November 3, 2013, was a good day for 29-year-old Priscah Jeptoo. Jeptoo, an Adventist marathon runner from Kenya, not only participated in her first New York City Marathon, but finished first, with a time of 2:25:07. She crossed the line 49 seconds ahead of the second-place women’s finisher, Buzunesh Deba. With the victory, Jeptoo earned the World Marathon Majors women’s title, and the $500,000 bonus that comes with it.
Jeptoo’s church pastor, Noah Kipkoeth Chumo, says that the church prayed for her. “We are very thankful for Priscah. She and her husband are very dedicated and committed to the church.” Chumo explains that Jeptoo’s husband has been called to be a deacon in the church next year, adding that “when she comes back from New York, we will have a special celebration.”
Jeptoo wasn’t always an Adventist. She first began contending in top competitions in 2008, and met Adventist runner Abel Kirui in training camp in Iten, Kenya. (Kirui is the 2012 Olympic Marathon gold medalist in; read his story at http://www.adventistworld.org/article/1414/resources/english/issue-2013-1003/so-he-runs.) Kirui invited Jeptoo to visit the church he attends. It wasn’t long before she became a regular visitor and met her future husband.
Jeptoo got baptized and married. Then her running career took off. She brought home silver at the Daegu World Championships in 2011, followed by silver at the London Olympics and first-place finish at the 2013 London Marathon.
Chumo says that the runners in the church have started an Adventist Athletic Association. When the athletes leave for a major meet, the church holds a special consecration service, during which Chumo reminds them that they run with God’s power. He says, “Priscah is a genuine and committed Christian who has an important role in the church.”
Chumo continues, “We encourage all our members to run for their goal in life, and make the eternal goal their priority. . . . It is very important to give them a role in the church, and to reinforce their desire to be ambassadors and to support evangelism.”
—By Kimberly Luste Maran, with reporting from Claude Richli