Some 8,521 miles from home, Kemboi Kiptoo Mitei, better known as Bill Kemboi, is a Central Arkansas track and field distance runner from the mecca of long distance running in Kenya.
“I was born in a village where most of Kenyan professional runners are from and it’s called Iten,” Kemboi said.
In Iten, Kenya, Kemboi is from a village called Mundiliwo where long distance running is a social norm.
As a child, Kemboi would run long distances to school and back while racing his friends. On his way there, Kemboi said, “They would be about 300 runners on the road and I thought to myself, I love this, I should one day do this.”
So he started competing at his school, which brought him a lot of attention and he began to realize he was good at running.
“At 10 I ran in a charity race against 17-year-olds and came in third,” said Kemboi.
More success would come in high school, as Kemboi participated in the East African championships every year in high school. However, things went south when he injured his leg, and lost his mother to cancer and father to tuberculosis.
“Through my hurt and pain God is my father and my mother,” Kemboi said,
Before their death, Bill had never officially met his dad, and his mother was a farmer, taking care of five kids on her own. Kemboi’s mother sold vegetables in the market to get money to feed, educate and clothe them.
“I am not from a well off family, I come from a very humble background,” Kemboi said.
Also with the lack of good healthcare and money for proper treatment, Kemboi would have to stop running for almost two years to let his leg heal.
“I would put water outside to get cold, because we didn’t have a fridge and in the morning I would put my leg in cold water,” Kemboi said.
When asked more about his recovery, Kemboi said he came back even healthier than before.
“I picked up very well, and I was among the favorites of my coach, then I was proposed to come to this school,” Kemboi said.
While at Central Arkansas, he still deals with injuries, but recently Kemboi ran a 15:33.34 in a 5000 meter at the Southland Conference Indoor Track and field Championships in Birmingham, Alabama on Feb. 15.
Teammate Woodrow Murray spoke about Kemboi and his performance at the indoor championships.
“He stopped a lap short and stood there and thought he was finished and still was able to run a 15:33 in the 5000 meter,” Murray said.
Currently Kemboi is an accounting major, who loves to run, meet new friends and listen to Swahili worship songs.
“I was so down but I thank God he gave me the strength again and now I am going further,” Kemboi said.
When asked if he could give up track Kemboi said “It would be hard but if God asked me to I would, because I have given my life to God.”
“He has absolute trust in God as his supplier, his shepherd and comforter,” Central Arkansas physician Randy Pastor said.
This article originally appeared in the March 2, 2016 print edition of The Echo.
image via crossed-flag-pins.com