In the 42 days of lockdown, Robert Kabushenga (RK) is taking off time to run a daily mentorship program called #40DayMentor hosted on his Twitter spaces. In this episode he hosts Joshua Cheptegei (JC) to talk on becoming a champion.
RK: How is wherever you are?
JC: Kapchorwa is getting colder and colder. We had some rain recently.
RK: The one thing that was very interesting is that the moment we mentioned that you were coming the tweet has been seen by more than 50,000 people. People shared their photos of you. You are such a national treasure.
JC: Thank you for hosting me. Thank you too for the program it shows that you care for the goodness of others. Thank you all for your support to us.
RK: All the time I have seen you win a race, I see you raise your hands and kneel down, what does it feel like to win a race?
JC: I experience immense joy and happiness. I realise that I have done it not only for myself or my family or Ugandans but for all the people who love sports and working hard. You forget about the long journey and pain you have had to get there.
RK: You have mentioned it now, the long journey and the pain. Can you describe for us what it takes for you to get to that moment of achievement?
JC: As an athlete I can say, athletics is one sport where you have to have a lot of discipline. You only run for about 5-10 years. Soon I will also be retiring. Self-discipline is key. I have to be disciplined in all things especially in my morning exercise. I wake up at 5: 30 am in the morning to prepare to train. I am disciplined in the way I eat. Even if you take me to café javas, I will only do vegetables.
RK: You even have a morning routine discipline?
JC: I have discipline in training and eating and social interaction. I don’t have a lot of that. For me or someone starting out in life, you have to be motivated. Motivated means you will have to be patient and persevere.
The other thing is self-confidence. I believe that I will win. No matter how I perform, I have the confidence in me that I will again.
Focus. I have to focus on my goals and work plan. I also have to accept criticism, there could be something like ridicule from the media, and you have to listen. They could be communicating something.
Leadership. In athletics, or for one, as I was venturing into the sport, I realised I have to make quick decisions in the middle of the race, if you don’t your opponents will deal with you.
Stress. You have to avoid it at all costs.
RK: How do you deal with stress?
JC: I always tell myself that I am the best in the world. No one can beat me. What didn’t kill me before, won’t kill me now. I don’t allow negativity to come near my mind. You know Robert, even if you are dealing with loss, I still believe losing is part of winning. My being in the race makes a difference. If I wasn’t there, maybe the winner wouldn’t have used as much effort. Quitting is not an option. You do make a difference. Even if I come number 5 or 6, I make a difference.
RK: How does one build self-confidence?
JC: Self-confidence comes with the determination to win. You have to tell yourself that you have to win regardless of any barrier. Come rain or shine, I must prevail under all circumstances. You have to teach your mind to be the best. You are not any different from them.
RK: How much of your training helps you to control your mind-set?
JC: There are some sessions that make you believe that you are going for the title. Once I have convinced myself, the easier part is the winning. If you have joy in the mind, you will win.
RK: Are you naturally optimistic?
JC: I will take you back in 2017 when I got the challenge in Kololo. Every person remembers how I struggled to win the race. Unfortunately it ended up as a nightmare. I had sleepless nights thinking about that incident. What happened in Kololo is something that can happen to anyone anywhere. I had to build my mind to be able to train again. A pregnant mother undergoes pain but the joy that comes after the birth is great joy. Whenever you go through a hard time, it is preparing you for the better days ahead.
RK: let me bring in Herman Kambugu, this man has run up Mt Kirimanjaro and back in a record of one day. Herman, can you talk to Joshua.
Herman Kambugu (HK): The principles are the same. The mind has to believe that it gets painful. I am very happy that you have reemphasised the point.
JC: One of my friend and fellow athlete Eluid Kipchoge says; “If you don’t rule your mind, it will rule you.” If you tell your mind that if you came this far you won’t lose, that is what happens.
RK: How do you tame your mind?
HK: People ask me whether I listen to music when I’m running and I tell them I don’t. I only speak to myself. I tell myself that can do it.
The other thing I do is train, very time you train, you build a threshold. It tells your mind that it is possible.
JC: I will add two aspects. Normally when I am with myself, I think positively. Have you ever wondered why often times we think negatively? It is because when you are alone, you think negatively. You have to tell yourself that you didn’t come this far to lose. You have to make a difference. I usually listen to gospel music that inspires the mind to go on.
RK: What would you tell someone who is 18 or 19 who is trying to do what you do?
JC: One of the very important aspects is to believe in yourself. Believe in your capability and trust God.
Comrade Otoa (CO): I always say that as long as you don’t change your mind, you will stay in the same place. In 2017 people laughed at you but you didn’t give up instead we have seen you go on to win more medals, what drives you?
JC: Thank you. In sports, they say every victory makes you hungrier for more. The end of a finish line is the beginning of a new one. We need to allow our minds that whenever
Echwalu: 1) How much do you attribute your coming from Kapchorwa to your winning?
2) I recently walked 30km but recovery was so painful, what is the kind of remedy do you use to recover?
JC: 1) Coming from Kapchorwa means a lot. We come from a high altitude area. We have less oxygen which helps us to produce more red blood cells in our bodies. We are the same people with the Kalenjin in Kenya.
2) On recovery, when I do a world record run, I follow it up with an easy run the following day. If you do a long walk of 30km, you have to walk about 7 km the following day to keep the body active. You also have to hydrate yourself.
Emmanuel: Who are the people who support you? After the 2017 incident, how were you able to bounce back?
JC: You have to remain with the people that are walking the same direction with you. For me it is my coaches, mangers and family.
On bouncing back, when you have a dream and a vision, sometimes as you go to the top, it is challenging, you fail to accept the failure, you are going to fail. I did not allow the fear of the unknown to derail me.
Lam Chele: I am an upcoming athlete, how did you deal with your injuries as you trained? How are you able to catch up with training with less facilities? How can you advise someone who would like to join the Kapchorwa camp?
JC: The 1st approach you have to take is that you have accept that injuries are a part of life. What you decide will guide you. It is better you see sports doctors when you get those injuries.
Lack of facilities is an excuse. When I was starting out I used to get my gear from Nakawa market until I made it to the national team. That’s when I signed a manager who then helped me get good facilities.
On joining our camp. You don’t need a lot. You just need to come.
John Musiime: My question is on burnout, how you deal with the boredom of doing the same thing over and over again especially since you have no social life.
JC: Like any other activity, you will always have tough times. Even in a family or anything that shines brighter like diamonds, there are tougher times but you stay. I always enjoy watching my videos on YouTube. They encourage me to be more resilient. Even when I lose, I watch myself to be encouraged
But we also have rest. I only have about 5 to 6 events in the year.
Bibi Rukwengye: About a year ago, I spent a day with Joshua at the camp, we are lucky to have him as Uganda. You told us you record down whatever you want to win, how do you discipline yourself to make sure you win?
JC: It is all about the discipline, in running or another thing you do. The rules and precautions have to be followed. They cannot be compromised. There are always precautions if you do certain things. I have mastered and believed that I cannot shift goalposts in the game.
I keep records to help me make reference of what is happening. I have been keeping a diary for the last 6 years. Be disciplined at your vision and dream. Do not allow anyone to distract you.
It was coming to 8 pm when he said this and he could not go any further. It was dinner time and he could not afford to break his own rules.