With former Olympic and World marathon champion Stephen Kiprotich returning to action in Sunday’s Fukuoka Marathon we bring you five things you didn’t know about the Ugandan NN Running Team star.
He is good pals with Joshua Cheptegei
An established superstar in his homeland, Stephen Kiprotich is also a long-time friend of the rising hotshot of Ugandan distance running, Joshua Cheptegei, the 2017 World 10,000m silver medallist.
“He grew up a few kilometres from me (in the Kapchorwa district) and I have known him since childhood. “I got to know him better after he started running at school,” says Stephen, 28, who is seven years the senior of Joshua.
“I speak with Joshua a lot,” continues Stephen of his friendship with his NN Running Team colleague. “He told me he wanted to run a marathon, but I said ‘no.’ I said, ‘you need to run on the track for some time first. Take time (in your development) and you will become a star.’ The good thing is when I tell him something he listens and takes my advice.”
Earlier this month Joshua further augmented his status as a future star by claiming a hat-trick of victories in the 15km Zevenheuvelenloop winning in a time of 41:16 – just three seconds outside Leonard Komen’s world record mark for the distance.
He has future ambitions to run a farm
Like so many East African athletes Stephen hails from a rural farming community and during his off-season he still likes to pitch in on the family farm.
“Sometimes when I don’t have serious training I stay and help out on the farm,” he explains. “I sometimes milk the cows but I have to be careful because sometimes the cows are hostile and I need to take care of my legs!”
Farming is also a regular topic for discussion among many of his training partners.
“We talk about the farming that we will do after me finish running,” he explains. “I plan to run a small farm with cattle in future.”
He trains in Kenya
Stephen may hail from Uganda but he trains across the border in Kenya out of the Kaptagat-based Global Sports Communication camp. Coached by former World and Olympic steeplechase silver medallist Patrick Sang, Stephen took the decision to base himself there in 2010 and it has not been a decision he has regretted.
“The reason I went there is it allowed me to concentrate on training,” he says. “Out of Kaptagat there is a lot of time for training. The altitude is good, the facilities are excellent, the food is good. There are so many advantages I can’t name them all compared with running in Uganda.”
Nonetheless, it is a huge sacrifice to spend so much time away from his wife, Patricia, and three children.
“I normally head home for three days every ten days to two weeks and the journey takes eight hours by car,” explains Stephen. “It is hard sometimes but in life you have to endure some tough situations.”
He has a background in football
Like so many Africans, Stephen has a passion for football and he used to play for his school team for many years. Used principally as a striker “I didn’t score many goals but I was good at supplying balls” he stopped playing competitively aged 16 following a bad tackle.
“I suffered a very painful injury to my ankle after a player accidentally stepped on me,” explains Stephen. “He told me he was sorry, which I was happy about, but as I was running at the time I did want to risk injury playing football again.”
Today Stephen follows the game as an armchair supporter of Arsenal. “I started supporting them because they were good, humble players,” he explains.
He’s an action movie fan
Besides watching football, Stephen also likes to spend his downtime relaxing and listening to gospel music and the 2012 Olympic and 2013 World Marathon gold medallist is also a big fan of action movies and Chinese Kung Fu movies.
We reckon Stephen’s personal journey to the pinnacle of the marathon world is a fascinating story, which would also make for a compelling movie.
However, which actor would the long-legged athlete suggest should play him in the role?
“I am interested in so many Hollywood movies and actors, I can’t decide!” he says.