Friday, February 10, 2012

PRO-File: Edward Korir Kiptum

You hear about it now more than ever before: “I’m training to run a marathon.” Interest in distance running has exploded in recent years, and that interest shows no sign of slowing down any time soon. With obesity and related illnesses on the rise, more and more people are flocking to running events around the globe. Some do it because they were inspired by a family member battling a life-threatening disease; some say they want to race to shed a few pounds and get in shape. For Edward Korir Kiptum, however, running is a source of life.

Surrounded by the mineral-rich terrain of Zacatecas, Mexico, Edward and forty-seven other native Kenyans live and train for long-distance running events with other local athletes. In recent years, Mexico has become a hub for distance runners due the country’s ability to provide high-altitude training, simplified visa processing, and a close proximity to races in both North and South America that have large prize purses. Leaving their homes and families behind, Edward and his training partners compete in races to send money back to Africa. In some cases, it’s the only form of income they have.

Edward was born in the Elgeyo Marakwet County of Kenya on December 7,1978. He has two brothers and four sisters who all grew up running, yet he remains the only child in his family to be running professionally. His parents practiced farming to pay for their kids’ schooling and basic living needs. Edward attended Kaptalamwa primary school and later received the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education from his high school at Sambirir. In 2004 he travelled with a relative to the Kenyan city of Kapsabet to train in a camp that has yielded a number of legendary running champions: London Marathon record-holder Martin Lel and World Champion Abel Kirui are just a few of the names that Kapsabet has given to distance running. Edward is on his way to joining them in the history books.

In 2007, Spira Footwear sponsored Edward by paying for his trip to the U.S. to compete in the San Antonio Marathon and Dallas White Rock Marathon. He came in first and second, respectively. His combined average pace for these races: five minutes and twenty seconds per mile. He continued to show his running prowess over the next few years by winning or placing in almost every race he entered. In 2010, he took the title in a dramatic way at the Deseret News Marathon in Salt Lake City, Utah. Eclipsing fellow Kenyan Peter Omae in the final yards, he finished with a time of 2:20:47. Soon after he accepted an invitation to train in Zacatecas in order to provide better means to send money back home to Kenya.

When I asked Edward why he ran he said, “I have chosen running to be a source of life.” Although Edward’s fellow runners may come from different parts of the country, they all share the same sentiment as they are all working to provide a better life for their families back home. He continues by saying, “I run because I want my body to be healthy, but when I run in a race I think of my family first because I know that although I am away from them, they still need my support.”

The men from Kenya may go months without seeing their families. Edward is able to talk to his family on the phone a few times a month, and he gains strength from the knowledge that he is helping his family even if he is not with them. He hopes to use his running ability to gain titles in big races like the Boston Marathon, New York City Marathon, and the Olympics. When he eventually retires from running, he wants to be a coach so he can help other aspiring runners find their way to the finish line. For now, he is focused on his work.

Edward loves to run but running is not just a way of life for him. Running IS life. The slender, speed producing Africans that tear up the mountains in the rugged Mexican terrain are not sponsored by huge corporations or provided expensive gear by investing partners. Running is their job. After sending a large portion of their earnings home, they use their income to pay for rent, food, and the very shoes in which they run. But they have big dreams for the future.

“I wish to live and work in the U.S. in the future, I am hoping that one day I will become a citizen,” says Kiptum. “Finding money to travel is a big challenge for most of us, so I wish to get sponsored one day.” Immigration laws make it difficult and expensive for young men like Edward to become a resident in the U.S., but this talented young man possesses the attitude and determination to overcome the most challenging of obstacles.

Edward holds a marathon personal record of 2:15:11, a pace just above five-minute-miles.The streets of Austin will be laid out beneath the feet of a true champion on February 19, when Edward will join Team Jack & Adam’s to race in the Livestrong Austin Marathon. We have high hopes for Edward, both in this race and life itself. You are an inspiration, Edward Korir Kiptum!

by Mike Thompson of Jack & Adam's Bicycles


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1 comment:

Marv said...

Good article. Edward is indeed an inspiration on several levels. I need to go out and run now.