"Lord, I don't ask that I should win, but please, please don't let me finish behind Akabusi."
Vivian CheruiyotOne of the things I enjoy most about my life travelling to about 20 events in the year is when someone I know wins. This week’s London Marathon victory by Vivian Cheruiyot was such a moment.
I remember clearly when I first met Vivian. It was at the 2011 World Championships in Deagu, Korea. I was in the main press centre and there was an announcement that some athletes were about to plant a tree. My work must have been rather boring as I decided to go along. There was Vivian and her husband, Moses. We talked. I was immediately struck by how friendly they both were. She agreed to do an interview with me after she had run the 5000m and 10000m. She won both.
Stuart and Vivian in 2011
I spoke to her at the winners’ press conference and discovered that she was leaving first thing next morning so no time for an interview – and an easy get-out. Not Vivian. She had made a promise and would keep it. “I can’t do the interview tomorrow but I can do it now!”, she said.
I had the pleasure of seeing her win silver and bronze at London 2012. Then she took a career break to have her son, Allan, in 2013. By 2015 she was World Champion again, winning the 10000m in Beijing – the third World Championship in which I had seen her win a medal.
In the 2016 Olympics she took gold and silver. Another precious memory was meeting her in the Olympic Village the day after her gold medal. I greeted her with a “Good morning, Olympic Champion”. She gave me a big hug.
Rio was her last track race as she switched to road racing, targeting the London Marathon 2017 as her first marathon. She explained that she felt the time was right to take on the new challenge. She said: “I have been running for almost 18 years – track and cross country. Because of my age - I am 33 - I decided to do a marathon while I am still strong. I choose London for my first marathon because London is my second home. I love London because of the people. They are very supportive and are always cheering you on”.
I spoke to her before the race – a telephone interview when she arranged a time and answered the phone when I rang. Typical integrity! I was struck by how sensible her attitude was. She told me: “In London 2017 I want to run for the experience. I want to run without pressure because it is my first marathon. I don’t want to say that I will run a particular time because that is my first marathon and I want to run without pressure”. She came fourth.
With Prince Harry
And she proved the doubters wrong in London 2018.
Moment of victory 2018
“I believe Jesus is there and I love Jesus so much. Without him, nothing is possible. Since I started my career he is the one carrying me, protecting me”.