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Marathon legends pay visit to BPS students

Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff  April 10, 2013 07:59 PM

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Wesley Korir is used to moving at a fast pace, whether it was when he won his first marathon in Chicago or when he won the Boston Marathon in 2012.

On Wednesday afternoon, he was forced to move at a fast pace again -- but not because he was in the middle of a race. He was racing the clock to make sure he was on time to the John Hancock Scholars and Stars Event at the Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center.

Korir was the main speaker for the 400 Boston Public School track athletes at the event, but was in jeopardy of being absent as a result of a delayed flight (it was a day and a half late). His plane landed around 3:30 pm Wednesday, allowing for him to impart some running wisdom on the student-athletes.

“I’ve never seen somebody run looking backwards. If you [see] somebody run looking backwards, he’s not a good runner,” Korir said. “As a runner, I’ve never seen somebody run looking down. If you [see] somebody running while looking down, he’s not a good runner. For you to become a good runner, you need to focus and run for the prize ahead of you.”

The attentive students listened on as Korir told his story of how he went from a child running five miles barefoot to class in Kenya, to a senator in the same country and a marathon champion.

“Him just coming here and then trying to make it on time just to see us, that’s a really great gift from him,” O’Bryant senior Patrick Powell said.

Powell was a member of O’Bryant’s 1600-meter sprint medley team that won first place in the event’s first ever "Friendship Sprint" medley relay. Winning in front of the elite athlete made the entire experience worthwhile.

“All these people that have done great in track and field, I really look up to them because of all the work and perseverance it takes to get to that height and I want to get to that same height too,” Powell said.

Korir was joined by other marathon greats Bill Rodgers, four-time winner of the Boston Marathon, and Greg Meyer, the last American to win the Boston Marathon.

“To link with Scholars and Stars, I love this idea,” Rodgers said. “It’s kind of like what running is permanently all about. It’s really about friendship and the friends you make in school and in sports.”

Meyer, who often volunteers as a high school track coach in his offseason, also took the duties of leading a stretching and core strengthening workout for all of the students at the event.

“There’s a lot of talent in these kids, not just in running but in life,” Meyer said. “You never know when something’s going to click with a kid and they’re good kids, they’re fun.”

Meyer was joined in leading the stretches with another member of the O’Bryant relay team, sophomore Brian Donna who hopes to run in the Olympics some day.

“You’re learning from the masters, they’ve been through everything you’ve been through,” Donna said. “You got to lead by example, there’s leaders and followers.”

By that mentality, the student’s couldn’t have had better athletes to listen to.

“You have the opportunity to change this country the way you want,” Korir said. “So take the opportunity, keep it in your hand and run with it and become who you want to become.”

Zolan Kanno-Youngs covers Boston Public school athletics. He can be reached at kannoyoungs.globe@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @KannoYoungs.

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