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Samuel Wanjiru

[Photo of Samuel Wanjiru]

10 November 1986

2:05:10 (London 2009)


10Oct10 Bank of America Chicago Marathon 1st 2:06:24
25Apr10 Virgin London Marathon DNF
11Oct09 Bank of America Chicago Marathon 1st 2:05:41
26Apr09 Flora London Marathon 1st 2:05:10
24Aug08 Olympic Games Marathon, Beijing 1st 2:06:32
13Apr08 Flora London Marathon 2nd 2:05:24


02Dec07 Fukuoka Marathon 1st 2:06:39


Two recent world-record holders in the half-marathon, Paul Tergat and Haile Gebrselassie, have gone on to set world records for the marathon. Samuel Wanjiru did not follow in their footsteps, but did something neither of them ever did: win an Olympic Games Marathon.

Two months before his 19th birthday in September 2005 he set his first world record with a 59:16 at the Rotterdam Half-marathon. After Gebrselassie lowered that record to 58:55 in 2006, Wanjiru ran 58:53 at Ras al Khaimah in February 2007, although lack of post-race EPO test there prevented it from ratification. That didn't turn out to be so critical as Wanjiru went on to post an official world record of 58:33 at Den Haag just a month later.

Wanjiru's marathon debut was eagerly awaited and while he couldn't make a prospective appearance at New York City, he came through with flying colors in his adopted home country in December. Taking on the Fukuoka Marathon he not only won but set a new course record of 2:06:39 at a race which has seen many of history's greatest marathoners compete, including Gebrselassie.

At the 2008 Flora London Marathon, just his second 42.2km race, Wanjiru gave the experienced multi-major winner Martin Lel all he could handle, winding up just nine seconds behind in 2:05:24.

Four months later, Wanjiru moved up on the list of the greatest distance runners in the history by becoming the first Kenyan to win the Olympic Marathon gold medal. He ran through the first half with a pack of other runners at sub-2:06 pace and as the others fell off, Wanjiru kept up his form through the heat and humidity of Beijing. He reached the finish in 2:06:32, smashing the 24-year-old Olympic record by two minutes and 49 seconds. At the age of 21 he was the youngest marathon gold medalist since 1932.

Back in London in 2009, Wanjiru was in a large pack that sped through the first half in an incredible 1:01:35. He held on to break the tape in a new course record of 2:05:10, then the ninth fastest time in history, holding off Olympic bronze medalist Tsegaye Kebede by 10 seconds.

At Chicago in October 2009, Wanjiru ran the fastest ever marathon on U.S. soil, winning in 2:05:41, nipping one second from Khalid Khannouchi's 10-year-old course record. That also made him the youngest man in history with three World Marathon Major titles.

Fighting a right knee problem, Wanjiru was forced to drop out of the 2010 Virgin London Marathon at around 27km. But he came back in October to successfully defend his Bank of America Marathon title, breaking Kebede in the final miles.

Wanjiru also became the youngest man to win four Majors.

Wanjiru was originally a track runner and in 2002 first attracted some fame with an age 15 world record of 28:36.08 for 10,000 meters. His best time stands at 26:41.75 in 2005, which like his half-marathon of 59:16 that year, stands as the world junior record.


Samuel Kamau Wanjiru died on May 15, 2011.

He was born in Nyahururu and left Kenya in 2002 to go to the Sendai Ikue High School in northern Japan. He represented the Toyota Kyushu Company and has been coached by Koichi Morishita, the silver medallist at the 1992 Olympic Games marathon. In June 2008 he returned to Nyahururu to live with his wife, Triza Njeri, and daughter, Ann. He was named the Kenyan Sportsman of the Year for 2008.