Chicago Defending Champion Abel Kirui's Humble Background Informs His Non-Running Endeavors By Sabrina Yohannes, for Bank of America Chicago Marathon Diaries


Sabrina Yohannes writes this second piece on Abel Kirui and his humble backgrounds. The two time World Champion is back on his game and could prove very dangerous in Chicago this coming weekend.

NNRunJuly17_069.jpgAbel Kirui, photo by NN Running team (July 2017)

Chicago Defending Champion Abel Kirui's Humble Background Informs His Non-Running Endeavors

By Sabrina Yohannes

Former Olympic marathon silver medalist Abel Kirui will seek on Sunday to defend his Bank of America Chicago Marathon title, for which he has been preparing with Olympic champion Eliud Kipchoge's training group under coach Patrick Sang. Kirui has come a long way from his modest beginnings in Kenya, which inspired his establishment of a school aiming to help children from similar backgrounds, as well as other charitable involvements.

The 2009 and 2011 world champion Kirui spoke with RunBlogRun last week and in an earlier interview about his start in running - lapping schoolmates more than once over 10,000m - and his humble background and school, Great Joy Educational Centre.

RBR: How is your school doing these days?

The children are OK, my school is growing, and I still have the desire to help and give support, especially for the needy children in my school ... whereby it's a school not only for education and academics but also talent promotion.

RBR: How did the school come about?

I always [used to] think I am the only example of me. I am the only boy in my family of four brothers who finished my schooling. The rest did not finish school, and I know the success of completing education. Then I saw I wanted to be a foundation whereby I would be getting children from poor families and also bringing them to my school. If somebody can come and give them payments for their school fees, that person will be a different person in their family.

... One time, I went to visit [some] families. One, I remember, who is the neighbor of my home area, with ten children, with only [a little] land. If you talk of land in Kenya, a rocky one, you can't do anything, it's only for a simple house which is grass thatched. And 10 children. It's -- you can shed your tears if you see this. Then I said, "Yeah, nobody can carry your 10 children, but somebody can carry one or two. If they come to my school, they get education, they get their talents revealed, so that talent will go back to support the needs of the other children and the mother of them, because most of them, if you see, they are single parents.

So I think it was a call, a special call that I need to find all and go to rural areas and beyond any tribe ... If they come to my school, because it is a city center now -- it's Eldoret, it is a future city -- it's a big impact on the society. Changing one is changing the whole world. Especially a baby girl, because a baby girl is a mother of more than one children. It is a community by herself. That was something I saw is a unique thing. It is not like when people exaggerate. Me, I saw it myself.

RBR: What is your tribe and what was your early life like?

I am from the Kalenjin tribe, a Nandi. I think my life was from a very humble background. I am from a single-parent family. My mom was alone. Life, in the beginning, was not the way you might think now, if you see what I am. [With] the blessing of my talent, I think I need this now also: to share with another person. I need very much to see that child, who is thinking she is there forever, [see it's] not forever, if there is change.

RBR: What did your mom do?

Farming, [which] she was doing all alone. When I finished my high school, we had only one cow at home. Only one cow, only to give us milk for tea in the morning, and nothing more than that; maybe small farm for maize. You could see, only by the mercies of God, if the day ends with something -- if we get something for lunch, and breakfast -- it's OK. You don't bother anyway for lunch. You bother for breakfast, tea and some bread; maybe the ugali of yesterday, you use to be the bread of the following morning. So then, in the evening, you look for something also. And that was life.

RBR: Where did you grow up?

I grew up in a small village we call Samitui in the Nandi County, near the border, or Nyanza, so it is the west part of Kenya, a little bit west. Kisumu is not far from my area. Then Eldoret on the other side. Eldoret from my home, you travel by car like one hour, 30 minutes.

RBR: How did you start running?

I think it was a talent. I was running all the way in primary school. I remember teachers were happy with me running with my own discipline. Smiling like this all the way. I was taking Captain because of running. I was the Head Boy when I was in Class 6. In Class 6, I was even lapping two or three times number two.

RBR: What distances were you running?

10,000m, when I was still very young. 28 laps, because they say, no, the track is too small.

RBR: After winning Chicago, you considered treating your family to a vacation in Mombasa as a celebration, but you told me in the spring that you didn't do that in the end. How did you celebrate the Chicago win?

I was surrounded by activities also and I had the desire to still improve, and improve my time, so actually I had some few small celebrations, but then I was comfortable with it [and focused on training].

RBR: You've had commitments in Mombasa [serving as the patron of a race there].

Yes ... I have many duties because I am a patron for cancer-focused coalitions. It's a group of five doctors. They say "You are known worldwide, you are the patron, so you market this, because we need to do early detection." People are of the mind, "No, don't do incision. Because of the knife. If you cut, you are dying faster." So we tell them, "No, the best way is to have early detection." Because one time this swelling with my mom was so [serious]. So I told my mom, it's better to go to the doctor, and we removed it and she's fine. ...They took it and it was not anything cancerous. It was what we call a benign tumor. It was not malignant.

RBR: How is your mother doing now?

She is OK now. She is in good health. ... My wife is OK, and yesterday was the one-month-old day of my boy, who is the youngest now, and that is another blessing. ... My new baby boy, Axel Kipkoech.

... My [older] boy is Tevin Kipchumba and my daughter is Jolene Jepleting. That is after my school, Great Joy. The boy is now [nine] years and my daughter is [seven] years and my wife is called Stella. She is a teacher by profession.

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