Little known Kenyan Marathoner Shocks World with Paris Olympics Call-Up

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– Munyao eyes Olympic debut

– Joins elite Kenyan marathon squad

– London Marathon champion earns first call-up

As the Paris Olympics fast approaches, all eyes are on little-known London Marathon champion Alexander Munyao, who looks poised to etch his name on the echelons of  World Marathon.

Athletics Kenya (AK) handed Munyao his first-ever Olympic call-up alongside an elite squad of eight Kenyan marathoners—four men and four women—who will hoist the nation’s flag in Paris.

Munyao will compete alongside marathon royalty, including two-time Olympic champion Eliud Kipchoge and Tokyo Marathon champion Benson Kipruto. Tokyo Marathon silver medallist Timothy Kiplagat will serve as the reserve.

Munyao will be heading into the global extravaganza buoyed by his triumph at the London Marathon last month.

Prepares for top form

Determined to be in peak condition for the Olympics, Munyao is leaving nothing to chance. 

“I want to be in top form when the Olympics come. There are a lot of big names in the men’s race and I have to be in perfect condition to ensure I keep up with the pace,” he stated.

Securing his spot in Team Kenya required a decisive victory in London. “I was sure Kipchoge and Kipruto would make the team. So, I knew winning the London Marathon would guarantee my spot in the final three.”

Munyao’s triumph in London came at the expense of 41-year-old Kenenisa Bekele—a formidable opponent who had to settle for second place.

He surged ahead with just over 2 km to go, finishing in 2:04:01, with Bekele trailing in 2:04:15. The UK’s Emile Cairess completed the podium in 2:06:46.

Holds Self-discipline

Reflecting on his victory, Munyao attributed his success to sheer determination and self-discipline. “Winning in London was not easy. I was up against an Ethiopian threat in Bekele. My determination to make Team Kenya for the Olympics saw me carry the day.”

Born on September 10, 1996, in Kiteta Location, Makueni County, Munyao’s passion for running was sparked by his elder brother, James Kisilu, a high school track star.

“When I was young, I used to see my older brother run in high school. He was really good. He, however, stopped running after he was employed by Kenya Police,” Munyao noted.

Munyao’s running journey began in earnest at Kiteta Boys’ Secondary School, where he would run 5 km to and from school daily and excel in school track events.

“My school was 5km away from home. I used to run every day and that’s where my passion began. I also used to compete in the school games in the track events. The competition was tough but I would eventually emerge victorious,” he remarked.

His talent shone through, leading to medals at the national level in 2013—a bronze in the 1,500m and a silver in the 3,000m.

Not a bed of roses

His journey was, however, hit with a few setbacks including the lack of food at home as well as unavailability of training facilities to horn his skills.

“Sometimes we had no food at home. It was really tough as a kid because I couldn’t understand at the time.”

“There was also the issue of training facilities. Where I come from, we are not really known for athletics, so there were no proper training grounds for people like me who have a passion for running,” he stated.

Despite these obstacles, Munyao’s vision of representing his country kept him going. “The challenges did not faze me. I knew if I wanted to make my mark in the Kenyan athletics field, I had to keep going and pushing myself,” he stated.

Life transformed

His life would be transformed after Peter Muteti, who has been his coach ever since, recognised his talent during the Makueni School games, where Munyao shone in the cross-country event.

Muteti immediately enrolled Munyao into his Ndumbi Athletics Camp in Makueni. Munyao notes how his coach changed his whole perspective of running.

 “Coach Muteti saw the talent in me when I was in high school and decided to take me to his camp. I  just used to run and I didn’t know anything about training and programs to follow as a runner. Muteti started training me and guiding me on what to do as a runner, and that’s where my whole life changed,” Munyao shared.

Under Muteti’s guidance, Munyao earned a call up to represent Kenya at the World Youth Championships in Donetsk, Ukraine.

Munyao clocked 7:56.86 to secure bronze in the 3,000m behind Vedic Kipkoech (7:55.60) and Yomif Kejelcha (7:53.56) of Ethiopia.

His star continued to shine as he was contracted by the Japanese firm ND Software Company after high school in 2015.  

The contract not only offered Munyao a chance to represent the company’s sports club, NDS athletIcs Club, in  Japan but also gave him a stepping stone to refine his skills.

“I got a chance to go work in Japan in 2015 for ND software company. The company approached me to represent them in major competitions. This was a one-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me. It helped me grow my skills on the track.”

“There are many top-the-art training tracks in Japan, unlike Kenya. I was able to take part in a lot of competitions in Japan. The company also sponsored my exploits globally to be able to achieve my dreams. Being in Japan has boosted my career,” he added.

Munyao revealed that he still keeps contact with his coach despite being   10,929km apart.

“Coach Muteti sends me training regimens to follow in Japan. When we break for home—which is usually about three months— I come back to Kenya and continue training with Muteti at Ndumbi or Ngong Hills,” noted.

In January 2020, Munyao clocked 59:09 to clinch the Santa Pola Half Marathon title in Spain.

The following month, he followed it up with a silver medal at the Ras Al Khaimah, UAE, Half Marathon clocking 59:16. He would, however, end his year with a fourth-place finish at the Valencia Half Marathon (57:59) on December 6.

The 2021 season saw him claim silver at the Herzogenaurach Half Marathon in Germany clocking 59:20.

Fueled by the illustrious career of former world marathon record holder Patrick Makau, Munyao decided to take up the full Marathon..

Makau is renowned for his triumph in the 2011 Berlin Marathon, where set a new world record of 2:03:28 that stood for two years until it was broken by Wilson Kipsang (2:03:23) at the 2013 Berlin Marathon.

When Munyao crossed the finish line at the 2022 Valencia Marathon, it wasn’t just the culmination of months of gruelling training but also the beginning of a story that would captivate the hearts of many.

The 27-year-old, standing on the starting line for his first full marathon, was a bundle of nerves.

Personal bests


  • 3000 metres – 7:56.86 (Donetsk 2013)
  • 5000 metres – 13:21.90 (Kumamoto 2016)
  • 10,000 metres – 27:23.03 (Yokohama 2021)


  • Half marathon – 57:59 (Valencia 2020)
  • Marathon – 2:03:11 (Valencia 2023)

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