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Rita Jeptoo Talks Training and Marathons at Nike Running Bucktown

Rita Jeptoo, eye-catchingly dressed in brightly-colored Nike running gear, with flashy pink fingernails that sparkle when she talks with her hands (which she does often), is surprisingly soft-spoken and reserved at first. Despite being the defending champion of both the Chicago and Boston marathons, she gazes around shyly as she offers a delicate handshake to each of us. She's instantly one of the most likeable people I've ever met.
Rita Jeptoo discussing her training at Nike Running Bucktown
Gathering around her with a small group of running bloggers (including Erica, Emily and Jen) in Nike Running Bucktown to ask her questions I can't help feeling like we were boxing her in, each of us slowly inching closer and closer to hear her almost-whispered responses over the din of runners preparing for a Monday night run. But as the circle slowly closes around her she actually seems to grow more comfortable, unleashing several lengthy stream-of-consciousness responses to questions about her training habits, her favorite marathons and how if you're going to be a (professional) runner you have to love to run.

After a brief Q&A with us she takes centerstage and speaks to a larger group of runners, many of whom are training for the Chicago Marathon and have come to Nike for a Monday night fun run. Luckily, she has a microphone this time and is ready to speak even more at length about the preparation and dedication required to train for (and finish) a marathon.
Rita Jeptoo speaks to runners at Nike Running Bucktown
Jeptoo has an incredibly affable personality and during the course of her discussion she laughs often and sometimes pauses mid-sentence to smile endearingly and gaze around the room. But for the most part she talks energetically and decisively about how to get better at running. And if anyone has the nerve to argue with the female course record holder of the Boston Marathon (2:18:57!) about training tips, they keep quiet, focusing intently on her suggestions, even if they know they're not likely to be able to follow Rita Jeptoo's regiment (depending on how far off she is from race day she runs either two or three times a day).

Here are some excerpts from her discussion last night. (Note: I am quoting her directly here and English is not her first language. This is not to point out that her grammar is not always perfect but to retain the specific way that she speaks, which I think is important.):

On determination and solidarity: "For athletes there are a lot of things you must do. You must to say, 'Okay I need to focus and do something this year'... You need to know there are a lot of people training like you. Don't think it's you only running that race."

On fast food: "In Europe and the U.S. there are a lot of things you are eating. You need to be careful when you eat. Don't visit always in the restaurant. Cook for yourself sometime... especially in the U.S. people go to McDonald's because it's easy to eat and go. It's good to walk yourself - walk like you are going to eat. Walk for food so that your body can be an athlete... Rice or fish or chicken - white meat. Forget about McDonald's."

On pasta: "It's good to eat pasta but only once a week."

On morning rituals: "Eat first thing when you wake up. Coffee is good. Take one coffee or one banana if you feel hungry. But before that take one glass of water.. [Too much] coffee is not good. Tea is good. Light tea. To relax. Put milk but not too much milk..."

On juice (and other types of drinks): "Only one cup of juice in the morning: fresh mango juice. Not from the store. The rest of the day, no Fanta and no juice."

With the Chicago Marathon about 10 weeks away, Jeptoo is now running twice a day. Before she came to Nike Running Bucktown last night she was on a 20K training run. But she is no stranger to long running days. In the most memorable part of her discussion last night, she talked about how when she was a kid, she ran a 40K every day: running a 10K in the morning, running a 10K to get to school, running a 10K at lunch, and then running a 10K to get home. "I was not thinking about running. I was just thinking about getting to school."

Talk about inspiring. As I said, she's one of the most likeable people I've ever met. And I definitely know who I'm going to be cheering for at the Chicago Marathon this year! (Well, aside from myself, of course).

Me and my new marathon coach


  1. Very cool that you got to meet her. Man, maybe if I up my miles to 40k a day, I could run a super-fast marathon? Well, more likely I'd get injured on the 2nd day of training and have to sit out for a few months!

  2. Awesome! I'm sorry I ended up missing this.

  3. Zach! It was so great getting to finally meet you in person on Monday night! I really loved this recap. Your descriptions of Rita's expressions, thoughts, and mannerisms are so vivid and spot-on. I was amazed at how down-to-earth and likable she was. She's so inspirational and I will also be rooting for her big time at the Chicago Marathon this fall (and for you, too!) =)


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