Abbott World Marathon profile Feature – James Waliaula

  1. How long have you been running and what led you to it?
    I would say for the last 10 years
  2. What set you on your Six Star Journey and what has been the motivation to pursue all 6 majors?
    I am an avid traveller and my first international marathon happened to be in Paris, where I got bitten by the running bug for international races that are well organized and a great outdoor sporting experience. From Paris with love, I started scouting for the next international race destination and Voilà, Abbott WMM provided an irresistible bouquet of races in the most iconic cities of the world that immediately became a bucket list item. 
    Sports tourism was largely the motivation behind my Six Star journey. The challenge offered a perfect opportunity to kill two birds with one stone; and bring my lost fitness back while having fun travelling the world within two years!  
  3. What was your first marathon major and what are some of the tough learnings that helped in you to the subsequent 5 majors?
    Chicago Marathon was my first WMM race, which I raced back to back with NYC Marathon three weeks apart. 
  4. How did you qualify and enter each of the races?
    1. Chicago – Lottery pick
    2. New York – Lottery pick
    3. London – Charity fundraising
    4. Berlin – Tour Company (Sports Tours International)
    5. Tokyo – Tour Company (Sports Tours International)
    6. Boston – Age group time qualification
  2. Which was the hardest race to get into?
    London Marathon (min fundraising target was expensive).
  3. What goes into planning for such races? 
    Aside from the marathon training, there is lots of logistics planning (travel and accommodation) as well as financial planning.
  4. Describe to us what goes into training for these races.
    It’s been a learning process with a lot of mistakes (injuries) along the way largely due to over-excitement and an ambitious 2-year target to complete the journey. With good hindsight, I did overtrain a lot and could have done better times with a proper training plan, still within two years. Being the first Kenyan to complete the WMM, I didn’t have the luxury of referrals to learn from and I was left to my own devices to explore the uncharted territory 😊
  5. Which was the hardest race to run and why?
    London marathon, which I ran while having a nasty ankle injury
  6. What impact has this achievement made on your running?
    Taking the Six Star challenge very early on in my running as a fitness sport pretty much got me hooked on running as a lifestyle. It also exposed me to the science, art, culture and technology of running, which has played a big part in not only improving my running but my healthy living habits.
  7. Africa has so far produced only 90 six-star finishers, the lowest by continent, why do you think this is the case and what, in your opinion can be done to have more generals like you?
    It’s indeed a shame that despite producing world beaters, Kenya and by extension Africa doesn’t have a rich recreational running culture. I reckon this is largely due to the poor amenities (training grounds) and general infrastructure (roads that can safely accommodate runners and cyclists). In addition, the WMM race entries are not only expensive but have increasingly become difficult to enter due to increased demand worldwide, not to mention the additional setbacks brought by the COVID-19 pandemic.   
  8. South Africa has become Africa’s recreational running powerhouse, what are some of your recommendations on how Kenya can catch up?
    The poor amenities and infrastructure can only be addressed through structured lobbying of the government and corporates and the best way to do that is through recreational running clubs and associations. We need to have more recreational running clubs, which can quickly grow through the current many digital platforms that offer a wide reach for branding and advertising. 

About James

Currently deployed as Director of Operations for Mercy Corps Kenya, James has over 15 years of humanitarian work experience largely in the Horn and East Africa region with good authority in the management of Operations function of emergency and development programs. Specifically, James is good at facilitating transformational change by driving operational excellence to accomplish optimum efficiency and effectiveness in all Operations functions for both development and humanitarian work. 

His core competencies include extensive knowledge and experience in strategy development and delivery of international programming in both emergency and development contexts, impeccable project management proficiencies, good appreciation of major international donors funding strategies and rules, solid grasp of financial, logistics, and HR management international best practices, strong relationship building skills,  good mentoring and coaching skills, outstanding negotiating skills and priceless experience working with different reputable INGOs during major humanitarian crises in highly insecure contexts in Africa. 

James holds an MBA from Africa Nazarene University with a major in Strategic Management. He has various certifications in security management, leadership skills and is a full member of the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supplies.  James also happens to be an avid reader and a passionate endurance runner from where he borrows his virtues of discipline, patience and commitment, which always keep him going an extra mile both at home and at the workplace.

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