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Wesley Korir Impresses With 2:06:15 Second Place in Chicago

By Mike Knapp, LetsRun.com
October 9, 2011

CHICAGO -- Heading into Sunday's Bank of America Chicago Marathon, 28-year-old Kenyan Wesley Korir was firmly entrenched in the darkhorse category as a potential winner of the race.

While the University of Louisville product has a pair of marathon wins under his belt (Los Angeles, 2009-10) his personal best of 2 hours, eight minutes, 24 seconds was over five minutes slower than pre-race favorite Moses Mosop and the ninth-fastest amongst the elite athletes.

So it was a bit of a surprise to see Korir making a move to the front with about eight miles to go, and running a 4:36 mile to make it a three-man race between he and countrymen Moses Mosop and Bernard Kipyego. Korir held a brief lead but eventually fell off the pace and back into third place before rallying late to pass Kipyego and earn a second-place finish in 2:06:15.

"I'm excited and can't ask for anything better than I got today," Korir said.

As the pack began to dwindle past the midway point, Korir moved to the front and nudged pacesetter Tilahun Regassa to pick up the pace. The 5km split they ran next from 30 to 35km next was the fastest of the day and drove him to a short-lived 10-meter or so lead, but eventually Mosop and Kipyego reeled him in, with Mosop later adding a surge of his own to begin to put the race away.

While it was a questionable move for someone without the credentials of some of the other athletes he was competing against, Korir thought it was the right thing to do at the time. He acknowledged he didn't have the finishing speed of some of his contemporaries and felt like breaking up the pack with a big move would be his best bet and that if he couldn't win the race he could perhaps at least earn a podium finish.

An hour after the race he still didn't have any regrets about his tactical decisions.

"I knew that was going to happen but I had to break up the group," he said. "I don't have as good of a kick and I knew if I had any chance of finishing on the podium I had to do something.

"I talked to my coach (Ron Mann) and we felt at 18 or 19 miles I had to do something. I felt like that was the moment, I felt good and decided to go. I think I got it right, I knew Moses would come back but I (wanted a podium finish) and that's what I did."

Given his under-the-radar success at Chicago, Korir had reason to run with such confidence. In 2008 he started in the Open corral five minutes behind the elites and ran to a fourth-place finish, then followed up the next two years with finishes of sixth and fourth place, respectively.

Korir, who is a permanent resident of the United States and hopes to attain citizenship in a couple of years, also gave credit to Ryan Hall, who he said gave him encouragement throughout the first half of the race before Hall began to fade.

The two are good friends and Hall, through his Hall Steps foundation, donated his winnings to a hospital Korir is building in Kenya. Korir felt driven to build such a facility after his brother died after being bitten by a snake and could have been saved by more modern medical practices.

"I can't forget to thank him because he helped me a lot," Korir said. "We were running and he was talking to me and I think the result I got today was because of Ryan, he inspired me to perform well."

Mike Knapp is a free-lance writer based in Aurora, IL. Knapp has been a regular LetsRun.com visitor ever since he spotted the LetsRun.com jersey at the Chicago Marathon in 2001.

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