Meet Brigid Kosgei, The Kenyan Homeless Girl Who Broke 16-Year Marathon Record

Meet Brigid Kosgei

Brigid Kosgei. Photograph: Kamil Krzaczyński/AFP

Unlike many leading Kenyan athletes who first make their mark as an U18 or U20 athlete, Brigid Kosgei’s career path was somewhat different.

Born in Sinon village at Kapsowar, Kosgei was one of eight children in her family. But in 2012 she was forced to leave school because her family couldn’t afford the fees, meaning she missed out on sitting her final exams. Keen to do something with her days, Kosgei and her partner Mathew 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 Mathew, now her husband, Kosgei slowly got back into training with a view to entering road races.

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 Mathew would stay at home to look after the children while Kosgei stayed at the camp from Monday to Saturday each week.

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 given the downhill nature of the course.

Kosgei successfully defended her Chicago Marathon title in 2:14:04, but it appears as though she is still just getting started.

The Business Daily also ranked Brigid among the Top 40 Women 2019. She was said to be ‘set to be the next big thing in athletics, going by her performance in the track in recent months’. “She has shown that nothing is impossible so long as one trains one’s sights on the goal.”

Marathon barriers

First accepted world bests
Men – 2:55:18 Johnny Hayes (USA) London, 1908
Women – 3:40:22 Violet Piercy (GBR) London, 1926

First sub-2:30
Men – 2:29:01.8 Albert Michelsen (USA) Port Chester, 1925
Women – 2:27:32.6 Grete Waitz (NOR) New York City, 1979

First sub-2:20
Men – 2:18:40.4 Jim Peters (GBR) Chiswick, 1953
Women – 2:19:46 Naoko Takahashi (JPN) Berlin, 2001

First sub-2:10
2:09:36.4 Derek Clayton (AUS) Fukuoka, 1967

First sub-2:05
2:04:55 Paul Tergat (KEN) Berlin, 2003

Current world records

Men – 2:01:39 Eliud Kipchoge (KEN) Berlin, 2018
Women – 2:14:04 Brigid Kosgei (KEN) Chicago, 2019 (pending ratification)

Fastest 42.195km run
1:59:40.2 Eliud Kipchoge (KEN) Vienna, 2019 (cannot be ratified)