Louisville Magazine

MAR 2014

Louisville Magazine is Louisville's city magazine, covering Louisville people, lifestyles, politics, sports, restaurants, entertainment and homes. Includes a monthly calendar of events.

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2 4 LOUISVILLE MAGAZINE 3.14 Abit DEEPER A s my feet hit the packed red clay, I see wisps of smoke rising near thatched- roof mud huts on the side of a hill. Someone is making morning chai, perhaps. I pass a woman squeezing a cow's udder, preparing for the man who will arrive in a few hours to buy milk. A group of children giggle behind a mound of recently harvested maize, shocked to see a white woman jog by as the early-morning sun rises and the fog lifts in the hills. It's easy to see why this place is special to Wesley Korir, the 31-year-old former University of Louisville distance runner who went on to win the 2012 Boston Marathon. It's easy to see why, instead of applying for American citizenship after college, he chose to return to the Cherangany region of western Kenya, why he chose instead to return home. He wanted to represent this region, his people, in parliament. As I pass the primary school Korir attended as a boy, a message painted on the metal gate of the school's entrance reads, "Hard Work Pays." Korir came to the United States in the early 2000s with just $100, half of which he spent to get an exit visa. He went to Murray State University to run track, only to have his scholarship delayed and eventually rescinded because of cuts in the men's program. He transferred to U of L so he could train with Ron Mann, the coach of the Cardinals' then nationally unknown cross-country program. Mann says Korir has a "God-given talent" to run, rooted in his childhood in the Kenyan countryside — jogging to school or to fetch his mother something. In 2012, after he won Boston, Korir returned to Kenya to mount a campaign as an independent candidate for parliament. To kick it of, he and his family threw a massive coming-home party, slaughtering a cow and providing food for the community. He spent weeks on the campaign trail, going from village to village. About a year ago, he became the frst independent ever elected. I frst meet Korir as I get of an airplane in Nairobi, a bit dazed from nearly 24 hours of travel with the Louisville nonproft Water Step, which has made the trip to Africa to repair broken water pumps. Korir greets us with hugs. A police ofcer in an understated gray uniform, assigned to protect the parliament member, follows Korir through the airport. Korir, who has a slight frame, ushers our group through the chaos of the airport to get our visas and clear customs. From there we take an hour-long fight on a tiny plane to Eldoret, where we load into vans that shepherd us two hours to Korir's small village of Biribiriet. It is here that we meet much of Korir's family, including his wife Tarah and their two young children. Korir's eyes are red from lack of sleep and a hectic political schedule, but he's clearly more relaxed at home. While having chai at his parents' home, he recounts the story of his journey to America, which included being stranded for four days in the Paris airport because the frst escalators he'd ever seen confused him and he missed his fight. Now he always has a cellphone near. He has a driver for his Range Rover. Korir has built a one-story cinderblock guesthouse on the hill, a short walk from the mud hut where he grew up with his family. Te guesthouse can sleep at least 20, with a large dining room for communal meals of stews, rice and tortilla-like bread called chapati that his mother and sisters help prepare. Tere are toilets and showers, fed through a water tank flled from the nearby river and heated with solar panels. Generators turned on for a few hours a night make electricity and Internet access possible. It's a big diference from the mud-walled home where Korir and his family lived when he was young. From Poverty to Parliament Going home with a former University of Louisville Kenyan running star. By Jessie Halladay Kenyan crusader: Korir repairing a water pump and (below left) on the fight to Eldoret. 12-25 BIT.indd 24 2/19/14 9:54 AM

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