Samuel Wanjiru

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Samuel Kamau Wanjiru
Samuel Wanjiru2008 Summer Olympics2.jpg
Wanjiru entering the stadium in his marathon victory at the 2008 Summer Olympics
Personal information
Nationality Kenyan
Born (1986-11-10)10 November 1986
Nyahururu, Kenya
Died 15 May 2011(2011-05-15) (aged 24)
Nyahururu, Kenya
Height 1.63m (5 ft 4 in)
Weight 52 kg (115 lb)
Sport Running
Event(s) Half marathon, marathon
Achievements and titles
Personal best(s) 5000 m: 13:12.40 (2005)
10000 m: 26:41.75 (2005)
Half marathon: 58:33 (2007)
Marathon: 2:05:10 (2009)

Samuel Kamau Wanjiru (10 November 1986 – 15 May 2011) was a Kenyan athlete who specialised in long-distance running. He set the current 10000m World Junior Record (improvement by 22 seconds) in 2005 and broke the world record in the half marathon a few weeks later (when he was 18 years old). He once more broke the half marathon world record in February 2007 and another time in March to 58:33, an improvement to his February record by twenty seconds.[1]

He moved to the full marathon and won the event at the 2008 Beijing Olympics in an Olympic record time of 2:06:32; becoming the first Kenyan to win the Olympic gold in the marathon. He became the youngest Gold medalist in the Marathon since 1932. The following year, he won both the London Marathon and Chicago Marathon, running the fastest marathons ever recorded in the United Kingdom and United States, respectively. He retained his Chicago title in 2010 in a season fraught with injury.

In 2011, he died after falling off a balcony at his home in Nyahururu following a domestic dispute. Police are still uncertain whether his death was a suicide, homicide, or accidental.[2][3]

Running career

Early career

Samuel Wanjiru was born in Nyahururu, Laikipia County, a town in the Rift Valley, about 150 kilometres (93 mi) northwest of the capital, Nairobi.[2] and was brought up with his brother Simon Njoroge in poverty by his mother Hannah Wanjiru, daughter of Samuel Kamau.[4][5] Wanjiru took his mother's given name as a surname, because she was a single mother. He dropped out of school aged about 12, because they could not afford the school fees.[6]

Wanjiru started running at the age of 8. In 2002, he moved to Japan and went to Sendai Ikuei Gakuen High School in Sendai. He had success on the Japanese cross country circuit, where he won the Fukuoka International Cross Country at sixteen years old in 2003. He went on to win in both Fukuoka and at the Chiba International Cross Country consecutively in 2004 and 2005.[7] After graduating in 2005, he joined the Toyota Kyūshū athletics team, coached by 1992 Olympic marathon silver medalist Koichi Morishita.[8]

Wanjiru had a 5000 m best of 13:12.40, run as a 17-year-old in April 2004 in Hiroshima, Japan. At the age of only 18, Wanjiru broke the half marathon world record on 11 September 2005 in the Rotterdam Half Marathon with a time of 59:16 minutes, officially beating Paul Tergat's half-marathon record of 59:17 minutes.

This was preceded two weeks earlier by a bettering of the 10,000 m world junior record by a margin of almost 23 seconds in the IAAF Golden League Van Damme Memorial Race on 26 August. His WJR time of 26:41.75 was good enough for third place in the race behind Kenenisa Bekele's world record, set in the same race, of 26:17.53 and Boniface Kiprop's 26:39.77. It was Kiprop who held the previous world junior mark (27:04.00 minutes), set at the same meeting the previous year. The run saw 6 runners going under 27 minutes[9][10]

World records and Olympic gold

Wanjiru took back the half-marathon world record, which Haile Gebrselassie broke in early 2006, with 58:53 minutes on 9 February 2007 at the Ras Al Khaimah Half Marathon[11] and improved it to 58:33 on 17 March 2007 in the City-Pier-City Loop in The Hague, Netherlands. While improving his own record, he recorded an unofficial time of 55:31 for 20 km, which was faster than Haile Gebrselassie's world record but was never ratified due to the timing methods in the race.[12]

Wanjiru approaching the finishing line at the 2008 Summer Olympics

Wanjiru made his marathon debut at Fukuoka Marathon on 2 December 2007, winning it impressively with a course record of 2:06:39.[13] He started 2008 by winning the Zayed International Half Marathon and receiving a prize of US $300,000.[14] In the 2008 London Marathon, he came in second, breaking 2:06 for the first time. In the 2008 Summer Olympics, Wanjiru won the marathon gold medal in an Olympic record time of 2:06:32, smashing the previous record of 2:09:21 set by Carlos Lopes of Portugal in the 1984 Olympics.[15] He received the AIMS World Athlete of the Year Award that year in recognition of his performances.[16]

London and Chicago wins

At the Granollers Half Marathon in February 2008, in which Wanjiru won, the Kenyan stated his intent for the future, saying, "in five years' time I feel capable of clocking a sub 2 hours time for the marathon."[17] In April 2009, Wanjiru won the London Marathon in a time of 2:05:10, a new personal record and also a new course record. He was pleased with the achievement and stated that he hoped to break Haile Gebrselassie's world record in the near future.[18] At the Rotterdam Half Marathon, Wanjiru clocked a 1:01:08 on 13 September, which was won by Sammy Kitwara with a time of 58:58.[19] In October 2009, Wanjiru won the Chicago Marathon in a time of 2:05:41, setting a new course record for the city and the fastest marathon time ever run in the United States.[20] The wins in London and Chicago helped him reach the top of the World Marathon Majors rankings for 2009, earning him a jackpot of US$500,000.[21]

He signed up to defend his title at the 2010 London Marathon, but he encountered knee trouble at the midway point of the race and decided to drop out to avoid further injury – the first time in six marathons that he had failed to finish.[22] He chose to run at the 2010 Chicago Marathon in October, but a stomach virus before the race had harmed his preparations and he entered the competition with the lesser aim of reaching the top three. Tsegaye Kebede took the opportunity to forge a lead, but Wanjiru (despite a lack of peak physical form) persevered with the pace and caught up with the Ethiopian. He took the lead in the final 400 m to defend his title in Chicago with a time of 2:06:24. "It was the greatest surprise I have ever seen in my life", remarked his coach, Federico Rosa, on the performance.[23][24]

Personal life

Wanjiru married Mary Wacera, a fellow long-distance runner, in 2009 and the two had a child (Ann) in 2010. He had previously married Triza Njeri in a traditional ceremony and had two children, although Wanjiru and Wacera's marriage was legally binding.[25]

In December 2010 Wanjiru was arrested by Kenyan police at his house in Nyahururu and charged with threatening to kill his wife and illegally possessing an AK-47 rifle. He denied both the accusations and claimed that he was being framed.[26][27]

Wanjiru and his wife Triza Njeri, a beautician, had a daughter Anne Wanjiru and a son Simon Njoroge.[4][28] Wanjiru also had a third wife, Judy Wambui Wairimu, who was pregnant when he died and has since had a son.[29]

Wanjiru's cousin Joseph Riri is a world-class marathon runner,[30] and Wanjiru's younger brother Simon Njoroge is also a long-distance runner.[citation needed]


On 15 May 2011, Wanjiru died from a fall off a balcony at his home in Nyahururu. Wanjiru appeared to have suffered internal injuries after the fall and was confirmed dead by doctors at a nearby hospital after attempts to revive him failed.[3]

Police said Wanjiru's wife, Triza Njeri, had come home to find him in bed with another woman. She locked the couple in the bedroom and ran outside. Wanjiru then leapt from the balcony.[2] Police are unsure if Wanjiru intended suicide or jumped out of rage, and are investigating the circumstances related to Njeri and his female companion that led to his death.[2][31]


Year Competition Venue Position Event Notes
Representing  Kenya
2005 Rotterdam Half Marathon Rotterdam, Netherlands 1st Half marathon 59:16 WR
2007 Ras Al Khaimah Half Marathon Ras Al Khaimah, UAE 1st Half marathon 58:53 WR
City-Pier-City Half Marathon The Hague, Netherlands 1st Half marathon 58:33 WR
Fukuoka Marathon Fukuoka, Japan 1st Marathon 2:06:39
2008 Summer Olympics Beijing, China 1st Marathon 2:06:32 OR
2009 London Marathon London, United Kingdom 1st Marathon 2:05:10
Chicago Marathon Chicago, United States 1st Marathon 2:05:41
2010 Chicago Marathon Chicago, United States 1st Marathon 2:06:23

Personal bests

Samuel Wanjiru, breaking a world record in the 2007 Fortis City-Pier-City Half Marathon
Event Time Date Location
5000 metres 13:12.40 29 April 2005 Hiroshima
10,000 metres 26:41.75† 26 August 2005 Brussels
20 kilometres 55:31‡ 17 March 2007 Den Haag
Half marathon 58:33 17 March 2007 Den Haag
Marathon 2:05:10 26 April 2009 London

Most information taken from IAAF profile.[34]

Key: † = World junior record, ‡ = Unofficial


  1. ^ "IAAF: Half Marathon - men - senior - outdoor |". Retrieved 2018-09-21.
  2. ^ a b c d Macharia, James (15 May 2011). "Samuel Wanjiru Dead: Olympic Gold Medalist Dies At 24". Huffington Post. USA. Reuters. Retrieved 15 May 2011.
  3. ^ a b "Kenya Olympic marathon star Sammy Wanjiru dies in fall". BBC News. 16 May 2011. Retrieved 16 May 2011.
  4. ^ a b "Obituary". Daily Telegraph. 16 May 2011. Retrieved 25 July 2011.
  5. ^ "Wanjiru mother arrested". The Standard. 4 June 2011. Retrieved 12 May 2016.
  6. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 28 March 2012. Retrieved 25 July 2011.
  7. ^ Nakamura, Ken (20 February 2005). "Niiya, Yamanaka, Sato and Wanjiru excel in Chiba Cross Country". IAAF. Retrieved 12 May 2016.
  8. ^ "Olympics: Wanjiru aims for Beijing gold". Daily Nation. 19 July 2008. Archived from the original on 20 July 2008. Retrieved 19 July 2008.
  9. ^ "World Records ratified". IAAF. 17 November 2009. Archived from the original on 23 October 2012.
  10. ^ "IAAF: Bekele pulverizes World 10,000m – TDK Golden League, Brussels| News |". Retrieved 2018-10-04.
  11. ^ "58:53 Half Marathon World Record by Wanjiru in Ras al Khaimah". IAAF. 9 February 2007. Retrieved 12 May 2016.
  12. ^ Minshull, Phil (20 February 2009). "Makau produces second fastest time ever, Tune clocks national record at RAK Half Marathon – updated". IAAF. Retrieved 12 May 2016.
  13. ^ "2:06:39 debut victory for Wanjiru in Fukuoka". IAAF. 2 December 2007. Retrieved 12 May 2016.
  14. ^ Negash, Elshadai (1 March 2008). "Wanjiru and Kiplagat win Shekih Zayed Half in Abu Dhabi". IAAF. Retrieved 12 May 2016.
  15. ^ "Marathon gold for Kenya's Wanjiru". BBC Sport. 24 August 2008.
  16. ^ AIMS/ASICS World Athlete of the Year Awards. AIMS. Retrieved 2 August 2010.
  17. ^ "Wanjiru takes overwhelming Half Marathon win; Domínguez PB in Granollers". IAAF. 2 February 2009. Retrieved 12 May 2016.
  18. ^ "London Marathon 2009". BBC Sport. 26 April 2009. Retrieved 26 April 2009.
  19. ^ "Kitwara blazes 58:58 in Rotterdam". IAAF. 14 September 2009. Archived from the original on 26 December 2009. Retrieved 19 September 2009.
  20. ^ "Kenyan man, Russian woman win Chicago Marathon titles". Chicago Breaking News. 9 October 2009. Archived from the original on 13 October 2009. Retrieved 10 October 2009.
  21. ^ Butcher, Pat (20 October 2009). "Wanjiru vs Tadese set for half marathon in Abu Dhabi". IAAF. Retrieved 12 May 2016.
  22. ^ Brown, Matthew (25 April 2010). "Commanding victories for Kebede and Shobukhova – London Marathon report". IAAF. Retrieved 12 May 2016.
  23. ^ Longman, Jeré (10 October 2010). "After a Final Push, a Repeat Winner in Chicago". The New York Times. Retrieved 10 October 2010.
  24. ^ Ferstle, Jim (10 October 2010). "Wanjiru and Shobukhova defend titles in Chicago – Updated". IAAF. Archived from the original on 13 December 2010. Retrieved 14 October 2010.
  25. ^ Epstein, David (16 April 2012). "To Run In Kenya, To Run In The World". Sports Illustrated. CNN. Retrieved 12 May 2016.
  26. ^ "Kenyan Olympic winner Wanjiru charged over death threat". BBC Sport. 30 December 2010. Retrieved 30 December 2010.
  27. ^ "Kenyan marathon champ charged with attempted murder". AFP. 30 December 2010. Archived from the original on 4 January 2011. Retrieved 30 December 2010.
  28. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 12 October 2012. Retrieved 25 July 2011.
  29. ^ "DNA tests 'confirm' Wanjiru is the father of son". 98.4 Capital FM. 18 April 2012. Retrieved 19 April 2012.
  30. ^ "Wanjiru, Kenya's next marathon great?". IAAF. 16 December 2007. Retrieved 12 May 2016.
  31. ^ Longman, Jere (16 May 2011). "Mystery Remains in Death of Marathon Champion". The New York Times.
  32. ^ Athletes dominate Kenyan Sports Awards, IAAF, 2 March 2006.
  33. ^ "Moment of glory for Wanjiru and Jelimo". Daily Nation. 23 January 2009. Retrieved 24 January 2009.
  34. ^ IAAF, Wanjiru Samuel Kamau biography: Samuel Wanjiru biography

External links

  • Samuel Wanjiru at IAAF
  • Focus on Athletes article from IAAF
  • Samuel Kamau's Story at Peak Sports Management
  • Rosa & Associati profile
  • Samuel Wanjiru reviews after Rotterdam half marathon
  • Samuel Wanjiru: End of the Run – slideshow by Life magazine
  • New Yorker bio
Preceded by
Kenya Paul Tergat
Ethiopia Haile Gebrselassie
Men's half marathon world record holder
11 September 2005 – 15 January 2006
9 February 2007 – 21 March 2010
Succeeded by
Ethiopia Haile Gebrselassie
Eritrea Zersenay Tadese
Preceded by
PortugalCarlos Lopes
Men's Marathon Olympic Record Holder
24 August 2008 - present
Succeeded by
Sporting positions
Preceded by
Kenya Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot
Rotterdam men's half marathon winner
Succeeded by
Eritrea Zersenay Tadese
Preceded by
Ethiopia Haile Gebrselassie
Men's half marathon best year performance
Succeeded by
Shared between
Ethiopia Haile Gebrselassie &
Ethiopia Deriba Merga
Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Jason Dunford
Kenyan Sportsman of the Year
Succeeded by
Collins Injera
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