Wesley Korir, an elite Kenyan-Canadian marathon runner and Boston Marathon champion, broke the record time at the Harvest Half Marathon last weekend, the first outing on its new St. Jacobs-based circuit.
The proceeds raised from the event consistently go to the Kenyan Kids Foundation Canada, a cause that’s very personal to Korir. The former Kenyan Member of Parliament founded the charity himself along with his wife, elite Canadian marathon runner and Wellesley Township native Tarah Korir (nee McKay).
“During our wedding in 2010, we didn’t want people to give us material things, so we decided to start a foundation,” said Korir. “That’s where it started. So people, instead of giving us presents, we decided to donate to help empower kids in Kenya.”
The organization focuses on education, healthcare and farming. It aims to alleviate poverty and provide support for development in the Cherangany region of Western Kenya. It is a sister organization (but independently run) to the Kenyan Kids Foundation U.S.
Tarah and Wesley met at the University of Louisville in Kentucky while both on athletic scholarships. They got married after graduation and continued to race internationally.
The couple now splits their time between Wellesley and Kenya. They have two kids, McKayla and Jayden, who both participated in Saturday’s marathon.
The half marathon is 21.1 kilometres, which this year kicked off at the Calvary United Church in St. Jacobs. For his part, Korir finished first place with a time of 1:05:54. Adam Hortian finished second at 1:13:17, while ENDURrun champion Rob Brouilette placed third by posting a time of 1:13:51.
Carolyn Buchanan achieved first place in the women’s section at 1:23:47, another ENDURrun winner Robyn Collins placed second with 1:24:54, and Katie Anderson obtained third with a time of 1:25:48.
The marathon course is three loops, with approximately one-third on gravel. It takes runners down Hawkesville, then to Three Bridges roads. Following this, participants will turn right onto a long stretch of King Street North, before heading back to the church.
Runners have the half marathon option, 5k (different course layout), and the kids fun run. Korir said that the course layout made for a more cooperative atmosphere compared to other races, since all participants are headed in the same direction.
“Because it’s a loop, you get to interact with the spectators and the other runners,” said Korir. “People are so mesmerized by the speed you’re going. They know the pain, they know how hard it is to go that speed … so when you have somebody appreciating your efforts it makes you really enjoy your run compared to when you’re running by yourself.
“For example, my kids were running 5k and I was able to even pass them twice. I was able to give my daughter a high-five. It’s very encouraging.”
The Harvest Half Marathon, an ongoing tradition in the community for the past six years, raised some $5,000 this time around. The event has been a joint venture between the Kenyan Kids Foundation and Run Waterloo since its inception.
Wesley, Tarah and Tarah’s father Blair worked closely with Lloyd and Jordan Schmidt of Run Waterloo (Jordan and Tarah attended EDSS together) to create the course layout.
“This year especially was a great turnout,” said Jordan. “We had close to 400 runners. “This is the first year at the new venue – I think it helps. I think people like St. Jacobs because it’s closer [to town].”
For the past five years, the Harvest Half Marathon took place in Wellesley Township, with the start location at the St. Clements arena. Due to a number of factors, including a change in township policy for these sorts of events, a significantly hilly course, and declining participant numbers, organizers decided to switch up the location.
“We received many compliments about the new courses when talking with runners after the race,” said Blair McKay. “Many people achieved a new personal best.”