How Mary Keitany Went From Maid to Marathon Champion

Every day, Keitany would walk two kilometers carrying a pail, hoisting her scrawny body uphill to retrieve water from a nearby river for cooking and drinking.

Keitany realized she was a naturally gifted runner, but with no means to pay secondary school fees, she accepted an offer to move in with a family in the area who had hired her to work as a live-in servant and to care for three children, all younger than 7.

Her days were filled with getting them ready for school in the morning, making batches of ugali, an African cornmeal porridge, washing the family’s clothes, scrubbing dishes and keeping the house clean.

A door opened when Keitany’s distant relative helped get her into the National Hidden Talents Academy, a private secondary school in Dagoretti Constituency in Nairobi County for underserved youth.

In 2006, after finishing secondary school, she opted to pursue running as a career, thanks in part with help from her mentor, Linah Chesire, a former Kenyan competitive runner who connected her with three other up-and-coming elites.

Mary Keitany is one of Kenya’s most accomplished runners, with seven major marathon victories, including three in London and four in New York.Credit...Demetrius Freeman for The New York Times

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