Q&A With Joshua Cheptegei On Training For His Marathon Debut

By Chris Chavez

November 14, 2023

5000m and 10,000m world record holder Joshua Cheptegei spoke with select members of the media via Zoom on Tuesday morning as he puts the final touches on his training ahead of his marathon debut in Valencia on December 3rd.

Cheptegei is the Olympic 5000m champion and was a silver medalist in the 10,000m at the Summer Games in Tokyo. He has won the 10,000m at the last three editions of the world championships in 2019, 2022 and 2023.

Cheptegei’s marathon debut is highly anticipated since he has a half marathon personal best of 59:21 from October 2020. Valencia has also drawn attention as the destination to run fast outside of the World Marathon Majors.

Here’s what he had to say to reporters:

Joshua CheptegeiJoshua Cheptegei

On the adjustment from the track to the roads:

“By next year, in 2024, it will mean I have been running 10 years running internationally and 10 years of high level. For me, to try and switch to the marathon is a new adventure where I am really excited and looking forward to see what the roads can offer to me as a new challenge.”

Training insights:

“After the World Athletics Championships in Budapest, I rested for like a week and did some easy runs. Then, I was able to fly to the United States for the finals of the Diamond League, where I was unable to run because of a few problems with spikes after the World Championships. I started my training running without spikes but I’ve been able to do a couple of long runs – a lot of long sessions on the track. It’s something new for me.”

“In a week, normally the mileage is between 140 and 160 kilometers (86.9 miles to 100 miles). The longest run I’ve ever run is 40 kilometers. ”

Joshua CheptegeiJoshua Cheptegei

Why he chose Valencia for his debut:

“Valencia is a city of running. When I thought of the marathon, I spoke with my management team at Global Sports Communication and my team at the NN Running Team. We had a discussion and it had to be Valencia because of the history of running. I’ve had some historic weeks. In 2019, I set the world record on the roads. Then, in the middle of COVID, I broke the historic 10,000m world record. When it came to choices about where I was supposed to run, Valencia was the best choice for us. It was also dependent on the time of the year. I needed a lot of time to prepare since it happens in December…I believe that you don’t want to debut in a place you’re not familiar with. For me, it was Valencia.”

On mentorship from 2012 Olympic champion Stephen Kiprotich:

“I wanted to shift from the track after the 2020 Olympic Games, which was in 2021. Stephen told me to stay longer on the track and then be able to focus on the marathon without going back to the track again. For me, Stephen has been one of the guiding pillars on the timing of when I should appear in the marathon. This year, he had to give me the green light and that ‘if there’s a year that you have to test yourself, you really have to test yourself in a race with challenges and then be able to bounce back on the track in like six or seven months.’ For me, it’s been a great opportunity and honor to have people like him in a support position.”

What would make it a successful debut?

“I’m not actually looking at running fast times because it’s still a new distance for me in training…I want to learn. The best for me would be seeing myself on the podium. I don’t know if it’s 2:03 or 2:04 what it would take for me to podium.”

Joshua CheptegeiJoshua Cheptegei

How Valencia could impact his decision on which events to contest at the Paris Olympics:

“For me, it looks like I’m almost done on the track but not yet done…It is my dream of course to go to Paris. I’m still in love with the 10,000m. The 10,000m is my best distance. I still want to go back to Paris and win the 10,000m. Maybe, just maybe, the outcome in Valencia will be if I decide to do the 10,000m and marathon. It could be something to venture. First and foremost, I have to be really sure that I can handle the distance.”

His reaction to Kelvin Kiptum’s debut in Valencia last year and his records after:

“Kelvin Kiptum ran the fastest debut but I want to approach it in a new dimension. All of us are built differently. For me, what is very important is to enjoy the race and see what will happen after 35K. It’s something new for me. We saw Sifan Hassan running the London Marathon this year in April and at one point, she stood and stopped for some seconds with stretching. It tells you that this is something new and there is no respect for persons…I want to approach this marathon with a lot of respect because it is something that is very new to me.”

On his impressions of the fast marathon times around the world:

“The world has changed. People are running fast. We have to enjoy the moments as long as people are achieving such great feats without violating the rules. If they are running clean, we appreciate it and are grateful that a human being can do that…I still always publicize and say that people are able to run clean and faster without damaging and taking drugs.”

On his shoe choice for Valencia:

“I’m actually more familiar and more used to running in the VaporFlys. For Valencia, I’ll run in the Vaporflys because I still need more time to learn in the AlphaFlys so that I can adapt and change how I run.”

Chris Chavez

Chris Chavez launched CITIUS MAG in 2016 as a passion project while working full-time for Sports Illustrated. He covered the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro and grew his humble blog into a multi-pronged media company. He completed all six World Marathon Majors and is an aspiring sub-five-minute miler.