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Posted: September 13, 2021::  

Athletics: Vibian Chepkirui: From sleeping on the floor in Doha to triumph in Vienna within three days

Sunday’s comeback race of the Vienna City Marathon had everything you can get from the classic event: Triumph, joy, fun, jubilant scenes, dejection, ups and downs for elite and fun runners. As Swiss record holder Tadesse Abraham, who finished seventh in 2:12:26 and was happy with his race in hot weather conditions, had put it in the press conference before the race with regard to his own situation: „This is sport, there are always ups and downs.“ Marathon races always provide plenty of proof for that.

Vibian Chepkirui, - Credit: VCM / Leo Hagen

The 38th edition of the Vienna City Marathon delivered a great comeback for major international city marathon running during the pandemic. One of the stories of the day written in Austria’s capital was that of Vibian Chepkirui, who won her debut marathon in 2:24:29.

The 27 year-old Kenyan was clearly not among the hot favorites when she arrived in Vienna. She had never run a marathon before and in the past twelve months Vibian Chepkirui was only able to compete in a single international race due to the corona pandemic. It was a 10,000 m track event in Stockholm, where she finished eighth with a personal best of 31:09.42.

„It was a tough time because of Corona. I tried to qualify for the Olympics in Stockholm, but I did not manage. After that I decided to concentrate on a marathon,“ said Vibian Chepkirui, whose half marathon PB of 69:09 did not indicate either that something spectacular might be on the cards for her in Vienna.

Additionally she had to cope with a major obstacle on her way to Vienna. Flying via Doha from Nairobi Vibian Chepkirui and a group of Kenyan runners - among them Vienna’s men’s winner Leonard Langat as well - missed their connecting flight. The plane from Kenya had been delayed. „They were stuck in Doha and the airline did not care. So they had to sleep on the floor,“ explained Vibian Chepkirui’s coach Julien di Maria. „Obviously this is not ideal two days before a marathon.“

Despite all this Vibian Chepkirui ran a brilliant marathon debut and dominated a strong field. At 30 k she was well in the lead and her split time of 1:40:37 pointed towards a 2:21:30 finish, well inside the course record of 2:22:12. „I was surprised to win the race, but I started to believe by the half way mark. Of course this is the biggest win in my career,“ said Vibian Chepkirui, whose husband Wesley Kangogo was her pacemaker. „The heat was a problem though. In cooler conditions I could have run at least two minutes faster. Additionally I got problems with a calf muscle with around four kilometres to go.“ She finally finished in 2:24:29.

It was only in 2020 when Vibian Chepkirui ran her first international races. She clocked her half marathon PB in Prague, the home of her management group Ikaika. In Kenya she trains in Iten and one of her training partners is the three-time winner of the Vienna City Marathon and course record holder Nancy Kiprop. Vienna’s record winner could not return to the race due to a back injury. „Nancy gave me advice on Vienna. I was trying to break her course record,“ said Vibian Chepkirui, hoping that both of them will be on the start line at the next Vienna City Marathon on 24 April 2022. One thing is sure: They will avoid flying to Vienna via Doha.

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