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Training • April 15, 2023

Viola Cheptoo’s Hope For The Boston Marathon

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What You Need To Know

Who We're Talking To

Viola Cheptoo, Adidas Pro Marathoner

What She's Done

6th place at the 2022 Boston Marathon, runner-up in the 2021 New York City Marathon, but more importantly– an advocate for gender-based violence

What She's Racing In

Adidas Adizero Adios Pro 3 ($250)

Based For Boston

The lead-up to the iconic Boston Marathon is always a frenzy of excitement as elites from around the world take to the line. Although our crew has some serious experience racing Boston, we wouldn’t miss a chance to deliver you a peek into what the race-day experience is like from the perspective of a pro.

We had the chance to chat with Adidas’ Viola Cheptoo leading up to the big dance on Monday. Cheptoo has a strong middle distance background, having competed at the Olympic and World Championships levels for Kenya. She’s relatively new to the marathon scene, but came crashing through with a stunning debut at the TCS New York City Marathon in 2021, finishing second in 2:22:44.

Viola’s also no stranger to the electricity of Boston– she raced the course for the first time last year, recording an impressive 2:23:47 in only her second marathon ever to finish 6th. Read on for a look at what this shift in distance was like and for the inside scoop on what shoes she’ll be lacing up this Monday.

viola cheptoo, adidas athlete, standing with hands on hips

How a Marathoner is Born

BITR: You made the step up to the marathon distance a couple years ago- what’s been most difficult about this transition? Did you always see yourself making this shift?

Viola: It’s something that has always been on my radar. I was having success at mid-level distances, and the 2015 World Championships and the 2016 Rio Olympics were very proud moments I’ll cherish forever. But I’ve always had the desire to move to marathon distance and after my performance at the 2021 New York City Marathon [second place], I knew I had the ability to compete on the world stage. What has been challenging is the volume of long runs – I took a little while to acclimatize to the different training that the marathon distance brings, but it is now an element of my preparation that I really enjoy.  

BITR: After that incredible marathon debut of 2:22:44 in 2021 at the New York City Marathon, you followed up with another impressive performance at Boston in 2022 to finish 6th. What did you learn from racing Boston last year that you look to apply to this year’s race?

Viola: The Boston Marathon always attracts such a strong field of athletes, so it’s important to focus on my game plan, striking the balance of pushing myself to stay with the pack while staying in control and leaving enough for the later stages. My first Boston Marathon was such an incredible experience but left me wanting more as I came so close to the medals. The experience informed my training for this year, showing me what I needed to work on, and I’m feeling more prepared this time around. It was hard to prepare for the demands of the course on my first time racing it – the downhill and uphill sections really test your legs and sap your energy! Now that I know what’s coming, I’ll be able to focus much more on my running.

Race Nutrition, Mantras, and Gear

The hills of Boston are brutal, capped by the infamous Heartbreak Hill. Fuel is key to success on the course, so we had to see what Viola’s been doing to nail down her nutrition routine after making the step-up in distance.

BITR: How has the way you fuel yourself changed as you’ve moved up to the marathon?

Viola: I have always been diligent about how I set myself up for success, both in training and racing, but there’s certainly a shift in approach when it comes to the marathon distance. Things like sleep, hydration and nutrition become that much more important. Rest and recovery are just as important as my training, and I have really prioritized that since moving up to the marathon distance.

Fueling in the lead up to marathons and on race day takes a lot of practice, and it’s something myself and my coach have really been tweaking to find the perfect formula that works for me. Hydration and fueling also need to be adapted for different weather conditions – it’s a very careful balance.

Even with the perfect fuel-routine and proper preparation, race day still holds a serious number of unknowns. Your legs may begin to feel like jello earlier than expected, or doubts can start to creep into your mind if you fall a bit behind the lead pack. We asked Cheptoo how she deals with the elements of surprise that are characteristic of raceday.

BITR: Do you have any mantras or motivation tactics that you rely on during a race?

Viola: Adidas has supported me so much on my running journey, and I now truly believe in myself when I race. I always practice positive self-talk during races, as negative thoughts never help performance. As soon as I’m going through a tough patch, I reassure myself that it will pass and I am strong enough to overcome it. I think back to all the hard work I’ve done in training, which automatically gives me a boost during a race as I know I can do it. Having a strong sense of self-belief and confidence during a race is one of the most important things to come out on top. 

Spoken like a true pro. Arguably the most important and exciting part of prep (at least it’s what keeps us up at night) is figuring out what shoe to wear on race day.

BITR: Any insight you can give us into what Adidas shoes you’ve been training in leading up to Boston, and what will you wear on race day?

Viola: Adidas has provided me with a set of Adizero shoes specifically designed for different elements of my training. For example, I wear the Adizero SL for easy runs, the Adizero Boston 11 for tempo workouts and interval sessions, the Adizero Takumi Sen 9 for fast 5-10k tempo runs and fartlek sessions, the Adizero Adios 7 for road workouts and the Adizero Adios Pro 3 for race-pace sessions and long runs. On race day, I will be wearing the Adizero Adios Pro 3.

Shop Cheptoo’s Shoes

Believe in the Run Shoe Finder: adidas takumi sen 9
Shop Adidas Takumi Sen 9 Unisex
adidas adios pro 3 - shop unisex
Shop Adidas Adios Pro 3 Unisex

A Greater Purpose Than Running

Cheptoo is a dedicated advocate to fighting gender-based violence. After the tragic murder of her close friend and professional runner Agnes Tirop in 2021, Viola established Tirop’s Angels to elevate a mission that was close to her heart.

BITR: Your goal of bringing awareness to gender-based violence in honor of Agnes Tirop is incredibly admirable. What’s it like to have your sponsor, Adidas, in your corner?

Viola: Our goal with Tirop’s Angels is to get to the root of the problem and change the societal norms that let gender-based violence fester and to improve the structures in place to respond when women need help. My work with Tirop’s Angels is one of my biggest priorities, and having a partner like Adidas, who shares that same priority, helps amplify the impact we’re able to make.  

There is so much progress to be made to end the culture of gender-based violence across the world, but with Adidas’ support of myself and Tirop’s Angels’ mission, we have been able to put action behind our intentions and spread the word on such an important cause. 

To learn more about Tirop’s Angels and support their mission, hit the link below.

Learn More About Tirop's Angels

Running Boston

It’s hard to tap into the galvanic rush of serotonin provided by the Boston Marathon unless you’re there to experience it in person. I mean, the one blurry livestream and onslaught of Instagram posts can only do so much. So, we wrapped it up with one final question to see if Viola could put it into words for us.

BITR: Is there any way you can describe what makes the Boston race day environment so electric?

Viola: There’s something really special about the way the city and the people of Boston engage in the race and embrace the marathon. There’s an eagerness to watch that I believe is rooted in the tough competition Boston is known for and the history of the race. On race day, you feel like you are taking part in something bigger than yourself. The crowds bring such high energy from start to finish, and you feel like you want to put on a show for them. 

Boston graphic

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rachel bernardo
Rachel Bernardo
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Rachel is a graduate student at UCF and ran collegiately at Texas A&M University. She still enjoys catching miles in her spare time and is always on the hunt for the best coffee in the area. She can also be found scouring Spotify for the latest indie-pop hits, so never be shy about sending new artists her way.

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