1. Sammy Wanjiru Dies at 24

In his wake, men’s marathon running may never be the same

Sammy Wanjiru wins the CPC Den Haag Half Marathon in a then world record of 58:34 in 2007

Sammy Wanjiru wins the CPC Den Haag Half Marathon in a then world record of 58:34 in 2007     Photo: FaceMePLS/Flickr

Sammy Wanjiru’s career was short—he set a world half marathon record in 2007, won Olympic marathon gold in 2008, and died in May of this year—but deeply influential. 

Even among Kenyan runners, a group known for aggressive racing, Wanjiru was unusually bold. His 2:06:32 win at the Beijing Olympics changed the way marathons are now raced on the international stage and precipitated what some have called a revolution of the sport.

Wanjiru died in May, at age 24, in a fall from a first-story balcony at his house in Nyahururu, Kenya. On the night he died, his wife found him in bed with another woman after a night of drinking, and the exact circumstances of his death remain unclear.

Wanjiru’s final race at the 2010 Chicago Marathon may have been his best. He arrived in Chicago, according to his own coach Federico Rosa, out of shape and ill, yet still won a brutal, head-to-head battle with Ethiopia’s Tsegaye Kebede. “You can't imagine how bad things looked in Kenya 10 to 12 days ago,” Rosa told reporters after the race. “In Italy, we have an expression: We say a runner like this has very big balls.”

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