Weekend with Wesley

I had the good fortune of spending a couple days with Wesley Korir a week ago. He’s the two time and reigning champion of the Honda LA Marathon. He’s also one of the genuinely nicest people I’ve ever met. We invited Wesley and his lovely wife, Tarah, to visit from their home in Louisville to throw out the first pitch at the Dodgers/Angels game on June 12th. Here are some of the highlights of our weekend together:

• I lined up a training partner for Wesley while he was here so he wouldn’t miss any workouts. Thanks to my friend Brian Livingston for taking on the unenviable task of trying to keep up with Wesley. After one run in Griffith Park, Wesley told me had run a hilly 16 miles at an eye-popping 5:30 pace. “Just another training run” is how Wesley described it.

• We drove Wesley and Tarah down to Honda headquarters in Torrance to have a look at the new CR-V that he won here in March. Wesley seems to put a smile on anyone he meets, and we had an enjoyable visit with Steve Morikawa, Erik Wedin and Teresa Phillips from Honda.

• While driving around LA, Wesley shared with me that he got his first pair of shoes (not running shoes, mind you, just shoes) when he was 18. That’s where his beautiful forefoot-striking technique comes from: 12 years of barefoot running.

• We visited the site of Wesley’s “This is My Town” LA Dodgers billboard. He and Tarah both got so excited when they saw the 50 foot-wide billboard towering over Crenshaw Blvd that they screamed, “There it is!” Take time to drive by this if you have a minute—It’s just north of Pico Blvd.

• Wesley also mentioned to me that he’s starting a foundation to benefit kids in Kenya—the Kenyan Kids Foundation. Even though he’s lived in Louisville for about 6 years, he has continued to support causes back home that are important to him.

• I took Wesley and Tarah to Houston’s for lunch one day. I thought there would be an appropriate selection of salads, lean meats and other training fare for Wesley. We sit down and Wesley promptly orders a cheeseburger and fries! How great is that? Wesley’s philosophy has a lot to do with enjoying every aspect of his life, and he manages to live that way. Even at lunch.

• I was constantly impressed by Wesley’s language skills and intellect. He let slip that he was actually accepted to Harvard but that they didn’t offer full scholarships, which he needed. So he went to Louisville and hasn’t looked back.

• We got to Dodger Stadium early on the night of the game so he could do a TV interview with FSN Prime Ticket for ThinkCure! weekend at the Stadium. Wesley has that certain charisma that few athletes have, no matter how experienced they are in front of the camera, and he deftly handled the questions. This guy really has game, on and off the field.

• Time to take the long walk out to the pitcher’s mound and throw the first pitch. I was terrified for him, honestly. It’s hard enough for a veteran pitcher to hit the strike zone, but a guy who grew up in Eldoret, Kenya? I figured he’d be lucky to get the ball to the catcher in three bounces. They hand Wesley his ceremonial ball, and he marches straight out to the mound with a huge grin on his face. This is the real first pitch, only a minute or two before the game starts, and most of the 56,000 fans have taken their seats. Wesley’s image is blown up huge on the jumbotron for all to see. I can barely muster the courage to watch. Without any hesitation, and before I can even get the camera up to my eye, he rears back and hurls a four-seam fastball right down the middle. Strike!


SUNDAY, MARCH 15, 2015