Tarah Korir debuting in marathon to raise tuition money for Kenyan kids

Tarah McKay-Korir (second from right) training in Kenya.
Tarah McKay-Korir (second from right) training in Kenya.
Tarah McKay-Korir (second from right) training in Kenya.

When Tarah and Wesley Korir come back to Canada from their home in Kenya, they train in the small town of St. Clements, Ont. along the dirt roads and rolling hills that pass by Mennonite farms. Oftentimes as they run, a horse drawn carriage will pass them by on this quiet route. A visit to her hometown in Canada for Tarah is a big change-up from her base in Kenya. She moved there after she and Wesley (the 2012 Boston Marathon champion) got married. The two met when they were both on scholarship and running at the University of Louisville. They now have two kids ages five and two. When it’s time for a serious track workout, Tarah is heading to the track at one of the local Kitchener, Ont. high schools where kids, high school teams and local clubs alike go to train.

Now, she’s back in this rural Ontario setting for about a month this fall. Tarah is racing her first ever marathon at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon on Oct. 18. She’s always dreamed of racing the distance and leading up to the challenge, her main focus is on her cause: to raise money for scholarships for Kenyan kids who attend her and Wesley’s academy back home called the Transcend Running Academy. “I have a personal relationship with them,” says Tarah. Without a cause, even the best runners can lose focus she says. “Wesley says that if you’re running without a cause, it’s like chasing after the wind,” says Tarah.

The cause is dear to the couple especially because of Wesley’s background. The distance star came from  a background of poverty living in Kitale before moving to the U.S. on scholarship. He was always a talented runner but because that talent was discovered, he was able to use it to his advantage and get a full education. He built his wealth racing and when he returned to Kenya, he became part of the Kenyan parliament. “Wesley’s story is about someone coming out of poverty and becoming successful,” says Tarah.

That’s why the couple started their academy– to get Kenyan kids to use their running talents to give them a chance at bigger opportunities. It opened just this past January at the start of the Kenyan school year. There are currently 20 students (10 male and 10 female) who are in grades nine to 12. At the academy, they are getting their full schooling as well as their training.

By running at the Scotiabank Marathon, Tarah is hoping to raise money for their tuition. “The main thing I’m fundraising for is their scholarships,” she says adding that since it’s a boarding school, the kids need tuition, board and food. Her goal is $10,000.

Why the Toronto marathon? “It was an easy decision for me,” she says. “I’ve run Canadian Running Series with Alan [Brookes]. I look for opportunity to come home to Canada. I know a lot of the Canadians that have run it in the past,” she says.

It was a simple choice but a marathon debut for any runner is always a nerve wracking experience and it’s the same for Tarah. “I’m excited and nervous,” she says from her home in St. Clements. “The longest I’ve ever run in training is 35K. There’s always the feat of the unknown.” That said, having the running background that she does and being married to a former Boston champion are two things that come with perks. Most of her training is done in Kenya with top runners who have the experience to back them. Running with people who know what they are doing is like a crash-course on marathoning.

For the unknown elements, she has Wesley to rely on. She says that his experience has helped her. “If Wesley is doing an easy run, it works out that I do tempo,” she says. Plus, he has the knowledge to give her general advice like when to push through fatigue and when to take breaks.

For the kids, it’s normal to have parents that are superstar athletes. In the small Ontario town, they watch Wesley race in the Chicago Marathon on TV. Tarah says her son will point to the screen when his dad is running and say “There’s dad!” They are used to the race atmosphere, the training schedules and upcoming challenges like the Toronto marathon. When it’s done, Tarah says she has no plans other than to celebrate with her family who will be there to support her. As expected, Wesley will be at the finish. “I’m excited to have him there,” she says.