February 10, 2024
"I've come to this country, I became a citizen, and that's an opportunity that a lot of people don't have. And I got it, and I'm very thankful for that. That’s why I feel it would be a great honor for me to make the Olympics. That's why I keep pursuing that dream."
My guest for today’s episode is Elkanah Kibet. The 40-year-old was in third place by 15 seconds going into the final mile of the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials but a charging Leonard Korir managed to catch him for the final spot that will likely go to the Paris Olympics. Kibet finished fourth in 2:10:02 – which set a new U.S. masters marathon record. He was so gratuitous after the race and handled the fourth place finish with so much humility. It was remarkable.
Kibet has improved as a marathoner in his late 30s and isn’t ready to call an end to his Olympic dreams. He’ll be 44 at the 2028 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials and he’s already planning the road there.
When he’s not running in the early or late hours of the day, he is a husband and a father of three. He also works a full-time job in the U.S. Army as a financial comptroller in Fort Carson, Colorado. He has a tremendous pride for this country. He shares his story of coming from Kenya and all of the opportunities that America has given him, which is why he doesn’t hesitate to represent the red, white and blue at a World Championships and has done so four times in his career.
We know the guys who make the Olympic team. Let’s not forget the hard work of those who come close.
Host: Chris Chavez | @chris_j_chavez on Instagram
Guest: Elkanah Kibet | @airbornrunner on Instagram
Johnny Zhang / @jzsnapz
- 04:45: His thoughts on placing fourth at the Trials.
- 06:33: What was going through his mind as third-place finisher Leonard Korir went by him during the race.
- 07:55: Looking ahead to the 2028 Olympics, where he will be 44 years old.
- 08:59: Breaks down his race and how he was able to move up throughout the race.
- 12:32: Shares about moving to the U.S. on a scholarship, joining the army after finishing college, and how he was able to continue training while working full-time.
- 16:50: What running for the U.S. means to him.
- 17:36: His desire to bring a medal home to the U.S. next year.
- 19:30: How shoe technology has helped him stay consistent.
- 21:14: How he manages his training load around working full-time.
- 23:41: How splits runs into singles/doubles + his focus on recovery.
- 25:04: His relationship with his coach.
- 28:09: How he balances training while working for the army + getting deployed.
- 32:25: How long he plans on continuing to run competitively for.
- 36:59: What's next for him.
The following interview excerpt has been edited lightly for clarity. You can listen to the full interview with Elkanah Kibet on the CITIUS MAG Podcast – available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you get your shows.
CITIUS MAG: Fourth place is a spot that few athletes want to find themselves in. And from the video clips I've seen after the race and some of the interviews, you've been so gracious and you've handled it well. How?
Elkanah Kibet: I made progress in my career, the way I did it. The marathon is clicking. I know it does take a long time, but I think I can tell myself I'm at the right place. I just need to strike at the right time. So that's what is making me grateful for the opportunity because I have gone through a lot. I had a deployment last year, so I didn't have a smooth transition. So to achieve the results I did, I told myself, ‘You are a great athlete.’ If you had enough time and had run the Olympic standard and then had come to the trials, then it would be a different story. But with my situation, I think I have to just appreciate the results that I had. I'm grateful for that.
CITIUS MAG: You talked about trying for the Olympic team in 2028. You're going to be 44 in 2028!
Elkanah Kibet: People will be surprised. I'm going to be there for a long time… Just be excited. It's going to happen and you will be shocked. I will be running personal bests. Don't worry. You just be prepared. It's going to happen. I'm just letting you know that it's coming. I'm really excited. The future looks bright for me.
CITIUS MAG: You've lived a full life here in America. What are the opportunities that you've been most proud of in your own running and history with America?
Elkanah Kibet: (The army) has been really supportive. He came and told me, ‘I know you are running and we want you to keep running. We want you to keep training.’ And those are really the moments that I think about. Even when I'm running, I’m just thinking about those people who have given me opportunities. They believe in me that I can make the Olympics, because I always tell them I want to make the Olympics. I went to Auburn University, I got a scholarship for three years, and I got a scholarship to go to junior college in Rend Lake, Illinois. I've met great people, we still keep in touch. I keep visiting them. So I've had a whole life in America and those are the things that I'm really thankful for. I've met so many people. I've been to so many places…
My running talent has taken me to so many places. I've come to this country, I became a citizen, and that's an opportunity that a lot of people don't have. And I got it, and I'm very thankful for that. That’s why I feel it would be a great honor for me to make the Olympics. That's why I keep pursuing that dream. And I know it's going to be valid one time.
CITIUS MAG: A lot of the top pro American marathoners are presented the opportunity to run at World Championships and pass on it. Why do you always say yes?
Elkanah Kibet: Because every time they ask you to represent your country, it's an honor. So I always take it. It's a great opportunity… One of the mottos that I have in my life is, ‘Ask not what your country can do for you, but ask you what you can do for your country.’ Every time you have an opportunity to do something for your country, don't pass it. Do it. You make your life complete by doing that.
Elkanah on his confidence moving forward:
Elkanah Kibet: I got something for next year and I will be on that team. I want a medal. Now and going forward, I know what I'm supposed to be doing and I feel very confident about it. I just need to be doing the same thing I did before the trials. I think that will get me a medal.
CITIUS MAG: How long do you want to keep this going?
Elkanah Kibet: I'm going to run until the body says, ‘OK, no more…’ I'm going to run as much as the army still needs me to run. And then when it's time to retire, maybe that's the time I retire – and retire from everything.
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Chris Chavez launched CITIUS MAG in 2016 as a passion project while working full-time for Sports Illustrated. He covered the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro and grew his humble blog into a multi-pronged media company. He completed all six World Marathon Majors and is an aspiring sub-five-minute miler.