Post-career, many elite Kenyan marathoners face poverty and financial hardship

Winners of the Boston Marathon brings on a great prize, but the post-marathon life isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.


April 23, 2019

When Duncan Kibet broke the tape at the 2009 Rotterdam Marathon, it came with a $280k payday, including a lucrative Nike contract.

For the Kenyan, it was life-changing money. But as the The New York Times writes, the post-running journey of professional marathoners is often fraught with financial insecurity.

A long road

A top finish at a major marathon can come with a big payout. Winning Dubai ($200k), Boston ($150k), London ($150k), or Chicago ($100k) can set up a Kenyan athlete for life.

But the money goes quickly: Many Kenyan runners use large portions of their winnings to support family members and pay for schooling. Others fall prey to faulty investments, land title scams, and exploitation schemes.

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Benjamin Limo, of the International Association of Athletics Federations, estimates that as many as 75% of Kenya’s former top marathon runners live in unsustainable conditions — and half are “really struggling.”

This is a problem for most athletes

Kenyan runners’ plight is particularly rough since 53% of the country lives below the poverty line. But this post-career struggle is common for American athletes too: It has been estimated that as many as 60% of NBA players are broke within 5 years of leaving the league.

A mounting financial literacy movement looks to change this. Though runners like Kibet, now 40 years old and broke, would say the change is long overdue.

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