iRun because I cannot say no to a second slice of chocolate cakeEmily Shandruk , Vancouver, BC

iRun to stay fit and release those running endorphinsLiliana Plava , Calgary, AB

iRun because I want to qualify for Boston and raise money for charities near and dear to my heartChristine Gracel , Calgary, AB

iRun because it makes me feel good, allows me to spend time with my friends and gives me a feeling of accomplishmentHelen Kolodziejzyk , Calgary, AB

iRun but not enoughMichael Shaw , New Westminister, BC

iRun because I never thought I would be able toGary Morris , Winnipeg, MB

iRun to challenge myself, physically and mentallyKathleen Keenan , Brampton, ON

iRun because people around me inspire mePina Bevilacqua , Caledon, ON

iRun therefore I amDuncan Walsh , Nottingham, UK

iRun because I liveGeorges Schneller , Laval, QC

iRun to be free and enjoy our beautiful countryCheryl Carter , Clearwater , BC

iRun for overall wellbeingTrish McCourt , Halifax, NS

iRun because it makes me a better person, a better wife, a better mother and a better friendNathalie Joncas-Caissie , St-Antoine, NB

iRun because it makes me feel powerfulCarlene Paquette , Carp, ON

iRun because pecan pie, french fries and beer are chasing meTeresa Sterling , Ottawa , ON

iRun because it’s in meMichael Foley , Stittsville, ON

iRun because it reminds me that I am capable of so much more than I have doneJames Sauve , Ottawa, ON

iRun for meKiza Francis , Ottawa,ON

iRun to prove to myself I canLesley McGougan , Brampton, ON

iRun because all the ladies are chasing my sexy runner’s bodyChris Baker , Etobicoke, ON

iRun because I can and I’m gratefulTerry SanCartier , Gatineau, QC

iRun because when I run I feel most aliveMeghan Lynch , Ottawa, ON

iRun to unleash my inner athleteAdelle Densham , Avonmore, ON

iRun because it cleans up my life, because I drink more water, sleep better and eat healthier foodsRobin McIntyre , Ottawa, ON

iRun because of the peace and strength it brings meMichelle Jordan , Ottawa, ON

iRun because I need it to soothe the soul, keep me in shape and for overall wellbeingBeth Neil , Lombardy, ON

iRun because it is my tonic and my salvation Georgia Ioannou , British Columbia

iRun for relaxation and to motivate my two sonsKeith Bradbury , Newfoundland

iRun because endorphins are freeCassandra Chouinard , Ontario

iRun because somebody once told me I couldn’t Heidi Abbey-Der , Saskatchewan

iRun because couch potatoes die young Cathy Andrew , Ontario

iRun because it’s cheaper than therapy Leah Boulter , Alberta

iRun because I like buying running clothes Pamela Blaikie , Ontario

iRun slowly!Jason Hoffman , Manitoba

iRun because it gives me freedom to relax my brainMarie-Claude Gregoire , Nova Scotia

iRun because I learn more about who I am with every kmSteph Mansell , Quebec

iRun because iEat Sherry Maligaspe , British Columbia

iRun and run, and run, and run, and nobody can stop me Andrei Lucaciu , Ontario

iRun because the wall is meant to be broken Jonathan Bird , Ontario

iRun because it has saved my life John Marshall , Alberta

iRun for the challenge to go faster and farther Steven Matejka , Alberta

iRun to my happy place and some days it’s very Doreen May , Alberta

iRun because food tastes better afterwards Patrick Houston , Alberta

iRun because I can’t dance Mario Javier , Ontario

iRun so I don’t say never ever again Linda Klaric , Manitoba

iRun because it makes me whole Denis Ladouceur , Quebec

iRun because it gets my husband out there Tricia LaLonde , Alberta

iRun away from the negative and towards the positive Teri Lepard , Alberta

iRun because running is like breathing to Stephanie McEvoy , Ontario

iRun because I love the solitude Janene Tailleur , British Columbia

iRun for the moment when both feet are off the ground Catherine Anderson , British Columbia

iRun to someday win the race Lindy Dunlop , Yukon

iRun to stay ahead of the weight gainMyra Abstreiter , Alberta

iRun because otherwise I’m grumpy Alexandre Charest , Quebec

iRun because I get foot rubs afterward Kate Howerton , British Columbia

iRun because iLoves my man Beverly Huang , Alberta

iRun because not everyone can Olivia Harvey , New Brunswick

iRun to get to know myself, my strength and my spirit Lisa Groulx , Ontario

iRun whenever I feel the need to escape Iona Hillis , Ontario

iRun because it’s like flying, only lower Glenn Johnson , Ontario

iRun because it makes me feel powerful Sarah Kallaghan , Alberta

iRun because I’ve lost 80 lbs and running has become fun Cheryl Kelly , Ontario

iRun because there is no finish line Claire Kilgour , Ontario

iRun so my daughters know that they can, too Shelley Kirkpatrick , New Brunswick

iRun because it reminds me of how strong I can be Monique Lavoie , Ontario

iRun because it’s a great way to see the world Sherry Mahoney , British Columbia

iRun because my heart tells me to William Martin , Manitoba

iRun to prove to them that iCan Catherine Smith , Manitoba

iRun because it’s fun when it’s done Sue Matte , Ontario

iRun because I am not as clumsy I thought I was Hanna Baer , Quebec

iRun see where my feet will take me todayMegan Dolinskas , New York

iRun for the cool t-shirts! Pina Bevilacqua , Ontario

iRun because I want to be a role model for our six kids Catherine Empey , British Columbia

iRun to inspire my kids to tryGlen Johnston , Nunavut

iRun so I can eat ice cream Sandy Bolan , Ontario

iRun because I want to live to be 100! Colette DeJean , Ontario

iRun for health, i Run for life Pat Cheung , British Columbia

iRun because it gives my day a boost of energy Sara Campbell , Nova Scotia

iRun because it’s better than almost everything else Nathan Carey , Ontario

iRun at 50 years old because at 43 I couldn’t Peter Cicalo , Ontario

iRun because it's better than almost everything else Nathan Carey , Ontario

iRun at 50 years old because at 43 I couldn't Peter Cicalo , Ontario

iRun because it is my tonic and my salvation Georgia Ioannou , British Columbia

iRun for relaxation and to motivate my two sons Keith Bradbury , Newfoundland

iRun because endorphins are free Cassandra Chouinard , Ontario

iRun because somebody once told me I couldn't Heidi Abbey-Der , Saskatchewan

iRun because couch potatoes die young Cathy Andrew , Ontario

iRun because it's cheaper than therapy Leah Boulter , Alberta

iRun because I like buying running clothes Pamela Blaikie , Ontario

iRun slowly! Jason Hoffman , Manitoba

iRun because it gives me freedom to relax my brain Marie-Claude Gregoire , Nova Scotia

iRun because I learn more about who I am with every km Steph Mansell , Quebec

iRun because iEat Sherry Maligaspe , British Columbia

iRun for my heart, so it runs for me! Cathy Brzoza , British Columbia

iRun to inspire my children! Wendy Bowen , Manitoba

iRun because it sure beats the bus Robin Robbins , Alberta

iRun for the challenge and to remember to fully live Pascale Synnott , Québec

iRun to kickstart my day Sharon Strueby , Saskatchewan

iRun for me! Judi Wearing , Saskatchewan

iRun because it's a great stress release Brooke McKenzie , Yukon

iRun because i love to Mirella Petriello , Ontario

iRun because it helps me see things more clearly Jennifer Pitts , Ontario

iRun to eat Maureen Tritscher , Alberta

iRun to correct years of sedentary living! Mike Scott , Ontario

iRun away from the abyss Charlene Thomas , Ontario

iRun all the livelong day Pierre Saint-Laurent , Québec

iRun to challenge my perceived limitations Cassandra Williams , Ontario

iRun to maintain a strong physical and mental state Tammy Rainville , Ontario

iRun so that I can live longer and stronger Derek MacPhail , Ontario

iRun to feel great Kathryn Rachar , Saskatchewan

iRun because I like to be healthy Melanie Oickle , New Brunswick

iRun to eat more, especially sweet potatoe fries Joanna Skomra , Ontario

iRun for the fresh air and adrenalin Charlyn McGregor , Saskatchewan

iRun for the individual pursuit Robert Pelletier , New Brunswick

iRun to satisfy the irresistible urge Tim Nixon , British Columbia

iRun because I love the sense of accomplishment Amber Moase , Nova Scotia

iRun to challenge my mind, body and soul Sonia Mendes , Ontario

iRun because walking is too slow Barry Knapp , Ontario

Motivation, Training

“If you’re not running for something, you’re just chasing the wind.”

On the run with Kenya’s newest, fastest member of Parliament as he works both on his split times and the economic disparity in his country.

By Richard Warnica

On March 4, 2013, election day in Cherangany Kenya, Welsey Korir, the reigning Boston Marathon champion, went for a run. He pulled on a pair of grey Nike sneakers. He loped down a red dirt road. He turned into a polling station, went inside and voted for himself. When he was done, he jogged back out and kept on running.

At pace, Korir, who is now 32 years old, looks almost mechanical. His limbs move with a repetitive chug. It’s compact and fluid, like a metronome, the only variation in every stride the ripple of his quads when his feet hit the ground. Ron Mann, his collegiate and professional coach, believes Korir was “born to be a marathoner.” He has the perfect body, the unflagging pace. But for Korir himself, running has never been the end goal, it’s just his way to get at bigger things.

In a four-year stretch beginning in 2008, Korir went from a successful ,but unheralded NCAA runner to one of the most famous marathoners in the world. He won the second marathon he ever ran, in L.A. in 2009. He won that race again in 2010. He finished second in Chicago in 2011 and then, in a remarkable come-from-behind performance in 2012, he won Boston, the biggest run of them all.

Months later, at the peak of his fame and in the prime of his athletic life, Korir quit training full time, moved back to Kenya and embarked on a madcap bid for a seat in federal Parliament. “Practically, it didn’t make a lot of sense,” says his wife, Tarah Korir, who was born and grew up in Ontario. But “practical” has never really been in Korir’s vocabulary.

On a recent evening at a sports bar in Toronto, Korir unfurled his remarkable life story. He was at The Contender for a showing of Transcend, a 2014 documentary about his triumph in Boston and subsequent political bid. With his wife and father-in-law by his side, he unspooled his narrative of unlikely success fueled at every stage by his feet.

Korir was raised poor in rural Kenya. He ran all the time as a young boy, but at that age he never dreamed of running professionally; it was mostly just a way of getting around. “My mother used to send me to market and she would time me,” he said. In high school, running became more of a fixation, but only because it offered him a way out, literally. Korir attended boarding school, his tuition paid by a local priest. Racing was one of the few ways he could get off campus on the weekends. Back then, he never trained, but he always won. “I used to beat everybody,” he said.

After graduation, Korir moved away from his village and, for the first time, started putting in serious miles on a track. He had no illusions of becoming an Olympian or a professional. But he thought he might be good enough to get a scholarship to the U.S. “If there was no opportunity of me coming to America, I don’t think I would have continued to run,” he said. “But when I looked at it, I had to get out of poverty, and for me to get out of poverty, I knew I had to get out of Kenya.”

With the help of Paul Ereng, a Kenyan gold medalist in the 1988 Olympics, Korir earned a scholarship to Murray State, a small school in Kentucky. A year in, Murray State eliminated its track program, so he transferred to Louisville, a Division I NCAA powerhouse.
In college, Korir was a good, but never great, 5,000 and 10,000 metre runner. He worked two jobs all through school, as a maintenance man, and a bat engraver at the Louisville Slugger plant. He only kept running, he said, to keep his scholarship.

At the bar in Toronto, I asked him if he actually enjoyed running. “I like it, but it’s not really that fun,” he replied. “I honestly have to force myself most of the time to get out.” If someone had offered to pay his tuition in college, he would have walked away from the track in an instant. When he graduated, with a degree in biology and a minor in accounting, Korir thought about medical school, but he eventually applied to do his MBA. He was set to start that degree in January 2009, when his college coach, Ron Mann, convinced him to give running one more shot.“We all knew his best days of running were going to be ahead of him, in marathon,” Mann says in Transcend. But Korir wasn’t convinced.

He registered for the 2008 Chicago marathon as an amateur. With no qualifying times, he started five minutes behind the professionals, with all the weekend warriors. Remarkably, he still caught all but five of the elites. He crossed the finish line in sixth place, but with the fourth fastest time, good enough to earn him a $15,000 payday.

At that point, Korir began to believe. Still working full time as a maintenance man, he started training in earnest as a marathoner in his spare time. He shocked the field in L.A. that spring to win a massive $185,000 payday. The next year, while on his honeymoon, he won L.A. again. That second win set him up for Boston in 2012.

It’s hard today to separate the Boston Marathon from the Boston Marathon bombing. The event will be forever clouded by that attack in 2013. And yet, there remains nothing like Boston in the running world. There’s no race bigger, no better profile or tougher annual field. None of that was on Korir’s mind in 2012, though. He tells the story today with a kind of practised cadence. He’s clearly done it many times before. He arrived in Boston out of shape and still recovering from a bout of typhoid fever. In his warm up, he felt a pain in one leg and seriously considered dropping out. “Coach was like ‘just run a half,’” he said. “It will look bad if we don’t start.”

Making matters worse, the course was unseasonably warm that day, a scorching 32 degrees at one point in the race. Despite the heat, Korir kept with the lead pack for about half the race. When a small group broke off, though, he let them go. “I was thinking about finishing safe,” he said. “That’s what I was thinking, just finish safe.” And then a remarkable thing began to happen. He started passing other runners. He didn’t speed up. He didn’t skip his water breaks. But when the rest of the field began to flag, he just kept going. “I realized, you know what, these people are dropping like chickens,” he said. “And I was passing them one by one.” He only moved into first place in the last 800 metres of the race. You can see the moment in Transcend. “It was the finish line of the Boston Marathon,” he says in the movie. “But it was the beginning of my next life.”

For the vast majority of the world, that next life would have followed a predictable pattern. A man who grew up poor suddenly becomes rich and famous. He has a young wife and a baby and the opportunity to earn rich appearance and prize fees for years to come on the marathon circuit. So of course, after one more race, in which he set a personal best time, Korir did the logical thing: He stopped training and instead dropped six figures of his own cash to take on an influential government incumbent in the home country where he hadn’t lived full time for a decade.

And remarkably, he won. He shouldn’t have. That’s not how this normally works. He ran as an independent against a man personally endorsed by the top echelons of the Kenyan leadership. He met his campaign staff on Facebook. But days after he cast his vote that morning in March 2013, he was officially named the new MP for Cherangany.

Six weeks later, having barely trained for the past several months, Korir returned to Boston to defend his title. He was up against the best marathoners in the world, men running 100 miles a week in training while he barely scratched out 30, even after the election. Midway through the race, he fell off the lead pack. He looked set for a certain finish deep in the weeds. And then, just as he had a year earlier, as he has throughout his entire life, Korir came back. He chased down runner after runner. He crossed the finish line in fifth place, a result perhaps even more remarkable than his win, considering the circumstances.

Today, Korir juggles running with fatherhood, politics and his charitable foundation, which provides educational opportunities to Kenyan children. That last, is the reason he’s still out there, he said, still putting in his miles instead of getting fat like the rest of his colleagues in government. “In college, I used to run to keep my scholarship. In Kenya I used to run to get to America,” he said, “Now, I run to keep those kids in school.”
In April, he went back to Boston. Despite working fulltime as an MP, he finished in fifth place, one more time.

Richard Warnica is a feature writer at the National Post.

August 18th, 2015

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