Former Murray State Racer Wesley Korir won the Boston Marathon Monday with a time of 2 hours 12 minutes 40 seconds.
Korir, who moved to Murray from Kenya, attended Murray State in 2003-04 and competed on the men’s track team, winning the 2004 Ohio Valley Conference Outdoor Championships in the 5,000 and 10,000-meter and the 5,000-meter title at the OVC Indoor Championships. He was named the OVC Runner of the Week on two occasions.
Former Murray State men’s track and field Head Coach Norbert Elliot, now head coach at Campbell University, recruited Korir to the U.S.
“I couldn’t be more proud of Wesley,” Elliott said. “From the day he came to Murray State, he really humbled himself and didn’t really talk much about his background; he just did the best he could to make himself fit in and he really fit in well with everybody.”
Although Elliott recruited Korir, even he didn’t know how good Korir would be both on and off the track.
“Kenyans are normally very good runners, but what I was looking for was a student-athlete, and I really emphasized looking for a student-athlete, so (a friend and national coach in Kenya) found Wesley,” Elliott said. “I knew his times were good enough to award him a scholarship but not only did he surpass and go above and beyond what I thought he could do in track but he was a very, very good student at Murray as well.”
Elliott said Korir’s determination and work ethic set him apart from the rest of the pack.
“Kenyans and other people from developing nations, when given an opportunity to come to the U.S. really take it as an honor and a great privilege,” Elliot said, “so Wesley took advantage of it. Here is a kid that comes from really humble beginnings back home and really took advantage of the fact that he was able to have a place to run and proper equipment to run with and the most important thing was his focus to remain steadfast in his desire to get a degree.”
After Korir’s standout OVC season, the program was cut due to Title IX. Because he was on scholarship, Korir transferred to the University of Louisville where he ran for four years.
“It was a really sad situation at the time because we had a very small staff and so what the staff was focusing on was really putting together a group of athletes to win the OVC Championships on the men’s side,” Elliott said. “We really had some really good athletes that we were strategically redshirting and placing to win the OVC and I really thought we could, but due to statewide budget cuts, I guess the athletic department decided to instead of spreading the cut process throughout the entire athletic department and among all programs they take it from one program, thus killing the men’s program.”
Korir won the Los Angeles Marathon in 2009 and 2010 and finished second in the Chicago Marathon in 2011 with a personal best of 2 hours six minutes and 15 seconds but the win in Boston might have secured him a spot in the London Summer Olympics.
“To me, I think running the Boston Marathon is an Olympic event,” Korir told reporters Monday. “I don’t care what comes up after this, but I’m really, really happy to win Boston.”
Due to temperatures in the upper 80s, the times for the event were drastically slower than usual with participants finishing with the second slowest time since 1985.
Korir will receive $150,000 for winning the marathon. He and his wife, Canadian runner Tarah McKay, will use the prize money to build a hospital in Kenya in memory of his brother Nicholas who died from a black mamba snakebite that he may have survived had a hospital been closer.
The hospital will be a part of the couple’s nonprofit organization, the Kenyan Kids Foundation, which provides educational scholarships for Kenyan children unable to attain proper schooling otherwise as well as helping families become self-sustaining through farming.
Korir said he was confident as the race began to wind down to the finish.
“I was taking it one step at a time and trying not to do too much,’’ said the 29-year-old Korir after the race. “But I did think that it could come down to the wire, and I was confident that if it came down to the wire I could win.’’
Korir’s kind-hearted and generous spirit is always willing to give back, Elliott said.
“He is definitely a great ambassador not only for Murray – and I’m very pleased to see that Murray got some recognition – but for Louisville and the state of Kentucky,” Elliott said. “He is a good representation of the fact that you can be successful not only on the track but also in the classroom. Not only did he graduate, he graduated with honors. I’m proud to know that he did it the right way, and I think we should all be proud.”