Kenyan marathon runner visits Fort Cherry

May 6, 2014
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Photo by Jared Lashinsky
Jonathan Kibet of Kenya is shown running in the 2013 Pittsburgh Marathon, in which he finished third.
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Emily Petsko / Observer-Reporter
Jonathan Kibet, back row, a marathon runner from Kenya, stands with a group of Fort Cherry High School track athletes Monday. Kibet spoke to students about his life and training regimen. Order a Print

McDONALD – Jonathan Kibet traveled more than 9,000 miles by plane and car just to run 26.2 miles once he reached his destination – Pittsburgh.

But for a professional marathon runner like Kibet, getting there is only half the battle. Kibet, hailing from Eldama Ravine, Kenya, ran his second Pittsburgh Marathon Sunday.

Although he was unable to cross the finish line this year – after taking third place in 2013 – he hopes the third time will be a charm.

Before heading to Austin, Texas, to stay with a friend for the summer, Kibet stopped at Fort Cherry Elementary Center Monday.

He shared his experiences with high school track athletes and with elementary students participating in an exercise program called Kids of Steel.

About 50 of the 87 participating children ran the one-mile Kids Marathon in Pittsburgh last Saturday.

High school students were amazed by Kibet’s training regimen: 10 to 12 miles per training session, with three sessions per day, which adds up to about 250 miles of running each week. Unlike many American runners, Kibet rarely runs on pavement, which helps reduce the wear and tear on his body.

As for the elementary students, they seemed more impressed with photos from Kibet’s cattle ranch in Kenya. The kids roared with laughter when Kibet showed a photo of his newborn calf – birthed after the Pittsburgh Marathon last year – wearing a Pittsburgh Steelers T-shirt.

Fittingly, he named the calf Steeler “for remembrance,” he said.

Kibet lives in Kenya with his wife and three children, but he spends much of his time traveling around the world to compete in marathons. His record for a marathon is 2:11:38, which earned him second place in the 2008 Seville Marathon in Spain.

Kibet finished third in the Pittsburgh Marathon last year with a time of 2:17:29. This year, Gebo Burka Gamade of Ethiopia finished first with a time of 2:16:30.

“Just to put that in perspective for the high schoolers, that’s running about 4:50 to 5-minute miles for 26 straight miles,” said Kevin Smith, owner of Elite Runners and Walkers.

Flight complications delayed Kibet’s arrival in Pittsburgh this year, and he checked into his hotel at midnight the day of the race. A lack of sleep, coupled with a long, uncomfortable flight, likely contributed to his downfall in the race.

Richard Burgunder, Kibet’s agent, said Kibet was in second place Sunday until he reached mile 18, when he started having intense muscle spasms in his back. He was taken to a hospital, where he recovered.

Last year was Kibet’s first time in the United States, and the Pittsburgh Marathon is the only American race he has run. He hopes to run marathons in Houston and Honolulu later this year and return to Pittsburgh next spring.

When Kibet is not training for marathons around the world, he is contributing to humanitarian causes. Kibet runs an orphanage in Kenya and took three orphaned children into his home. He also wants to establish more farms to give away to family members.

Although Kibet misses his family while he is traveling, he didn’t hesitate to say running never becomes a chore.

“Yes, I enjoy running very much,” he said. “Even (if I see) someone running, I follow.”

Emily Petsko joined the Observer-Reporter as a staff writer in June 2013. She graduated from Point Park University with a dual bachelor's degree in journalism and global cultural studies.

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