Leonard Korir: Kenyan US Army Sergeant who Broke 38-year Race Record

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Staff Sergeant Leonard Korir, a Kenyan serving in the US Army, broke a record that stood for 38 years at the 2022 Bolder Boulder 10K event.

The Bolder Boulder was founded in the US city of Boulder, in 1979 as a small, local 10K (10 Kilometre) race, and since has grown to be one of the largest and most respected community running events in the world.

Leonard Korir

Over 50,000 runners competed in the Bolder race on Memorial Day. Korir outsmarted them all by finishing in 29:28 minutes, over 8 seconds faster than Joseph Panga, who came in second.

He won KSh 936,000 (US$ 8, 000), while Panga who came in second won KSh 409, 500 (US$ 3, 500).

As of 1984, Herb Lindsay’s time of 29.09 minutes retained the record for 38 years.

This is ridiculous. I have come to many races. You don’t get this atmosphere of winning and people cheering you on, it feels like a football game. This year, I wanted to win this race because I am a member of the US Army,” Korir told Boulder Daily Camera, after being crowned.

“It means something to me to win on Memorial Day,” said Korir, who is stationed at Fort Carson. 

The 10K run is a long-distance road running competition over a distance of ten kilometres (6.2 miles). 

For much of the 10-kilometer race, Korir was part of a lead quartet that included fellow American Jared Ward and the Tanzanian duo of Joseph Panga and Fabiano Nelson Sulle.

Korir finished in 29 minutes, 28 seconds, outpacing Panga (29:36) by eight seconds. Nelson Sulle finished third (29:53), followed by Ward (29:55).

“I saw (Panga), he was pushing and I wanted to push hard,” Korir said. “I wanted to finish him early so I could start my celebration.

In a group of four runners that included fellow American Kared Ward and the Tanzanian team of Joseph Panga and Fabiano Nelson Sulle, Korir held the lead throughout the race.

Before making history, Korir participated in a number of track competitions and represented the United States at the Olympics in Rio.

According to Army Cap. Paul Tergat, a well-known Kenyan runner who served as an inspiration to Korir, his quest to shatter the 38-year-old record began in 2008, when he was still a high school student in Kenya.

‘’I liked their work ethic and how they trained hard every day,” Army Cap quoted him as saying.

Tambach Teachers Training College, a college in Tambach, Elgeyo-Marakwet County, Kenya was where Korir studied. The athlete from Iten was encouraged to apply for a scholarship in the US by Irish coach Colm O’Connell, after a series of impressive results. 

Fortunately, he found one at New Rochelle, New York’s Iona College.

He resumed his athletic career at Iona after moving to America, where he won the 10,000-meter outdoor championship and the 5,000-meter national championship.

He was granted US citizenship thanks to his outstanding sporting career in September 2015, before joining the US Army in 2016.

“Korir didn’t rest after graduating basic training. He instead launched into a grueling training schedule to prepare for the Olympics – and made the Olympic team. Since then, the Olympian has continued to see his personal bests get better and better,” Army Cap described him.

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