NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 11 – Paul Lonyangata and his wife Purity Rionoripo have now set their sights on securing a spot in the Kenyan team for the London IAAF World Championships and the Olympic Games in Tokyo in 2020 after the couple dominated the Paris Marathon last weekend.
Their beautiful love story, very aptly displayed in a city referred to as ‘the city of love’ saw them clinch the men’s and women’s title in the French capital with Rionoripo going a step further and lowering the women’s course record.
Lonyangata recorded his biggest career win in 2:06:10 while his better half Rionoripo made it a red letter day for the couple, setting a new record time of 2:20:50 to smash her personal best by almost four minutes.
“To be honest we did not plan that we were both going to win. We just trained hard and before the race, we told ourselves that we will do the best we can. At the end of the race, the best was that both of us became winners,” an excited Rionoripo told Capital Sport when the two arrived from France on Monday night.
Her husband was equally elated; “Some things you don’t explain. It is the plan of God. This is a great time for our young family,” he opined with a wide grin on his face, clearly still bathing in the glory of putting their family name up in the Parisian sky.
Looking back at the race, the two say the win was due to sheer hard work.
“We had trained so much for this race and coming in, it was never easy. I didn’t think I would have enough energy to win especially after going back to get water then losing time, but I pushed myself hard,” Lonyangata noted.
The duo now wants the beautiful love story to spill into London in August and Tokyo 2020.
“In the short term target, our hope is that we can get a selection to the team going to the world championships. We will bring the gold home,” Rionoripo noted.
“If we get a chance, we will go there and do our best again. But the biggest target for us as we train is to get to the Olympics in 2020. We want to go there and win the gold medal for Kenya both men and women. We know it is possible,” the 24-year old Lonyangata added.
Paris was the second time they were running in the same marathon. The first time they did so was in Chicago last year when they both coincidentally finished fourth.
“This year, we wanted to run in the same race again. We looked at the available options and talked to our managers and we ultimately settled on Paris. We thought it was really motivating for us to run in the same race,” Lonyangata noted.
-Met in Primary School-
The two met very early in Primary School but it was not until 2010 when both made it into Kenya’s team for the World Junior Championships in Montcon Canada where Lonyangata won bronze in the 10,000m that their love flourished.
“We were both running together in Primary School but we never thought we could take it out as a career. But that’s how we met. We were just friends. But in 2010, it developed to something else when we were at the World Junior Championships,” Lonyangata explained with a nostalgic smile.
The two have since moved on and are blessed with a three-year old girl Brillian Chepkorir.
“I wouldn’t really want her to be an athlete, but if she so wishes, then let her be,” jokingly, Lonyangata says of his daughter.
They both started out as track athletes but transited to road racing with Lonyangata being the first to move on in 2013 as his wife followed him a year later.
Lonyangata’s debut on the road was in the Berlin Half Marathon where he finished third before doubling up the distance at the Xiamen Marathon in China where he finished second.
In 2014, he ran his first major race, the Boston Marathon where he finished ninth, a race won by American Meb Keflezighi. In 2015, he won his first ever road race, blitzing to victory in the Lisbon Marathon before moving on to clinch the Shanghai Marathon.
He returned to Boston in 2016 again where he improved his previous ninth spot by finishing fourth. The same year, he raced in Chicago with his wife finishing fourth.
Rionoripo, 23, has not had as much of a long career like her husband. In 2015, she ran the Lisbon Marathon, finishing third. She then went on to the Czech Republic last year finishing second in the Prague Marathon before going to Chicago.
“The sky can only be the limit for us. Though we don’t train together, he trains in Eldoret and I train in Kaptagat), we always encourage each other. We share ideas, we analyze races together. I think it is a good match between us,” the soft spoken and rather shy Rionoripo explains.