What the fastest runners can learn from Joshua Cheptegei
Joshua Cheptegei made history on Wednesday when he set the 10,000m world record with a 26:11.00 run in Valencia. Cheptegei is arguably the best runner alive, and while he is riding an incredible high right now, it wasn’t long ago that he faced an enormous low after a massive mid-race collapse in 2017. Refusing to let this derail his career, Cheptegei pushed forward, and that is why he made it to where he is today.
While you probably won’t ever come close to Cheptegei’s level, that doesn’t mean you can’t learn from his career. If you’re facing disappointments or tough times in running, channel your inner Cheptegei and trust that you’ll eventually climb out of this rut.
In front of a home crowd at the 2017 World Cross Country Championships in Kampala, Uganda, Cheptegei, then 20 years old, was on his way to the biggest win of his young career. Cheptegei had led for most of the race, and he had a 50-metre lead on Kenya’s Geoffrey Kamworor in second place. With less than a kilometre to go and the championship within reach, Cheptegei began to unravel, and he was eventually passed, not just by Kamworor, but by the next 28 runners as well. It was one of the biggest implosions in running history, and Cheptegei went from first place to 30th in the blink of an eye.
Many people would have let this result define them, but not Cheptegei. Later that same year, he ran to a silver medal in the 10,000m at the world championships. In 2018, he won gold in the 5,000m and 10,000m at the Commonwealth Games, and he ended the year with the 15K world record. The following year, he upped his game once more, first redeeming himself with a win at the World Cross Country Championships in Denmark, then winning 10,000m world championship gold in Doha. His finale for 2019 was another world-record performance, this time in the 10K (although his mark was bettered by Rhonex Kipruto in early 2020).
Finally, in 2020 — the season that almost didn’t happen because of COVID-19 — Cheptegei had the year of his life, breaking world records in the 5K on the road in February, the 5,000m in August and then the 10,000m on Wednesday.
Odds are that you won’t have a collapse like Cheptegei did in Kampala in 2017, but even if you do, he’s proof that you can recover from it. Everyone will have slumps in their careers, whether in training or racing or both. But if you believe in your training and trust in your abilities, you’ll eventually leave those troubles behind, replacing them with PBs, race wins and great results.
posted Monday October 12th
by Ben Snider-McGrath