Kenya’s Brigid Kosgei smiles after winning the women’s 2019 Bank of America Chicago Marathon with the World Record on October 13, 2019, in Chicago, Illinois. [Photo by KAMIL KRZACZYNSKI / AFP]

Brigid Kosgei is not your ordinary runner.

Unlike many leading Kenyan athletes, who first made their mark as Under-18 or U20 stars in track running, her career path was somehow different.

Born in Sinon village at Kapsowar, Elgeyo-Marakwet County, Kosgei is one of eight children in her family.

In 2012, she was forced to drop from school because her family couldn’t afford the fees, thus failing to sit for her Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) examinations.

Keen to do something with her days, Kosgei and her boyfriend Mathew Mitei started to dedicate more time to training.

But two years later, Kosgei’s athletics ambitions had to be put on hold as she gave birth to twins, Faith and Brian. With support from Mitei, now her husband, Kosgei slowly got back into training with a view to entering road races.

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Erick Kimaiyo, a 2:07:43 performer and runner-up at the 1997 Berlin Marathon, invited Kosgei to join the Kapsait Athletics Training Camp in Elgeyo Marakwet in 2015.

Kosgei and her husband decided that he stays at home to look after the children while she stayed at the camp from Monday to Saturday each week. Kimaiyo also coaches word under-20 5000m champion Edward Zakayo.

Instead of testing the waters with a low-key 10km or half marathon, her first international race was the 2015 Porto Marathon in Portugal, which she won in 2:47:59.

The time wasn’t earth-shattering, by any means, but it provided Kosgei, then 21, with valuable experience and a taste for success.

During the road running season the following April, Kosgei achieved her second marathon victory, winning the Milan Marathon in a huge PB of 2:27:45.

Later that year, she reduced her best to 2:24:45 to finish second in Lisbon and ended 2016 with a victory at the Honolulu Marathon – a race her coach had won 20 years prior.

She took another big step up in 2017, finishing eighth at the Boston Marathon and second in Chicago in a PB of 2:20:22. She ended the year by retaining her Honolulu Marathon, smashing the course record with 2:22:15.

Kosgei’s progress continued through 2018 as she placed second at the London Marathon in 2:20:13 and then took almost two minutes off that PB with her 2:18:35 victory at the Chicago Marathon.

She has been undefeated in 2019, winning the Houston Half Marathon in a course record of 1:05:50, clocking a half marathon PB of 1:05:28 in Zallaq and winning the London Marathon in 2:18:20, another PB.

She won at the Great North Run last month in 1:04:28, the fastest half marathon performance in history, although not eligible for record purposes.

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