipline, and relentless determination are the cornerstones of my success. Every race, I push myself beyond my limits, leaving nothing on the course. I train with purpose, focusing on both physical and mental strength. Whether it's mile one or mile 26, I stay focused, stay hungry and stay relentless until I cross that finish line. When I am in good shape and my body is healthy, it is going to be very difficult for any athlete to beat me.'

How hard had you worked to prepare for the London Marathon this year – and did you do anything differently in training?

'Preparing for the London Marathon this year was all about working hard in training day after day. I poured everything into my training, and pushed through those long, difficult sessions. I was a little more cautious in parts of my final preparation because I recalled what happened right before NYCM last year and I wanted to avoid that. However it is all about dedication and leaving no stone unturned when it comes to preparing for a race of this magnitude.'

How many miles a week did you run in training in the build up to London?

'I train mostly every day, often two training sessions a day, totalling 130-150km per week. I do two to three quality sessions a week, depending on what point of my programme I am at. There are, of course, the long sessions which in lead up to the marathon can be anywhere from 30, 35 or even around 40km. But those take quite a bit out of you and need extra recovery. They really help with fitness though and you know how your shape is after those sessions.'

What did you have for breakfast before the race?

'To be honest, on marathon race day I don't take anything other than a 100ml caffeine gel. I don't take any breakfast (even bread or tea). I make sure to hydrate well for those crucial days before the race, drinking plenty of water and electrolytes. Everyone tells me that it is important for me to take some breakfast before competition, but I have always skipped it. Then more recently I have at least added the gel for some fuelling.'

Do you get nervous before a major race like this – and how do you calm your nerves?

'Of course, I feel adrenaline pumping before a major race like this. But I've got my pre-game routine dialled in to channel that energy and focus on the task at hand. I also always think of my family and especially my daughter rooting for me from home or at the race and I get energy knowing she is supporting me.'

What shoes did you wear for the race?

'I wore the Adizero Pro Evo 1, Adidas’s lightest and fastest ever racing shoe, packed with innovative features. With the Pro Evo 1 on my feet, I'm confident in my ability to perform at my best and push myself to new limits. It's my go-to choice for every long-distance run, and I know it won't let me down. I also particularly like this shoe because I was involved in the testing of the first prototypes and Adidas incorporated my feedback as well as that of other marathoners.'

What is your biggest piece of advice for anyone who wants to run a marathon?

'My biggest piece of advice for aspiring marathoners is to stay committed to your training. Running a marathon isn't just about the race day, it's about the countless hours of preparation, the hard work and all the sacrifices, and the mental fortitude to push through challenges. Trust your training plan, listen to your body, and stay focused on your goals. And above all, believe in yourself you're capable of achieving more than you ever thought possible. So lace up your shoes, hit the road and enjoy every step of the incredible marathon journey.'

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