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The Kelly-Kenya connection

Posted by Jack Fultz  April 1, 2010 09:29 PM

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The following came my way via Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge runner Bill Kelly:

BOSTON, Massachusetts -- Four-time Boston Marathon champion Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot has withdrawn from the 2010 event because of "an injured right hip," although the marathon community remains skeptical.

Cheruiyot, of Kapsabet, Kenya, first won in 2003 and then three-peated from 2006-2008. He set the course record in 2006 at 2 hours, 7:14 minutes.

Last year, it was obvious that Cheruiyot was visibly impressed, if not distracted, by the upstart, 38 year old, first timer Bill Kelly, which no doubt contributed to the end of his three year streak. Not only did Kelly log a personal best of 5 hours, 41 minutes, beating the street cleaning crews by nearly 20 minutes. He also sent shivers down the collective spine of the competition in how, with the tremendous support of family and friends, he was able to raise over $10,000 for Dana Farber cancer research.

More than a hundred people supported his effort and dozens shared touching, heartfelt stories about their battles with cancer. Kelly honored each of these fighters by proudly displaying their names on his shirt, ensuring the thousands of people along the course got as long a look as possible at each and every one of those names. Kelly promised to continue this tradition again this year and encouraged everyone to send him the name of someone they know and love that has battled cancer. "Sure a Kenyan could wear those names for 26.2 miles", Kelly told reporters, "but they will flash right by you. With me, you KNOW you are going to get some quality air time..."

Leading up to the race last year, Kelly repeatedly indicated this was a "one-time" affair. However, the stories and support kept coming and it became quite obvious that the job was not done. As a result, this fall Kelly decided to invest in a second pair of running shoes, moved his entire family to Heartbreak Hill, and reportedly trained outdoors "multiple times."

These events clearly shook up the entire field, in particular Cheruiyot. "Look, I've had my success. I've won this thing 4 times, 3 in a row!" he was seen telling passersby who barely seemed to care. "Then this aging treadmill jockey joins the field in 2009 and I drop completely out of the race?! I see where this is going... Now he has new shoes AND runs outside? My hip doesn't feel too good."

Kelly claims he is not focused on the rest of the field. "They know who I am. When they see #22724 on their tail, they can either run faster or get out of the way. I am nearly twice as big as most of those guys, and most of the course is downhill. If you were 120 pounds, would you want this barreling down on you?"

Still, Kelly clearly is extremely humbled by the generosity of his family and friends last year and hopes in these difficult times to simply try and provide some entertainment. For anyone who has the ability and desire to contribute to the cause, any amount is of course most appreciated and they can always do so at his web site.

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Look for updates, news, analysis and commentary from the following.
  • Steve Silva, Boston.com senior producer, two-time Boston Marathon sub-four hour runner.
  • Ty Velde is a 16-time Boston qualifier who's completed 12 consecutive Boston Marathons and 25 marathons overall. Ty is now training for his 13th Boston run and will provide training tips for those who train solo and outside, no matter what temperature it is.
  • Rich 'Shifter' Horgan is a 19-time Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge team member who runs in honor of his father, who died of colon cancer. He will provide updates on local running events with a focus on the charitable organizations that provide Boston Marathon entries for their organization's fund raising purposes

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