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Wesley Korir — July, 2012
Wesley Korir won the 2012 Boston Marathon, overcoming extreme heat approaching 90 degrees, in 2:12:40. He came from nearly a minute behind with five miles to go on a day where both the men’s and women’s defending champions succumbed to the heat and did not finish. Wesley finished in second place at the 2011 Chicago Marathon in his personal best time of 2:06:15, one of his four Chicago Marathon ‘Top Six’ finishes. He won the Los Angeles Marathon in 2009 and 2010, the first back-to-back winner in eight years. The University of Louisville graduate with a degree in Biology set school records outdoors at 1,500 and 5,000 meters and indoors at 3,000 meters, 5,000 meters and the mile. One of eight children, Wesley never ran competitively until after high school. His personal best times include: 1,500 meters – 3:45.57; 3,000m – 8:06.69i; 5,000m – 13:40.47; 10,000m – 29:06.83 and half marathon – 1:01:19. Wesley and his wife, Tarah, founded the Kenyan Kids Foundation to improve education and healthcare and to provide farming assistance in his homeland. They have a young daughter, McKayLA, and divide their time between Louisville, Kentucky; St. Clements, Ontario; and Chepkanga, Kenya. Wesley was very gracious in spending over an hour on the telephone for this interview in June, 2012.
GCR:Now that a couple months have gone by since your Boston Marathon victory, has it sunk in that you are a major marathon victor and, on top of that, champion of the race with tradition dating back to 1897?
WKIt has been exciting as it was a thrilling moment that is starting to sink in. But though I enjoyed that time I am focusing on my next race, the Chicago Marathon, which is coming up in October. So I am putting it behind me and am moving on to my next marathon.
GCR:Speaking of the Chicago Marathon, it must hold an extraordinary place in your heart since it was your first marathon and you have placed in the top six all four times you have raced there including your personal best of 2:06:15 in 2011. Are you looking forward to returning to Chicago this fall as Boston Marathon Champion and aiming for the Chicago Marathon victory?
WKI’m excited to be going back to Chicago. I feel like I know the course well and run strong there. I’ve done well every time I’ve run in Chicago and I’m excited to go and give it my best and to see what my best shot will be. I am going in with a lot of confidence and my training so far is coming along really, really well. I’m excited to see what God has ahead for me in Chicago this year.
GCR:At the 2011 Chicago Marathon you had the ninth fastest time of entrants, but surprised many by pushing the pace after 18 miles. Is this you just having faith in what you can do and belief that your only limits are those you place on yourself, so why set limits?
WKThat is one thing that I always say and feel – I believe God is in everything I do and God had taken me this far. I push myself and I leave God to do the rest. He is the one that tells me my time and finish – I think he already knows, so I just take one step at a time and he leads me to the finish line.
GCR:Let’s look a bit more at your recent Boston Marathon performance. After coming close to a major marathon win with a second place at the 2011 Chicago Marathon, what was your feeling when you ran down Boylston Street toward the finish line and as you broke the Boston Marathon finish line tape as champion?
WKWhen I had moved into second place I was thinking, ‘This is amazing – I’m in second place in the Boston Marathon.’ I was getting excited at that time and then when I passed the leader it was unbelievable to be in front in the Boston Marathon. I didn’t imagine that I could actually be winning the Boston Marathon. I was in awe. I couldn’t believe it. I decided to just enjoy being in the lead and thought that even if I got passed at least I had been leading the Boston Marathon a little bit. When I crossed the finish line I couldn’t believe it!
GCR:From 20 miles onward you slowly passed runners one-by-one and moved up until you assumed the lead with little more than a mile to go. When did you start thinking seriously about winning the race and did Levy Matebo offer any resistance when you passed him?
WKThe first time I passed him he kind of went with me for a bit. Then I got a cramp and I slowed down. I was really paying attention to cramps because it was so hot. I made sure that I stayed hydrated and after I got a drink the cramp went away. Then I started pushing again and when I passed him the second time he didn’t offer much resistance. I knew that I was getting close to the finish line and when I pushed more he was done.
GCR:Did your collegiate education in Biology perhaps help you pay extra attention to hydration?
WKI think so. That is an important factor that differentiates me from the group of the top runners. Everybody trains really hard and is their best shape. Winning the Boston Marathon isn’t due to physical ability but is because of mental toughness. You must be mentally strong and run smart. The combination of those two led to the win, not my physical ability.
GCR:How tempting was it to go with the leaders when they took off at the start of the Newton hills in the 18th mile? Did your knowledge base also help you to realize that surges spike your body temperature and should be avoided in a hot weather marathon?
WKI thought about it when some of the other runners took off. I had to make a decision quickly to go with them or to stay on my pace. When they made their move I knew they were going too fast and it is risky to do that in the heat. I decided to just run an even pace. When it is hot and you make a move you raise your temperature so high that it is dangerous. I was hoping those runners would be safe and I just had to stay with my decision not to go with them at that pace.
GCR:Before the race were you thinking about just racing smart in the heat or did you go over scenarios in your mind where you visualized yourself contending for the win?
WKI didn’t think about winning at all. The most important thing in my mind was to finish the race safely as I knew it could be very dangerous with the hot temperatures. All during the race until I reached the finish line I wasn’t thinking about winning. Even when I was passing runners late in the race winning a medal wasn’t on my mind. I was thinking that I needed to run smart, finish the race and finish safely. This was more important to me than winning. I wanted to come home, to be safe and not harm myself for future racing.
GCR:A popular saying is that ‘behind every strong man is a strong woman.’ How does your wife’s support contribute to your racing success and how joyous was it sharing your victory with her and your young daughter?
WKShe contributes a lot, much more than anyone else. She is the one I spend every day with when I am training. She gives me motivation. She wakes me up some mornings when I don’t want to wake up. When I was running the Boston Marathon every water bottle I had waiting for my at the stops had my wife’s name and my child’s name on them. Every time I took water I was thinking about them. So I was thinking, ‘I have a wife and I have a daughter that want to see me finish the marathon and to finish safely.’ In my mind they were more important than even winning. They are an important part of my life as every day they give me a reason to do everything that I do – to go out and run, to go out and compete. She is an amazing companion that God has given me and it is fun to share life together. We are training together as she is trying to make the Olympic team and I am trying to help her. It is an amazing journey to be together and to share these experiences.
GCR:Is it fun to train with Tarah and support her racing efforts as it changes the focus from your racing to her?
WKIt is the best thing. It brings us together as when we run together we feel a great connection. She helps me, I help her and it isn’t about me or about her, it is about us because we both love it. We know we aren’t running for money – we are doing it because we love to and it is a calling from God. We enjoy it and it is fun.
GCR:You are known to be a man of strong religious faith. Did you say more than a few prayers before, during and after the 2012 Boston Marathon, especially when running in such hot weather?
WKI say a lot of prayers when I am running in marathons. It was amazing to win in Boston and when I crossed the finish line I thought, ‘Wow – God is amazing that he got me this far.’ I was smiling at God and thinking, ‘What is going on?’ My wife tells me that there is something supernatural about my running. And I think she is right – it is more than what I can do. It is more about God. There is a supernatural power that pushes me towards what I do. I don’t do anything different than anybody else. Others do more in training than I do. But I just enjoy what God has given to me as it is amazing. God has plans for me, he shows me and I give glory for what he wants me to do.
GCR:We mentioned briefly your second place at the 2011 Chicago Marathon. Did placing so high and with a big personal best time of 2:06:15 give you the confidence that you could race with anyone?
WKIt gave me a lot of confidence going into the Boston Marathon as I gave the winner in Chicago a run for his money. It did make me feel that I could run with anybody. As I train now and look forward to the 2012 Chicago Marathon nobody scares me. My confidence is so high that I am ready to tackle anything which is an amazing feeling. There is a verse in the Bible that I read many times before I went to Boston and it talks about laughing at your fear and rejoicing in your strength. So every time I felt scared of racing somebody I laughed at that fear because I knew what my strengths were. I know my strength is depending on God, that God is with me and I can do anything through God. It is an amazing journey and experience which I encounter every day of my life.
GCR:You have struck up quite a friendship with U.S. marathon record holder Ryan Hall. How has he helped you with training insights, running together during races and in having a fellow runner and friend who is also running with a solid religious belief?
WKRyan has been very fundamental in helping me with my running and my thinking. A few years ago when I was in college I wasn’t running well and one of my teammates sent me a video about Ryan Hall. Before that I hadn’t coordinated my faith and my running. They were two different things. I had never really put them together to be one. I was a Christian, but running and religion were separate parts of my life. Then I saw a video of Ryan talking about depending on God and how God is there with him in his running. I thought this was amazing. That is when I started following Ryan and connected running and God. It transformed me and changed me. I met Ryan briefly at the Prefontaine Classic and then he let me stay at his home when I went to Mammoth Lakes for some altitude training. When I trained with Ryan in Flagstaff he taught me the importance of recovering. I was a guy who would hammer every day and run fast. He encouraged me to take easy days, I’ve done that and it has helped very much. In these connections with Ryan each time he taught me how to honor everything which I do. Then we ran together for much of the 2011 Chicago Marathon. In Chicago the night before the race he told me to just stay in my room, to soak in the presence of God and to let it pour out the next day in my race. In Boston I did the same thing. I just got in the presence of God and that helped me. The night before when I was just thinking about God it took away all nervousness and filled me with confidence because of what I learned from God. Every time I am with Ryan he teaches me so much. Even after the Boston Marathon when there were so many invitations and all kinds of craziness, I asked Ryan how to handle it. He said, ‘Be humble, be yourself and don’t let anything change you.’
GCR:It’s interesting that you mention Ryan encouraging you to use more recovery in your training. I have asked many Olympians, Olympic Medalists and Boston Marathon Champions if they would have done anything different in their training. The most mentioned item is that many say they didn’t focus enough on recovery, so it is great you have learned this while you are still competing.
WKIt has been amazing to start using more recovery. When I was training last year with Ryan in Flagstaff I began adding more recovery days. It has been part of my training. Ryan also tells me, ‘Taking a nap is like going to the office.’ It is part of our training. Those little things help so much.
GCR:You and your wife, Tarah, founded the Kenyan Kids Foundation to help with education, farming and health care in your native Kenya. How has your racing success and visibility in the running world in the last few years helped your foundation to contribute more rapidly to those in need?
WKIt has helped a lot. When I make more money most of it goes to the Kenyan Kids Foundation. The increased money helps and now that I won the Boston Marathon more other people have learned about the Foundation and have contributed. This is what gives me joy. Winning the Boston Marathon is good, but is a joy that lasts for a day or two or three and it is gone. Helping people who are suffering, helping people who need help, helping those who don’t have anything allows them to flourish like a growing flower. To see the way it changes their lives and the way they transform their lives gives me so much happiness. It is the best thing to help someone else to have a better life – that is the greatest joy. Winning marathons is good, but isn’t the ultimate thing in my life. Helping people change their lives is the best thing. When I give someone food or help with their education when they don’t have education or help with their health care when they have none - that makes me feel in my heart that I have accomplished something.
GCR:For those who don’t know could you relate the story of your brother getting bitten by a snake and the importance of establishing additional hospital facilities in Kenya?
WKMy brother was bitten by a snake and it was really hard to see that happen. I was still young and it hit me hard when I lost him. He was next to me. I keep thinking about it and he has never gone away from me as he is in my heart. I do feel as a Christian that God is the one that gives and God is the one that takes away. If God wants you to live you will live and if God wants you to die you will die. But the worst thing is that he died in my mom’s arms trying to get him to the hospital. My mom was struggling so much to get him there. That was the most painful part of it - trying to get him to the hospital he dies in my mom’s arms on the way there. If it was meant for him to die it would have been better for him to die in a bed being treated. Then we could have heard something like, ‘We tried our best but it was too late.’ The fact that we feel like nothing was done is what hurts so much. I don’t want that to happen to another mother. It is something that could have been prevented if there were facilities near our village. The pain that I felt makes me think that I will never have closure from my brother’s death until there is a hospital close by and people can get reliable health care. I say this because there is a big difference in health care in Kenya. You can go to a hospital and you just want to go back home because of the lack of facilities and caring. This is something I want to change. I want people to come to a hospital and to feel love and to see that they are being helped. Too often people feel like they are almost a distraction and that they are unwanted. I want people to get physical help and spiritual help. My goal is to have a great hospital so people can come and learn that there is an alternative and that we can show love rather than in so many cases where people have to pay bribes to get good health care. I want to show that people need health care and that it is a right.
GCR:Let’s go back to your childhood in Kenya. Did you get lots of exercise just from play and daily activities?
WKI ran to school all of the time but I also played a lot outside. That is the biggest difference from America as we had a little hut and didn’t spend much time inside. We didn’t have video games or a television. The only time we spent in our hut was when we were eating or sleeping. Sometimes we even ate outside. So we were outside all of the time and every game we played involved running. We played soccer, chased after animals, chased after cars and were just running around so that helped us a lot to be in good condition. People in Kenya are very active physically once they start walking.
GCR:When did you take up running as a sport and what was the process of your leaving Kenya to come to the U.S. for an education and for running?
WKI didn’t do much running or race fast when I was in Kenya. I did try to use running as a path to go to the United States. Olympic Champion Paul Ereng helped me to get a scholarship to come to America. In my village no one had ever received an athletic scholarship to come to America to run and get an education. So when I got out of my village Paul told me about coming to America and I said, ‘What? I can do that?’ So that was when I started running more as I was coming to America.
GCR:How hard was leaving your family and homeland to pursue educational and athletic opportunities in the United States?
WKI came from a poor family and very poor village where everybody drinks alcohol. People want to get out and I wanted to get out so I didn’t think much at first about leaving my family behind. But when I got to America I started missing my family. It was very hard. But I had an opportunity to get out and did.
GCR:You started your collegiate running for a year at Murray State, but they dropped their running program causing you to transfer to Louisville. How did the coaches at each school contribute to your development as a runner and transition to living in the U.S.?
WKThe Murray State coaches were very friendly and definitely were the best to get me used to the American life. The Head Coach, Norbert Elliott, and Cross Country Coach, Pablo Sanchez, were there helping me. They taught me a lot as I went through troubles. It started out hard on my trip as my luggage was lost and I had nothing to eat. Then my scholarship was pulled for some reasons that finally were straightened out. There were so many ups and downs. At Murray State it wasn’t as much about running as getting used to a new life. That is what God had prepared them for - to get me ready for what was meant for me. Murray State was a small school that wasn’t real competitive so running wasn’t a key thing. I raced well in the Conference. When I came to Louisville there was much more focus on running and that was when my serious running started. It was hard because I had to train hard, race fast people and have very competitive races. Running and school were both demanding. Coach Ron Mann at Louisville and the Murray State coaches played key roles in developing me into who I am today.
GCR:How much weekly mileage were you doing in your base building phases in college and what were some of the stamina and speed sessions that were instrumental in your improvement?
WKAt Murray State we didn’t pay attention to mileage. We would just do our workouts. But when I got to Louisville the coaches were focused about running so the mileage, track workouts and tempo runs were very structured. At Louisville we ran 70 to 80 miles a week. We also started with a program of structured intervals. All of this gave me an opportunity to develop. Our long runs were for two hours which we did quite often. I used to love those two hour runs. We would also do 12-mile steady state runs which I liked much more than speed work.
GCR:What were the factors that led to your coach and you deciding you should step up to the marathon in 2008 and did you ramp up your mileage and long runs for your first marathon?
WKThere were many tempo runs, steady state runs and long runs that helped me at Louisville and I think that is when Coach Mann knew I was going to be a good marathon runner. When I changed to the marathon my weekly mileage went up toward 90 to 100 miles per week. We focused a little more on the mileage and now the log runs were my important runs. There wasn’t a big change in the workouts, but just a switch in the focus from speed to the longer training sessions.
GCR:Were you as surprised as race organizers at the 2008 Chicago Marathon with your fourth place finish and 2:13:53 debut time?
WKEvery marathon I have run since I’ve started running marathons has been a surprise. It was a fast time in that first marathon and then each time we go in to a marathon we think we can do better. I think we have surprised ourselves every time.
GCR:You had run well in college at distances from 1,500 to 10,000 meters, but after that first Chicago Marathon did you now see yourself as a marathon runner?
WKI enjoyed running that marathon a lot. When I ran that 2:13 the time wasn’t so important, but it was key that I liked running that distance. On that day I realized that I could do a marathon, I liked it and that it was a different type of pain. It wasn’t the same pain as on the track where every time it was so intensely painful. The difference in the marathon was that it was a long progressive pain, but not a sharp pain all at once. When I finished I didn’t feel that much pain as I enjoyed it and it was fun. So I decided that was what I wanted to do and I never looked back.
GCR:What did you do in training and how much did experience contribute to your five minute plus drop in time when five months later you won the Los Angeles Marathon in 2:08:24?
WKWhenever I think about it I can’t put a finger on what I did differently. I just went back home and did what I do on my runs. I don’t have a program or schedule that says what I must do. I just wake up and go for a long run or go for a tempo run. I just kept doing the same thing – but faster. I do many of the same things as in college but the long runs are faster and faster and the tempo runs are faster and faster. For those first two marathons and all of my marathon races since then, I would go for 20-mile runs in training and try to reduce the entire time. I don’t believe I need to run one mile faster while another may be slower – the cumulative time is important. So every time when I do a 20-mile long run I might decide to go one or two or three or even five minutes faster to prepare me for my next marathon.
GCR:Since you were new to marathon running, were you paying attention to your split times in those first two marathons or were you more concerned with relative effort and running comfortably fast?
WKI would run for effort. My coach always told me to see how fast I could make it comfortable. In a marathon if you can take off only one second a mile you can run a big PR.
GCR:Was the defense of your Los Angeles Marathon title extra special in 2010 since you were on your honeymoon?
WKIt was very special for that reason and that my parents were here in America and had never seen me race. In the past they would ask how I raced and I told them but it was great as it was the first time they had really seen me run. It was just so special for me.
GCR:Multiple-time Chicago Marathon victor and 2008 Olympic Marathon Champion, the late Sammy Wanjiru, was an inspirational figure. What was his influence on your racing via his example and his advice?
WKDefinitely he was very influential to me, especially after he won the 2010 Chicago Marathon when he came to me and said, ‘You race like a champion and I promise you that you will be a champion one day.’ That just changed everything and every day when I ran I had it in my mind that he believed in me. I wanted to go out there and run well for him. I feel like he is looking down on me and that has been very motivational.
GCR:Let’s discuss your current training starting with your base building phase. Since you are racing two marathons per year, for how many weeks or months do you focus on building strong mileage and what is the highest you can sustain comfortably?
WKI don’t pay attention to miles. What I am running now I can’t tell you because I don’t keep records. It’s more based on effort. What is more important to me is the effort at which I run every time. I listen to my body. Sometimes I will run the entire week without taking a rest day; sometimes I’ll take one day or two days off. I might feel like I am so tired that I need to take some days off. So there is an up and down with how much I run. When it is two weeks before a marathon I still train like usual the whole week. In my current training two weeks ago I took no days off and ran 16 miles on one day and 20 miles on another day. Then last week I took two days off. Now this week I have already taken one day off. It goes up and down according to how my body feels and I’m trying to enjoy the training. I don’t do anything crazy.
GCR:How long are your long typical runs, do you do them often and do you ever run longer than the marathon distance?
WKThe longest training run I’ve ever done is 24 miles. I run 20 miles and 22 miles a lot.
GCR:There has been mention of your coach’s ‘Ron Mann Signature Workout.’ What is this and is it a predictor of your race readiness?
WKIt is a workout I do ten days before a race. I go to the track and do four 400s and then I run two miles fast on an 800 meter loop which is outside of the track. There is a one minute rest and then I repeat it again. I do this until I have done four sets of 400s and three two-miles. The fastest I have done this is the first set of 400s in 65s, the second set in 62s, the third set in 60s and the last set all under 60. The two-miles in between were in 9:03, 9:00 and 8:58. It is very tough. After that workout I know that I’m ready to race.
GCR:What are your racing goals as far as times and championships? Will you be focusing exclusively on the marathon or also on some shorter road or track distances?
WKI think I’m going to stick with the marathon as my focus is on the marathon. I don’t know what God has ahead for me. I know one thing is that running is not my destiny. It is just a stepping stone to what God has picked out for me. I don’t know if I’ll be running in five years. Maybe Chicago will be my last race. I just don’t know as there is something important for me to do in my life that isn’t running. I do enjoy running, but it is not my ultimate destiny. I won’t retire from running and go home and do nothing, but you probably won’t see me running at a high level in ten years and maybe not in five years. I feel that what God has prepared for me is coming closer and closer to happening. Running is there to get me to where God wants me.
GCR:With all of this being said, do you think that you will most likely be back to defend your title in Boston in 2013 as the defending champion?
WKI don’t know yet. It’s one of those things where I’ll just wait as right now the most important thing I’m thinking about is the upcoming Chicago Marathon. My goal is to get out there and do what I can do on that course. After that I’ll leave everything to God and see what happens.
GCR:What are the primary advantages you have as a professional runner compared to your college days that help you in the areas of your health and general fitness which allow you to train and race at a higher level?
WKThe main thing is being able to do what I love and to earn a living. Many people get up in the morning and go to work and don’t like it. I couldn’t see myself doing anything else right now that I love other than running. It is the best thing because I have so much time every day to spend with my wife and daughter. It is a blessing that God has given me the opportunity to do this; I am enjoying it and am very thankful. It is amazing to be able to do what I do.
GCR:Running isn’t only your sport, but it is also your job. What do you do when you go through low periods in training, how do you keep it fun and how do you maintain your passion?
WKIt is hard as training is not easy and running is not easy. That is one thing that stops some people as they start thinking they have to hammer and hammer and hammer every day. They think ‘I have to do this, I have to run 100 miles this week, I have to do my 20-mile run, and I have to do a workout today.’ This is not what I do. I wake up every day and I may do a long run but I go out and have fun. I don’t feel like I’m pressured to get in the mileage or the speed. I enjoy everything. I don’t set a goal every day, but sometimes I surprise myself and run very fast. On other days if it isn’t going well then I stop. It’s not like I have to finish everything or I have to accomplish a certain goal every time I run. I gauge myself and let my body just get into it slowly.
GCR:Who are some of your favorite competitors either from college or at the professional level for their toughness or ability to push you to another level?
WKI think every competitor who is out there each time I race pulls the best out of me. I feel that the world now has the best marathoners out there and in every race I meet different competitors who make me work hard. Marathon racing has become very competitive and all of the runners give me different challenges.
GCR:You have talked about becoming a citizen of the United States which has been such a land of opportunity for you. Would you please convey what it has meant to you to have the freedom to pursue your dreams and to succeed in the U.S. and what it would mean to become a citizen?
WKThe United States has given me a great opportunity. It is where I really started running, where I have competed, it is where my life was born and my opportunity was born. Being a citizen of the United States would mean a lot, though it isn’t my biggest focus. When God wants me to become a citizen it will happen. I’m not going to be disappointed if I don’t get to be a citizen by a certain date. I have my green card which gives me an opportunity to come to the U.S., to train in the U.S. and I enjoy it. If I become a citizen I would be happy to represent the U.S. But if I’m not, the U.S. has many great young runners and it is exciting to watch them coming up. If I become I citizen I will do my best to make them better than they are. That would be my goal.
GCR:You come from humble beginnings and have continued staying in contact with this part of life by helping at homeless shelters, being a maintenance man at a college residence hall and meeting with groups of disadvantaged children. Is this a driving force to help others which is increasing now that you are reaping financial rewards through running?
WKIt’s not about me. Every day when I wake up it isn’t about me. I think of how I can make other people’s lives better. There are a lot of Kenyans who are good kids and who are very fast runners. It makes me think of how I can get more of these kids here to the U.S. and change their lives. When a Kenyan comes here and wins a race it changes their life. So if I can help through my contacts with U.S. Race Directors I will help and I don’t feel like I need to take part of the money like an agent. It is about other people and changing their lives which makes me a better runner so I can help more. My thinking is, ‘If I win this race, how many kids can I send to school? If I win that race, the hospital is going to be finished. If I win another race, people will have food to eat.’ That motivates me to do what I do.
GCR:You have excelled in the classroom and in your athletic pursuits and now have a wife, young child and foundation. How important is it to you to have that balance in your life?
WKIt is very important as life isn’t just about running. When I am done with competitive running my life won’t come to an end. I have other things to do. All the other parts of life – being a good dad, being a good husband and helping others are important to me. Running is a step toward doing what God wants me to do in my life. It is fun balancing life and focusing on certain things - but not the same thing each day.
GCR:Running is your sport, but it is also a job that will only last for a limited number of years. Would you like to be involved in the sport once your competitive days have ended or do you see yourself primarily involved in using your foundation to help others?
WKI think I’m going to be a politician or I’m going to be preaching in a big church. You might be interviewing the next President of Kenya – you never know! Every time I go home to Kenya I think of the many things which need to be changed. Every day I pray to God because it hurts me to see a country that has so much potential, so much ability, so many resources and so many blessings, one that could be the best country in Africa, but its people are suffering because of poor leadership and selfish leaders. Because running is a difficult sport is why Kenyans are doing well. But the leaders are so corrupt, so selfish, and so mean - it is so bad - that they could kill it if they see our success and the help we are doing for the poor as a threat to them. I want to see the poor have what God intended for them, to live happy and to not have so many worries. Kenya got independence from the British many years ago, but Kenya is still colonized by corruption. The way the Kenyan people stood up for independence from the British is how we need a generation to fight against this corruption that has our country going down and down and down. The poor keep getting poorer and the rich keep getting richer. Whenever I go back to Kenya I feel deeply that I want to change this.
GCR:What advice do you have for younger runners to improve consistency, minimize injuries and reach their potential?
WKThe most important thing is too not stress themselves too much. The focus on mileage can hurt some runners. Some feel that they have to do 90 or 100 or 120 miles per week or that they have to do a certain number of hard workouts or they won’t be successful. They should go out, be consistent and listen to their bodies. Running should also be fun and there should be joy in their running. If a runner brings fun back into their running they will be more successful.
GCR:Are there any major lessons you have learned during your life from starting in rural Kenya, academic and athletic success in the United States, the discipline of running and adversity you have encountered that you would like to share with my readers?
WKMy summary of all things is to depend on God. He has a good plan for you. Give your life to God and let him take control of it. In every part of your life – running, school, finances – let God take control and you will be amazed at how God will take care of you.
 Inside Stuff
Hobbies/InterestsI like farming and farm machinery like tractors. When my wife and I are travelling and she sees a tractor she will always point it out as she knows I am interested
NicknamesIn Kenya I am called Boaz. That is my birth name and then upon my confirmation I was given the name Wesley. If you go to my village in Kenya and ask for Wesley, no one will know who he is. But if you ask for Boaz, everybody knows Boaz
Favorite moviesI don’t watch many movies, but I like ‘Facing the Giants.’ It’s about kids who are football players and they are nobodies. There is this team, the Giants, they play against. It is a Christian movie and the coach of the lesser team is praying with his team and telling them that they can play well. In the end they defeat the Giants
Favorite TV showsWhen I was in college the one where I watched the entire series was ‘Walker: Texas Ranger’
Favorite musicI listen to Christian music mainly. I also like Country music. The only CD I’ve ever bought in my life is by Katie Arnold
Favorite booksThe Bible, of course, as I read it all of the time. I don’t read many books, but liked ‘Jantsan’s Gift’
First carA Chevy Cavalier
Current carA Honda CRS – I won it at the Los Angeles Marathon
First JobA janitor at Murray State. I took trash out of the dorms and cleaned offices
Family, Children and SiblingsMy wife is Tarah and daughter is MckayLA. I have eight brothers and sisters and my mom and dad in Kenya. They are amazing people and I miss them. They played a key role in my life in helping me learn the right things to do. My older sister was there for me every day. Even now though I am married with a family she still makes sure that I am doing the right thing
PetsI don’t have pets, but when I was young I got a baby monkey. It was injured and I brought it home. After a couple of months my parents took it away
Favorite breakfastKenyan pancakes. They are made from just eggs and flour
Favorite mealMy mother-in-law makes a good stroganoff and my wife makes good lasagna – those are my two favorite meals
Favorite beveragesChocolate milk
First running memory I did something wrong when I was in grammar school and the teacher wanted to punish me. She couldn’t catch me so she sent the whole school and even with all of these kids, no one could do it. The whole school was chasing me, they tried to catch me and they could not. So my first memory was running away from trouble
Running heroesRyan Hall is my biggest hero. I look up to him a lot
Greatest running momentsWinning the Boston Marathon was a great moment. But, all of my marathons have been exciting for me and great moments
Worst running momentThe last L.A. Marathon I ran as it was rainy and windy and I passed out at the finish line. That was bad and the worst that I can recall
Childhood dreamsMy dream was to come to America. When I was young I would tell my mom that I was going to go to America one day and she thought I was out of my mind. She would say, ‘We don’t even have money to buy food. How are you going to go to America?’ It is nice that dream was accomplished
Embarrassing and funny memoryThere is a difference in Kenya and America dealing with weight. In Kenya if someone is big or fat they are considered healthy and rich because they have money to eat a lot. When I came to America I was at a birthday party at a friend’s house and there was a huge girl in their family. People were sitting down and eating and it was quiet. I said to this girl, ‘You are really fat. You are really healthy!’ I repeated it and everybody was quiet. One of my Kenyan friends was pinching me because I kept going on and going on. He took me aside and told me I should just shut up. When I asked what I was doing wrong, he explained to me that you never say that to women over here in America. (Laughing) That was really embarrassing and it took me a while before I could talk to her again
Favorite places to travelI don’t have a specific favorite place. It is not about the place – it is about the people. So when I travel I don’t look at the place, I look at the people. My favorite people are the Mennonites I have met in Canada. They are very friendly, very welcoming and very different
Final Comments from InterviewerIt was a real priviledge to spend over an hour on the telephone with a Godly young man who reached the top of the world of marathon racing earlier this year. This quiet family man shows us by his example that in honoring God in all he does, by being focused on others and by having balance in his life there is no mountain too high to climb or goal that is impossible to reach.