Sunday marks the 35th year for the running of the Bank of America Chicago Marathon. With 45,000 participants it seems everyone knows someone lacing up their shoes and running the streets of our city. I was a short distant runner — long ago — so this length is always daunting to me. The training and discipline alone are quite demanding. This year I have a former student, Gary Craig, taking part. Every day he tweets the count-down to the race. (In my mind, I think, “better him than me.“)
Just like any individualized sport there are individual stories, from the person losing weight or overcoming an illness to the person just crossing the finish line to say, “I did it.” This is usually the case for runners behind the elite runners, who have more lofty goals. But some of them have interesting stories, too. Last year’s runner up, Wesley Korir of Kenya, has had a terrific year after winning the Boston Marathon on a very warm April 16th. He has a pretty interesting story, too.
After earning a scholarships at Murray State and the University of Louisville, Korir remained in the U.S. and began competing in long distance races. Sunday he could be crowned where he first started running marathons in 2008. In that first Chicago Marathon, Korir wasn’t with the elite runners and started back in the pack. He wound up finishing in fourth place and elevated his status as a premier runner. This year his goal in Chicago is to finish below 2:06; however his ultimate goal has more depth and meaning than a race.
Korir wants to return to Kenya to aid the country and his family. “I want to go back home and lead my country to a better place,” he said. Running, he added, is a way for Kenyans to make money, in order to take care of their immediate and extended families. “We don’t run for fun,” said Wesley, adding that where he is from, “no one [runs] to lose weight.” Korir says running allows Kenyans to “run away from poverty.” To that end, Korir and his wife, Tarah, are involved with philanthropic efforts that have resulted in the Kenyan Kids Foundation, a charity to improve the education and health care situation in his homeland. Additionally, Korir is a very spiritual man and believes his faith plays a huge part in the outcome of his races. As was the case with his first marathon, running with the pack and digging deep within himself to finish as one of the best doesn’t seem so insurmountable.
Knowing Wesley’s story may get me to turn on the Bank of America Chicago Marathon this Sunday and see if he meets his time or possibly even crosses the finish line first. I will also look for a tweet from Gary to see how he did.