Saturday, July 18, 2009

Kenyan Marathon Industry featured on NPR's Marketplace

For regular listeners of NPR, you may have caught Marketplace with Kai Ryssdal from Thursday 7/16. It featured an interview with Salina Kosgei women's winner of the 2009 Boston Marathon (one of the closest in the race's history). They visited her in Kenya where she trains every day (no surprise) either 2 or 3 training sessions a day. Interestingly, she, like most Kenyan runners apparently, still has a government job with the prison system, where she staffs a desk when she is not out training. Average per capita income in Kenya, according to the podcast I listened to today during a quick 3 miler, is about $400. Kosgei was paid tens of thousands to appear at Boston, tens of thousands for wearing Adidas, and tens of thousands more for winning. It was interesting to describe how, in Kenya, the path to upward social (read: financial) mobility was through running. The country was characterized as a place where all the biggest houses are owned by runners (and their moms) and packs of elite runners, medal winners, and record holders can been seen training together on the rusty dirt roads. Kosgei also said that running a marathon is not something you do for fun. It causes pain, is difficult and is something you do for money. Of course, I'd imagine that there are plenty of pro athletes in America who would say the same of their sport. It's nice to be an amateur and be able to enjoy the sport without having to worry about it putting food on the table when I get back from a long run.

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