A Breakdown Of Joshua Cheptegei’s Valencia Marathon Debut

The 5000m and 10,000m world record holder had a shocking lackluster debut marathon

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Valencia Marathon headliner Joshua Cheptegei was at the start of the historically fast course for his debut marathon. 

Cheptegei, the current world record holder in the 5000m and the 10,000m, was poised to leave a lasting impression in his first marathon. Cheptegei was predicted by many, including former world record holder Eliud Kipchoge, to be a real threat to the world and course records this weekend.

The track standout said prior to the race that he was approaching the marathon with humility and was going to use the race as a learning experience. Although he did not have any major goals coming into the race, the Olympic standard (2:08:10) was at the back of his mind.

A Breakdown Of Joshua Cheptegei's Valencia Marathon Debut 1
Photo Credit: Erik van Leeuwen

However, the reality of the event was vastly different from predictions, with Cheptegei leaving Valencia with a focus on the track for the Olympics as his only option, which was his initial plan regardless.

The Ugandan missed the Olympic standard by 49 seconds, finishing in 2:08:59.

In this article, we’ll take a look at where things may have gone wrong for Cheptegei at his debut marathon yesterday in Valencia.

For 24 kilometers, it looked as though Cheptegei could achieve something special in Valencia. Cheptegei was part of the lead group that came through the halfway mark in an incredible time of 60:36.

However, Cheptegei would be one of many who would pay the price and suffer in the latter half of the race.

A Breakdown Of Joshua Cheptegei's Valencia Marathon Debut 2
Photo Credit: Erik van Leeuwen

Firstly, it’s imperative to mention his buildup had not gone exactly to plan for the Valencia Marathon. Hampered with a foot injury, Cheptegei did not have his ideal buildup to the race and was forced to shorten his training block.

As a 5000m and 10,000m runner, a shortened training block would have impaired the volume he could accumulate during his marathon training. This volume is a key to success, as the marathon is a test of endurance and a significant jump from the shorter track races.

Several other reasons can be attributed to Cheptegei hitting the wall at km 24 of the race.

Going out with the pack in a blazing 60:36 first half is likely a major reason why Cheptegei suffered in the latter stages of the race.

A poor pacing strategy in the marathon, such as starting the race too fast or not maintaining a steady pace, can lead to premature fatigue. Cheptegei likely started out faster than he was capable of, exhausting his energy reserves and resulting in him struggling to maintain pace at the end of the race.

A Breakdown Of Joshua Cheptegei's Valencia Marathon Debut 3
Photo Credit: Erik van Leeuwen

Another possibility for Cheptegei’s underwhelming performance could be attributed to nutritional issues. 

It can take time for runners to figure out their nutritional needs for a marathon. In races like the 5000m and 10,000m, Cheptegei’s specialties, runners don’t need to take nutrition onboard during the event.

There is a high chance that Cheptegei had not yet figured out exactly what he needs to take in to perform best in the marathon since fueling during a race would be relatively new to him.

Combining inadequate nutrition with poor pacing strategies would explain Cheptegei’s suffering in the back half of the race, running a 68:23 second half.

Hitting the wall in a marathon is something many runners experience, even the elite runners. Cheptegei’s experience at the Valencia Marathon highlights the importance of adequate nutrition and carefully planned pacing strategies during a marathon.

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Jessy has been active her whole life, competing in cross-country, track running, and soccer throughout her undergrad. She pivoted to road cycling after completing her Bachelor of Kinesiology with Nutrition from Acadia University. Jessy is currently a professional road cyclist living and training in Spain.

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