This woman's achievements are absolutely mind-blowing. To briefly illustrate, she has won the Boston Marathon three times (including the last two years); holds the Boston Marathon course record; and won the Chicago Marathon in 2013.
|A victorious Rita Jeptoo shortly after crossing the finish line at the 2013 Chicago Marathon|
Wow. Just wow.
Rita came to Chicago to undergo some local training in preparation for defending her Chicago Marathon title in 2014. Nike Bucktown hosted her as a special guest during their Monday night running club. A small group of running bloggers were also given the opportunity to do a Q&A session with her.
|From L to R: me, Zach, Jennifer, and Erica|
Nike Bucktown really rolled out the red carpet for us upon arrival. We each received a goody bag filled with amazing Nike gear, which Jennifer, Erica, and I are wearing in the picture. Thank you, Nike!
We hung out and chatted while waiting for the very special guest to arrive. All of a sudden, Rita walked in. I was so excited!
The event organizers brought her over to talk to us for a few minutes. As we did introductions, she smiled at each of us shyly and offered a very delicate handshake. I had visualized her to be energetic and outgoing, but she was incredibly soft-spoken. It felt like she was surprised and almost taken aback by how thrilled we all were to meet her.
|Chatting with Rita|
We went around the circle and took turns asking her questions. She was so soft-spoken that it was tough for us to hear her words. At first, Rita's responses were shorter, but as time went on she began speaking more and more freely and at length.
After our brief Q&A with her, the event organizers gathered the whole crowd of event-goers and brought Rita up front. They gave Rita a microphone for this portion of the event, which helped a lot.
Once Rita got rolling, you could clearly sense her passion for running and her intense focus. Here are some highlights from what she shared:
- She flew to Chicago from Bogota, Colombia. She had just run the Bogota International Half Marathon. With modest humor, she summed it up with: "...and I won. Again." The crowd gave her a round of applause amidst some appreciative laughter.
- When growing up, Rita lived 10 kilometers away from her school in Kenya. She would run to school in the mornings, run home and back for lunch, then run home after school. As such, she would run 40 kilometers every day. She never thought about the distance - she just wanted to go to school.
- Rita liked playing football (soccer) as a child. She got noticed for her running prowess while playing football. She ended up doing all of the running events at her school because nobody else did them. She joked about having to do the long jump.
- Her training regimen includes running two or three times a day. This might include a 5 AM "fast" run for 30 minutes; a run at 10 AM for 60-70 minutes, and a 4 PM run for another 40 minutes. When she does long runs, they typically last 130 minutes to 140 minutes.
- Rita mentioned the importance of training daily in order to build-up the muscles to be tired and then stronger. She said not to think about yesterday's training affecting today's training; instead, remember that you are always training. She knows that her colleagues and competitors are always training, too.
|Rita leading the very competitive pack at the Boston Marathon|
- From a nutritional standpoint, Rita emphasized the importance of doing your own cooking in order to control the amount of oil used. She mentioned not going to McDonald's, only eating pasta once per week, and drinking a glass of milk every evening. Her recommendations were to have coffee, a banana, and water before running; to drink fresh mango juice (not from the supermarket) and have a piece of fruit in the morning after running; and to eat rice and either chicken or fish for lunch. She also mentioned eating millet, as well as ugali (a Kenyan dish similar to polenta).
- Rita noted that food was so readily available in the U.S. at fast-food restaurants and the like. It was a different mentality in Kenya. She mentioned that it would be good to develop the mentality of needing to "walk for your food."
- The Boston Marathon and New York Marathon are her favorites, and she likes the hills.
- When asked about the Chicago Marathon, she indicated that she really likes the spectators and that many cheer her on by name. This makes her feel very at home in Chicago. (She also loves the shopping in Chicago; she said with an almost impish smile that she came to Chicago last fall with one bag and left with two.)
I thoroughly enjoyed listening to Rita speak. She is extremely down to earth, genuine, and likable. I was touched by the fact that while she was speaking, she paused a few times to smile and look around the room. It seemed that she was trying to absorb the crowd just as much as we were trying to absorb everything from her.
At the conclusion of Rita's session, we took some group photos. Rita even asked if the photographers could take a picture using her personal phone. That made me smile.
As the organizers were making some closing announcements, Rita stood with the crowd and listened just as intently as the rest of us.
As the crowd began dispersing, some asked to take individual photos with Rita. She looked genuinely happy to do so.
Here is my photo with Rita!
Afterwards, Rita wandered around the shop combing through the racks of merchandise, just like many others were doing.
I mentioned to some folks how cool it was that she was so normal, despite her superhuman athletic prowess. The event organizers told us a recent story about how they once witnessed her seeing her own picture on the cover of a magazine. Her reaction: surprise and excitement. They asked her if she wanted a copy. Her response: a shy yes, and could she have a few for her family, too?
I am so appreciative of the time that Rita Jeptoo spent with us at Nike Bucktown. Meeting her has given me a deeply renewed respect for championship runners. She has profoundly inspired me. I will definitely be rooting for her at the Chicago Marathon this fall. She has my lifelong support at any and all other events that she runs!
Thanks for sharing the stories about the magazine cover and running to school. What a great opportunity you had to meet her!ReplyDelete
Thanks, Tina! Rita seriously changed my entire perspective on elite marathoners. I feel like they are all superhuman - so it was wonderful to see how down to earth Rita is!Delete
I love how you captured the experience. What a gracious and wonderful champion. I am with you, I know who I will be cheering for on 10/12 and beyond!!!ReplyDelete
Thanks so much, Erica! I loved reading your recap, too, and your selfie with Rita is AWESOME. It was great seeing you on Monday night, as well as last Thursday during Esprit de She. See you at ZOOMA tomorrow, yay!!!Delete
I love her idea of walking for food. And can you imagine if kids in the US had to run as much as she did to get back and forth for school?! Wow!ReplyDelete
I love that idea, too! You actually reminded me of something that I didn't mention in the post. This was that Rita had joked at how she couldn't believe that she had to *drive* her son to/from school. It was the real-life equivalent of "when I was a child, I had to walk in the snow to get to school, uphill both ways!" =DDelete
I love the part where she says that she is always training and running on tired legs to make your legs stronger. For example, when I'm tired during my 10th run of the week, I try to imagine how absolutely tired I'll be during miles 20 to 26.2 of the marathon and still have to keep pace. This thought helps me to push through those training runs as I really want to get used to running on tired legs - just like those last few marathon miles. Anyway, you guys are some of the luckiest bloggers in Chicago!ReplyDelete
Pete, the woman is a force of nature. I so wish that you could have been there that night to meet her because I know you would have loved all of her words of advice. YES on the training and running on tired legs. I've heard it said many times that the harder you make it on yourself in training, the easier things will be come race day. While I believe that, I find it very difficult to push myself to the max in training on a consistent basis. For anyone to have that kind of motivation and drive is unparalleled! It is really easy to see why Rita is so successful, you know?Delete
Also, pushing yourself to the max constantly is a recipe for injury. She is a force of nature that she stays healthy, although it might help that she weighs a lot less than me (i.e. less stress on joints)!Delete
I thought about that! No way I could run three times a day, seven days a week. I've struggled just to consistently run more than times a WEEK without the injury bug raising its claws on my hips and knees. YES on Rita's physique helping her stay injury-free. She is actually a little taller than I am, but she probably weighs almost half of what I do!Delete
She sounds incredible. I, too, am surprised that she is so soft-spoken, but that makes me an even bigger fan now! Thank you for sharing her training, too. I am always fascinated by how the elites train!ReplyDelete
I think you and I must be alike in that we are especially endeared to the champions who have a lot of humility and who are REAL, yes? I am also fascinated by how the elites train! I struggle to get through my "Beginner Marathon Training" routine without taking unscheduled days off, you know? So I had pretty high expectations of what I envisioned her training to be. But hearing that she runs two three times EVERY day just blew my mind. The woman is a powerhouse!Delete
Seriously, what a cool experience. I'm SO bummed I have meetings on Monday evenings, because I absolutely would've loved to have attended this! Oh well. Great recap -- I felt like I was there!ReplyDelete
Bethany, what a bummer that your schedule didn't work out to attend! I think you would have been SO inspired by Rita, too. Hopefully there will be more opportunities in the future as the Chicago Marathon draws closer. Thank you for the kind words on my recap, I appreciate it very much!Delete
I loved reading this! I am so excited you got to go and meet her! It's so fun to hear what the elites are like and how they train. Isn't it interesting that their long run is so much shorter in time than ours cause they run so much faster? And the part about avoiding oil is interesting. Hmm.ReplyDelete
I am not surprised she is down to earth/shy. :) She seems so grounded. Except when she is flying on those runs.
LOL @ the two bags!
Thanks for sharing!
Happy birthday again from yesterday, Kim! I hope you took full advantage of your day off. =)Delete
Goodness, yes, I was doing the mental math in my head about how many miles Rita covers in a 2-hour long run versus me. She probably does 19-20 without breaking a sweat, whereas I am happy to get in 11, LOL.
Yes on the oil! She seemed very regimented with her diet. I can't imagine her ever going out and indulging on junk food, ever! I wonder if her husband and son also eat as carefully as she does?
Thank you very much for the kind words on my recap! =)
I think I audibly squealed when I saw Rita's picture on your instagram. That's so cool! This year happened to be the one and only time that I watched the Boston live stream, and seeing her final few miles was pretty effing amazing. I might have cried. She's hardcore. To hear how sweet she is only makes me admire her more!ReplyDelete
I'm digging the advice to run daily. I don't know that I'll be doing that, but I could definitely step up my game a little more, and now I really want to!
YAY!!! I've never watched the live stream of the Boston Marathon, either, but next year I think I am going to just to cheer Rita on! It is so emotional watching everyone cross the finish line, especially the winners. I tear up just seeing some of the photos of the winners after crossing!Delete
Yes to feeling renewed motivation after hearing about the elites' training! The spirit is WILLING!!! (Never mind the flesh, LOL)
Oh! And I wanted to add how it pulled at my heart strings to hear how much she ran as a child because she was going to school! Something like that is hard for us to imagine in the US.ReplyDelete
It pulled at my heart strings to hear about her running to school as a child, too! When that is the only way to get an education, it really puts things into perspective, doesn't it? No wonder Rita is so down to earth. =)Delete
Love reading this! I felt like I was there too because you were very detailed about it. Mine would have said something along the lines of "read Emily's review at Out and About". :-)ReplyDelete
Such a great opportunity not only to meet her but to also her her speak about her experiences.
Thanks so much, Zenaida! I took very detailed notes during Rita's talk and I even considered recording some of it on my phone (but decided not to). I definitely wanted to commemorate this experience as best as I could. =)Delete
It was great to see you at ZOOMA this past Saturday!!!