It’s baffling that, at just 22 years of age, Sandrafelis Chebet has fallen in love with road running.
Ideally, one would expect her to gain some track experience from the middle distance to the 10,000 metres before hitting the asphalt.
The dearth of Kenyan talent in the 5,000 and 10,000 metres, with just Hellen Obiri to bank on, means Kenyan coaches needed to have enticed the likes of Chebet to work on the track, hoping to stop the potentially dangerous streak by Dutchwoman Sifan Hassan that could threaten Kenya’s gold medal hopes at the Tokyo Olympics next year.
Nonetheless, the 2015 World Under-18 Championships silver medallist in the 2,000 metres steeplechase hopes that her enlisting to pace the women’s lead group at next month’s London Marathon will motivate her to bigger things.
Chebet has been tasked with pacing for the lead group of women in London who include world record holder and defending champion Brigid Kosgei, world champion Ruth Chepng’etich, 2018 champion Vivian Cheruiyot, Frankfurt Marathon champion Valary Aiyabei and debutant Edith Chelimo.
Nation Sport caught up with Chebet at Lemotit Athletics Camp in Londiani, Kericho County, where she said her featuring in a major marathon will help improve her performance.
“I’m lucky to have been selected as one of the ‘rabbits’ who will be pacing for the lead group in London,” she said.
“It’s a tough task, but I will do my best to make sure I deliver good results,” said Chebet who is under the Italy-based Rosa Associati management, the same stable as Kosgei and Chepng’etich.
Chebet admitted that when the coronavirus struck, everything came to a standstill and with the closure of training camps, she decided to continue her training following the guidelines from the ministry of health of social distancing.
“It was tough training in a group of three or less but I’m happy because I was not discouraged knowing that the virus will be contained and competitions will resume.
“I went on with my training and with the big assignment ahead, I will do what I can to deliver,” she said.
She praised her training partner Beatrice Chebet, who is also the World Cross Country Championships’ junior title holder, for her assistance in speed work session.
“Beatrice has been of great help to me because she has good techniques in finishing which is good for an athlete, and I have been always ready to listen from her,” added Chebet who has a half marathon personal best time of 68:14.
Still only 22, Chebet looks forward to graduating to the full marathon in future and believes that pacing the best athletes in the world in London gives her the much needed drive.
She looks at it as a learning experience.
“I have participated in various half marathon races and by next year, I will be shifting to the full marathon where I want to register my name as one of the best in the distance, but I have to start slowly before becoming a world beater,” she added.
She said her mentors are Kosgei and Cheruiyot who make her work hard as she seeks to venture into marathon races and build up from there.
“Vivian and Brigid are my mentors and I normally love seeing how they participate in various races and that’s why I want to build my career and be like them.
“It’s a tough journey but with good training, I know I will be a world beater in the near future,” said Chebet.
She thanked her coach Paul Kemei for the discipline he has imposed in the camp with good guidance, including sharing weekly programmes via mobile phone during the coronavirus period.
“Despite competitions being cancelled, my coach has been so supportive and that is why we will always be striving for the best due to his good guidance in training,” she said.
Her basic diet comprises mainly traditional vegetables, ugali and sour milk which she says gives her energy during training.
Born in January 20, 1998, at Lemotit Village in Londiani, Kericho County, Chebet went to Kalyet Primary School before joining Tulwo Girls High School in Nandi County where she did her ‘O’ level exams in 2014.
She started running in school but couldn’t progress until after school when she met Kemei who recruited her to the Rosa camp where she has been sharpening her skills to date.
Kemei believes Chebet will do a good job in London after good preparations.
“A pacemaker has to be in good shape and very good to deliver good results, and for Chebet to be selected, we believe the organisers saw her good progress in various races.
“I have prepared her well and we are almost through with the programme,” said Kemei.
With silver medals at the World Under-18 Championships (steeplechase, Cali, Colombia), Africa Under-20 Championships (5,000m, 3,000m, Tlemcen, Algeria) and a 3,000m bronze at the Africa Under-20 Championships (3,000m, Addis Ababa), Chebet hopes to graduate to become the golden girl of distance running.
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