Home Arts & Entertainment Art Five Questions and a Sketch: Joshua Kipkoech

Five Questions and a Sketch: Joshua Kipkoech

Portrait of Joshua Kipkoech, a runner on Grand Rapids Community College's Cross Country team (Abby Haywood/The Collegiate)

Hello and welcome to Five Questions and a Sketch! Today we are featuring Joshua Kipkoech, a student athlete on GRCC’s cross country team. Kipkoech is 25 years old and is currently in his first year at GRCC. He moved to the U.S. in 2017 and is currently studying Automotive Technology, he hopes to become a professional athlete after leaving GRCC. His longest race so far has been the 10K road race. He’s been running since the age of 12, and loves to race in Adidas. When he’s not practicing he likes fixing up his red 2005 Nissan Sentra and hanging out with friends. Koech was born in Iten, Kenya, which is widely known as “the home of champions,” referring to its reputation for producing wildly successful runners.  

What inspired you to start running?

When I was 12 years old I used to like to follow professional athletes who ran by my house. I would run behind them then I would turn around and head home. My mother noticed that I liked running. One day me and my mum were doing outdoor cleaning and some athletes were running by our house, but that day we were busy cleaning and I couldn’t follow them or I was going to be in trouble. My mum looked at me and said “Ninajua unataka kukimbia na hao wakimbiaji” meaning “I know you want to run with those athletes.” She added, “Ukikuwa mkubwa kimbia uninunulia shamba kubwa na unijennge number mzuri” “When you grow up be a runner and buy me large land and build me a nice house.” 

Those words from her really inspired me to want to be among the greatest professional athletes and I still hope that I will be able to achieve that in the near future.

Which race are you the most proud of and why?

The 1500M track at Nyayo Stadium in Nairobi Kenya. I did not believe that I could do well in that event, but my coach took his time to give all the reasons that I can run well in track. After that we started working on it he gave me proper training, and after six months of training I attended my first invite. I didn’t do well I was still behind our goal which was a time of 3:45 or better. I had gotten 4:04:16 and was disappointed. The second meet was in three weeks. I got 3:58:6 but that didn’t get me to the national championship. But my coach took me to watch my teammates who qualified. I was going there just to get motivation. During the national championship my coach came to me and told me that he had asked one of the officials if they could let me run as a guest athlete and they accepted. That made me nervous because I was not ready. I went to watch. At that moment I didn’t have my racing gear so I had to borrow some from other athletes who were done with their races. I got on the field being nervous and had so many questions in my mind, I was with some of the champions in the race. After the gun shot I took the risk to lead the other competitors. I led the end race until the last 150M, that’s when three people passed me. I kept pushing until the end. I was 3rd and not only was I happy with the passion but my time shocked me, I got my personal best time of 3:43:13. I was proud of myself since we had done a lot in training and at the end I got better results than the goal I set. I was 20 years old. 

Do you have any pre-race rituals / superstitions? 

I really don’t know if I have any but I think if I don’t get nervous before and during the race that means I will not win or do good.

What is the most important lesson you’ve learned from cross country?

Patience and teamwork. I just ran my first college cross country race three weeks ago and I learned that if you become patient during the cross country race you will make good moves to the end and you might win the race. And with teamwork you will produce good results when you work together during the race. They will encourage you to keep going even after you start feeling the pain and your mind tells you are tired. Your teammates will give all the reasons to keep going.

What is the most interesting running experience you’ve ever had so far?

During the training and race there is a pain you feel when you get tired and that pain turns to the best feeling after. In the race or training everybody in the team feels the pain so it depends

on how you will tolerate it. During my first cross country race I felt the pain but at the end I enjoyed it because I won that race.

Have suggestions about who I should feature next? Drop me a tip at 5questionsandasketch@gmail.com. I’d love to hear from you!

Editor’s note: Responses were edited for clarity.

Editor’s note: This story was updated at 1:30 p.m. on Sept. 25 to correct the spelling of Joshua Kipkoech’s last name.


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