Kenyan contest may be the perfect draw

Two leading marathon talents will put friendship aside as they battle for victory in London on Sunday

Nineteen years ago, the winners of the inaugural London Marathon - Dick Beardsley, of the United States, and Norway's IngeSimonsen - ran through the finish line holding hands.

The spirit of the event has changed a little since then; the difference between first and second place is now a matter of £15,000. But if there are two runners in Sunday's Flora London Marathon who might feel drawn to such a sporting gesture should circumstances permit, they are surely Joyce Chepchumba and Tegla Loroupe, respectively defending champion and holder of the world's fastest time by a woman.

Since they met 10 years ago as promising runners for a post-office team in their native Kenya, they have forged careers which have established them at the peak of their profession - as well as forging a friendship which seems set to endure when their running days are over.

The two women train together in Detmold, Germany, under the direction of their coach and manager, Volker Wagner, and share a house. It is an arrangement which appears to suit both perfectly as they target races around Europe.

"We do our speed work together, but on our long runs, sometimes I go ahead and sometimes Tegla wants to run faster," said Chepchumba, who spends half the year in Germany while her husband, Aron Kitur, looks after their eight-year-old son, Collins, back in Kenya.

"It is better for us because we are only training and resting, training and resting. When we go back to Kenya we have to go here and there visiting our parents and out-family."

It was the tiny Loroupe - just 5ft tall - who forged the German connection, joining Wagner's group of male Kenyan runners in 1993 after becoming angry with the scant regard she felt she had been given by her home federation. The move paid off almost immediately for her as she won the 1994 New York event in a national record at the age of 21.

That was enough to confirm her talent to her male African housemates, who assumed when she arrived in Germany that she was there to do washing and cooking. But Loroupe missed her old companion, and encouraged Wagner to add Chepchumba to the group.

The move worked equally well for Chepchumba, who beat Liz McColgan to this title by a mere second in 1997 and regained it last year in a time of 2hr 23min 22sec (then a world best in women-only races). She will seek to join the likes of Katrin Dorre and Ingrid Kristiansen on Sunday by winning three times in London.

But she knows better than anyone how hard it will be to beat Loroupe, who is making her first London appearance after twice beating Kristiansen's all-time women's record while racing with men at Rotterdam and then Berlin. London now makes a point of acknowledging women's records only when they come in women-only races - they paid Chepchumba a world-record bonus last year even though her time was more than two minutes slower than the one Loroupe ran in Berlin.

The two friends acknowledged yesterday that they sometimes deliberately avoid racing each other - "she wants to have a victory, and I want to have a victory," said Loroupe with a grin. Chepchumba was victorious in last November's Great North Run - but as she swiftly pointed out yesterday, Loroupe was tired from running the world half-marathon just three weeks before.

Now, though, they have been brought together and both believe they are in excellent shape, even though Chepchumba is reportedly being troubled by a sore throat.

How easy is it, how easy will it be, when one wins and the other loses? "I have won many races, and Joyce has never had a bad feeling," Loroupe volunteered. "She has won many races, and I have never had a bad feeling.

"Sport is part of life; it is not everything. We were at school together, and we got a job together. We have been together for a long time helping each other." The suggestion that they might try and recreate 1981 if they find themselves sprinting for the line on Sunday made both of them smile. "Pray to God that everything goes that well," said Loroupe with a wide grin. "Then we will see..."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
The Tesco Hudl2: An exceptional Android tablet that's powerful, well-built and outstanding value

Life and Style
food + drinkAuthor DBC Pierre presents his guide to the morning after
Two christmas trees ,Moonbeam (2L), Moonchester (2R) and Santa Claus outside the Etihad Stadium
footballAll the action from today's games
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Life and Style
food + drink
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas