WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio -- When American Olympian and American-Kenyan U.S. Army veteran Paul Chelimo makes his first-ever visit to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base for the 24th U.S. Air Force Marathon on Sept. 19, it won’t be solely for doing what he does so well – running. Instead, Chelimo is scheduled to be the keynote guest speaker during several marathon-related events.
Chelimo was the 2016 Olympic silver medalist at 5000 meters in Rio and the 2017 World Championship bronze medalist at 5000 meters. He is training for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo in August, with the 5K Olympic Trials coming up June 19-28 in Eugene, Oregon.
Born in Iten, Kenya, Chelimo moved to the United States on a running scholarship in 2010. After graduating from the University of North Carolina – Greensboro where he was a public health major, he joined the Army’s World Class Athlete Program.
“That allowed me to continue training full-time but more importantly, the opportunity to be a member of the United States Armed Forces,” he said. “I give a lot of credit to the Army for my resilient racing tactics.”
“We are honored and humbled to have not simply one of the world’s best runners join us at the 24th Air Force Marathon, but for him to be a veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces means so much to our entire team, our volunteers, our participants and this entire community,” said Brandon Hough, Air Force Marathon director.
“Paul is an inspiration to us all, an incredible success story,” he continued. “From the most humble of origins he rose to the top of the world stage and continues to inspire all those who hear of his story.”
Chelimo said he speaks often to high school and college students, and at Wright-Patt plans to speak about his journey from Kenya to college and the Olympics, plus running in general.
“I want to talk about the grit and the grind that comes from running and training,” Chelimo said. “I want to motivate the beginners and those who are regular runners and impart how to run a really fast 5K. I want those who listen to my story to learn what it takes to be a successful runner and how to prevent injuries.”
Hough is enthusiastic about what Chelimo’s talks will bring to the marathon.
“Given his background serving in the U.S. Army and his lifelong dedication to the sport of running, we knew from the get-go that Paul would be a natural fit at the Air Force Marathon,” he said. “From the moment we reached out to Paul and asked if he would be interested in being our guest speaker this year, he was beyond thrilled as he understood the connection between our event and his background.”
Chelimo offered advice for those who are preparing for September’s event: “It might look like September is really far away, but it’s a really, really short time to prepare for a marathon.”
Running a marathon comes in two parts, he said. “The first part is the build-up. You have to do all the mileage and mileage and mileage while avoiding injury and allowing your muscles to adapt. For someone like me who wants to run (a 5K) really fast, from now to July I should be doing a lot of build-ups and 10- to 12-mile repeats. Then in July, you reduce the mileage and when you get to August, you focus on speed and marathon pace so you finish strong.”
Nutrition is also something Chelimo wants runners to focus on now.
“You have to learn which foods best suit your body as fuel before a marathon,” he said, mentioning rice, oatmeal and bananas.
“Also, focus on hydration,” he advised. “Recovery drinks can be hard on your stomach and gut if you are not used to them. Now is the time to prepare and simulate the race.
“Twenty-six miles is no joke,” Chelimo said. “You have to be really, really motivated so you finish strong.”
Hough said he appreciates Chelimo’s perspective.
“Paul perfectly embodies the Air Force Marathon motto, ‘Where perseverance and pride take flight’,” Hough said. “His dedication to country and his unending perseverance to be the best runner have made him the perfect addition to the Air Force Marathon. We are truly privileged to welcome him to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base for the 24th Annual Air Force Marathon.”
Chelimo said he is excited to be coming to Dayton and to meet people who love running.
“It will be amazing to meet the people in Ohio,” he said.
The Air Force Marathon, Half Marathon and 10K on Sept. 19 will be preceded by a 5K race and the Tailwind Trot 1K Kids’ Run on Sept. 18. The Health & Fitness Expo is set for Sept. 17-18 at Wright State University’s Nutter Center. Marathon events also will feature a Gourmet Pasta Dinner and Breakfast of Champions on Sept. 18. To listen to Chelimo, tickets for the Breakfast of Champions or the Gourmet Pasta dinner can be purchased at https://raceroster.com/events/2020/26805/2020-air-force-marathon. Tickets for the breakfast are $18 and the dinner is $26 for adults, $13 for children ages 6-10 and free for children younger than 5. Both events are open to everyone and do not require registration as a runner.
Get information about all Air Force Marathon details at www.usafmarathon.com.