Hellen Obiri wins the 5000m at the IAAF World Championships London 2017 (© Getty Images)
The Kenyan endurance star enjoyed an outstanding 2017 season highlighted by her world title victory in the 5000m. Here the 28-year-old athlete discusses her running career and what the sport has given her.
“In Kenya running is a passion. The whole nation runs. It is part of our culture!
“My first running experiences came at school. I enjoyed running the 200 metres, 400 metres and 800 metres, even though back then I was not winning. I started to race more competitively after joining the Kenyan Defence Force (where Obiri serves as a soldier). I recall in 2010 running in bigger races such as the Kenyan Defence Force Championships. It was there I was identified by Noah Ngeny (the 2000 Olympic 1500m champion) and invited to train at the PACE Sports Management camp in Kaptagat. The following year I made a big breakthrough by winning the Kenyan 1500m title and competing at the IAAF World Championships in Daegu.
“In my youth, I used to watch out for all the top Kenyan athletes on TV, Of course, running is held in very high regard in Kenya, so I admire all those who represented their country. If I had to pick one athlete, it would be Vivian Cheryuiyot because she was so small but strong at the same time. I am now pleased to call her a good friend.
“Athletics has given me so much. It has allowed me to travel the world, meet new people and also earn a good living allowing me to support my family back in Kenya. By travelling so extensively and visiting so many countries – an opportunity which would not have come my way without athletics – it has helped my education and my understanding of the world.
“Without athletics I don’t know what I’d be doing now. Maybe, I would be a KDF soldier.
“I love to run and I feel happiest when competing. I enjoy all elements to running but personally you can’t beat the buzz and thrill from racing at major championships.”
Steve Landells for the IAAF