LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Wesley Korir has seen this kind of violence before. The 2012 Boston Marathon champion and newly elected member of the Kenyan parliament was trapped for a time in his native country during post-election violence in December of 2007.
Still, Monday's terrorist explosions near the finish line of the Boston Marathon hit him hard, even if he had long since finished the race, in fifth place.
"I had finished the press conference and was in my hotel taking a shower," Korir said. "While I was taking a shower I heard the explosion. My hotel is very close to the finish line. My wife had gone down to get some food, and she came back saying there had been a bomb explosion outside and the hotel was in lockdown. . . . Then I looked outside and there were all these emergency vehicles going around. My first thought was to let my people back home know I was safe, and all the Kenyans were safe. And then pray for what is going on in this world."
Korir, 30, isn't just a runner. He was elected to Kenya's parliament representing his native Rift Valley in March, and he has worked tirelessly for years to establish his Kenyan Kids Foundation, into which he has poured many of his race winnings over the years.
Last summer, the foundation helped complete construction of a hospital in his home village of Biribiriet, then worked to arrange for a team of American doctors and medical personnel -- some from the University of Louisville, where he was a cross-country All-American -- to treat more than 3,000 villagers, even performing live-saving surgeries for some.
After the blasts in Boston, Korir took to the phones to check on each Kenyan runner in the race. Once all were accounted for, he thought about the larger implications of the violence, and he remembered walking through the rubble of a church that had been barricaded and burned down with people inside during his fateful 2007 trip home to Kenya.
"It's sad," Korir said. "Violence, I feel like, it is everywhere. . . . There is no more safe place. You don't know where to go to be safe. You go to a church and it can be burned down. You go to a race and there are bombs."
"This is one thing that will change our sport forever," Korir said. "I know we will get over it, but it brings out fear in your mind of what can happen. . . . I know we will move on from this. But God be with us, because we don't know, we don't know what will go on in our lives. . . . We must pray for the victims here, and their families."
Korir said his training regimen was curtailed a bit by his public duties, and that he was happy with his race result. But he added that he's much more concerned with how to address problems in his home country, as well as the bigger issues of attacks like the one in Boston. Speaking to the overall question of terrorism and random violence, he sounded a theme that he has been repeating since his days as a runner in college.
"I think we have to get our morals back, as leaders we have to try to get morals back," Korir said. "I don't believe war will ever end, this kind of thing. There are bad people, they are among you, they are there. So we have to pray very hard, and get our morals back. We must teach our young men the importance of love, the importance of safety, of harmony to raise the standard of living and morals of all people."