Wesley Korir From Zero to Hero in Chicago
May 2, 2012
What a difference four years can make. The first time Wesley Korir ran the Chicago Marathon in 2008, he paid his entry fee like everyone else and started with the masses, fives minutes after the pros. In 2012, Wesley returns to Bank of America Chicago Marathon as the Boston Marathon champion and the first pro athlete announced for the field.
Chicago in 2008 was Wesley's marathon debut. Paying his entry fee and starting with the masses, he ran all by himself throughout the race and ended up finishing in 2:13:53. That was the fourth fastest time of the day. However, Wesley had started five minutes behind the pros so he actually was only the 10th across the finish line.
Nonetheless, Chicago race director Carey Pinkowski paid both Wesley and the fourth place finisher Martin Lauret, the fourth place finisher's prize of $15,000 (message board thread on this here). For a struggling college student, finishing his degree at the University of Louisville, the money went a long way. Wesley has run at Chicago every year since, 2:10:38 for 6th in 2009 , 2:08:44 for 4th in 2010, and his 2:06:15 pb for second last year, his biggest accomplishment before his surprising win in Boston.
On Wednesday's teleconference, Wesley said running all alone in Chicago was the perfect way to start his marathon career, "I think it was a blessing in disguise. It was the best way for me to start my career. I didn't have any worries." He added that there was "no pressure" unlike in the elite field and he learned a valuable skill, how to run his own pace.
That skill paid off for Wesley in big ways at Boston this year. Wesley, running in the extreme heat, dropped off the pace of the leaders and out of the top 5, before coming from behind to get the win.
One of the ways Wesley has learned the pace that "was comfortable" is by training by himself. Unlike a lot of the top Kenyan stars, Wesley predominantly trains by himself whether he is training in the US, Canada, or Kenya. He is a US resident hoping to get US citizenship in the next year and splits time between the US, Canada (where his wife Tarah McKay-Korir is a citizen) and Kenya. He always makes sure to return to his home base in Louisville, Kentucky 2-3 weeks before his marathon to get in some training under the tutelage of his coach Ron Mann.
Currently, Wesley is in St. Clements, Ontario visiting his wife and her family. Tarah, the recent winner of the downhill Toronto Yonge Street 10K in a personal best 32:05, is hoping to make the Canadian Olympic Team at 5000m, but has encountered some visa problems and can not currently travel to the US. As a result she had to skip Sunday's Stanford meet. Tarah was more of mid distance runner in college and we believe her pb at 5000m is technically only 16:47, but she is showing a lot of promise of late.
Wanjiru To Wesley: "I Promise You One of these Days You'll be a Champion"
First up for Wesley is some VIP treatment at this weekend's Kentucky Derby. The the focus will be on winning Chicago. Wesley told a story how the late Sammy Wanjiru after his final Chicago triumph on 10/10/2010, helped inspire Wesley to greater heights.. Wesley said immediately after the 2010 race where Wesley finished fourth after staying with the leaders for 20 miles, Wanjiru "gave me a hug and he told me, 'Wesley, you run like a champion. I promise you one of these days you'll be a champion.'"
Wesley continued, "After he passed away it hit me really hard. I wanted to do it. I trained so hard, I just wanted to do it for him... My goal was to be a champion. I ran like a champion (in 2011 where he blasted a 4:36 18th mile to break open the race before finishing second) but I didn't get to be a champion (finishing second)." Six months later Wesley was the Boston Marathon Champion.
Wesley's coach Louisville coach Ron Mann also coached the first Kenyan champion of the Boston Marathon, Ibrahim Hussein (3 time winner, first in 1988). In Kenya, Wesley knew UTEP coach and 1988 Olympic 800m champion Paul Ereng, who put Wesley in touch with then Murray State coach Norbert Elliot (now the coach at Campbell University). Because of Title IX cuts after Wesley's first year, Murray State dropped its men's track program. Wesley had to look for a place to transfer and at first Louisville wasn't on his radar. Wesley met Ron Mann and immediately liked him saying, "I liked him as a person and because of his (Christian) faith. I was looking for someone to mentor me." The rest is history. Title IX cuts leading to a Boston Marathon Champion.
More Wesley Highlights:
2012: Wesley Korir Boston Marathon Champion
2011: Wesley Korir Impresses With 2:06:15 Second Place in Chicago
2010: "Valiant" Wesley Korir Finishes 4th
2008: Wesley's 2:13:53 From Mass Star Captivates Message Boards