The Honorable Wesley Korir has spent six of the years since he won the Boston Marathon in 2012 serving his nation as an elected member of Kenya’s Parliament. Combining that with training as an elite marathoner made special demands. Korir used to keep a mattress behind a curtain in a corner of Kenya’s government building for an occasional recovery nap.
“Finding body-guards who could stay with me in training carrying their weapons was the hardest thing,” he remembers with a laugh. He kept running well enough to get eight more top-ten placings at Boston, Chicago, and New York City.
Now Korir, 36, is taking a break from politics, and focusing on a contribution related to his running career and his principles.
“I am a coach and mentor. I oversee the progression of runners from school, and then help them find places in colleges overseas, and so develop as runners while also getting a good education. The big need in Kenya is education. Many of our runners become lost when their racing is over, and some of the greatest Kenyans are now poor. It’s terrible that a runner as famous as Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot, who won Boston four times [2003–2008] is now without income or purpose,” Korir said.
He continues to be outspoken about the exploitation of Kenya’s running talent by outside agents and managers.
“Runners without education need guidance and support. They need teaching what is good and what is bad. Often they are given performance enhancing drugs without understanding that they are breaking the rules. Then when they get banned, no one cares for them. The managers do not become poor,” Korir said.
Asked about entering sports administration, Korir demurred.
“Athletics Kenya is very political. I need a break from that kind of work, and to focus on helping at a more personal level.”
With his Canadian wife Tarah McKay, Korir has established the Kenyan Kids’ Foundation, which supports children and healthcare providers near Korir’s home town of Kitale. They also built a hospital in memory of his brother, who died of a snake bite. Korir himself studied at Murray State University in Kentucky and at University of Louisville, graduating in biology.
He reflects on his life of double achievement.
“I am still ‘the Honorable.’ You keep that title for life. But I will take at least five years’ break from politics. The trouble in politics is that you cannot control things. You are only a small part. As a runner, you are in charge, of your own life and your races. When you work hard, you get results. It’s not like that in politics. And I love helping people get education, especially those who are also talented as runners,” Korir said.