Daniel Wanjiru won’t let the new-found fame and celebrity status cloud his fast-rising long distance running career.
The new London Marathon champion is unfazed by the attention he attracted in the British capital, rubbing shoulders with royalty as he exchanged pleasantries with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge — Prince William and Princess Catherine — along with Prince Harry after Sunday’s two hours, five minutes and 48 seconds’ victory.
Wanjiru says he intends to remain God-fearing, humble and selfless despite earning a total of $130,000 (Sh13 million) in prize money — $55,000 (Sh5.5 million) for his victory and an additional $75,000 (Sh7.5 million) time bonus for running under two hours and six minutes.
“I know it will come with many challenges, but I have come from far and will remain that humble boy from Kanyekine, Kirinyaga,” said Wanjiru upon arrival at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport on Tuesday.
“Distractions will always be there, but I trust in God to help me avoid bad groups and bad influence.”
It took hard work, commitment, sacrifice and self-discipline for Wanjiru, who was brought up by a single mother, Sally Wanjiru, to succeed on just his third marathon outing.
“I always dreamt of winning some of these major races like the London Marathon one day while still in primary school,” Wanjiru told Nation Sport at the airport.
He will now take a short break to prepare for the IAAF World Championships in London in case he will be named to the Kenyan team.
“I hope Athletics Kenya gives me a ticket early enough to enable me prepare well. It will be imperative that they name the team early,” said Wanjiru, who was in company of former two-time world marathon champion Abel Kirui - who finished fourth in London in 2:07:45.
World Half Marathon Championships silver medallist Bedan Karoki, who settled for third in 2:07:41, opted to fly direct from London to his base in Japan while Mary Keitany, who set a new women’s world marathon record of 2:17:01, is expected back on Friday morning.
WON IN PRAGUE
In April last year, Wanjiru won the Prague Half Marathon on his third appearance in 59:20 then went back to Prague for the full marathon just over a month later and finished fourth 2:09:25 before winning the Amsterdam Marathon in October in a course record and personal best 2:05:21.
Unlike many other athletes who fancied Kenya’s great distance runners like Moses Tanui, Ibrahim Hussein, the late Samuel Wanjiru and Paul Tergat, Wanjiru drew inspiration from middle distance runner David Nyaga, who hailed from his home area but shifted his allegiance to Qatar back in 2006.
“I used to follow Nyaga in training and I liked him along when he competed in the 1,500m. I just wanted to be like him,” said Wanjiru.
“This is just the start and for sure the best is yet to come from me.”
Nyaga, who changed his name to Daham Najim Bashir after he took up Qatari citizenship, set a new Asian record over the mile clocking 3:47.97 minutes at the 2005 Bislett Games in Oslo, Norway.
In 2006, he won a silver medal in 1,500 metres at the 2006 Asian Indoor Athletics Championships before taking the gold medal at that distance at the 2006 Asian Games.
He represented Qatar at the 2005 World Championships in Athletics and the 2008 Summer Olympics, finishing 10th in both.
It was in his final year at Kianjege Primary School in 2004 where Wanjiru embraced athletics, having been inspired by Nyaga.
He competed in 5,000m and cross country races from Kianjege on to Mutitu Secondary School where he reached the nationals on several occasions.
It’s upon clearing his form four in 2008 that Wanjiru embarked on serious training that took him to Embu in early 2009 where he had gone to look for a training camp.
His journey to Embu brought him to his current coach, the 2006 Seoul Marathon winner Jason Mbote where he also engaged Thomas Clechy as his manager. Wanjiru competed in his first half marathon race during the 2010 Standard Chartered Nairobi Marathon where he clocked 1:02:57.
He would improve his time to 1:02:19 at 2012 Krems before clocking 1:01:10 at 2013 Ras Al Khaimah.
Mbote and Thomas would transform Wanjiru to an astute athlete to see him take part in his first marathon in Frankfurt in 2014 where he finished seventh in 2:08:18.
Wanjiru later changed his management to Volare Sports of Gerard van de Veen and with it came new tidings that have helped shape his running career.