Series20 Nov 2019

Advice to my younger self: Paul Chelimo


US distance runner Paul Chelimo (© AFP / Getty Images)

USA’s Paul Chelimo, who earned Olympic silver in the 5000m in 2016 and world bronze in 2017, offers some words of motivation to his teenage self.



You may not yet have fully discovered the importance of patience and consistency but I promise that over time you will find the value in both. This will allow you to thrive as an athlete on the international stage.

You may not know it yet, but as a student at Chebiemet Boys High School in Iten you are already applying the principles for your future success. You are a hard-working student who enjoys playing all sport, especially football.

Yet if you cast your mind back to your time at primary school, your attitude was very different. Back then you were a crazy boy who struggled to take the time to study. At high school, though, you will see the value in devoting more time to your education and this will enable you to perform better. Please remember this.

In future, your brother will go on to secure a full athletics scholarship in the USA and, believing that you are a more talented runner than him, you are keen to follow in his footsteps. This is positive, Paul, but please show more patience.

At some point in the not-too-distant future, you’ll meet Italian coach Renato Canova in Iten and he will offer you the chance to train with his group. Your mum, however, would prefer you to pursue a good education in the USA. Listen to your mother – studying in the States will give you many more options for your future.

You will later become a member of the US Army, where you will serve as a water treatment specialist. You will be proud to serve time in the US military and this will give you a better life for you and your family. You will learn so many virtues from your time in the US Army: resilience, integrity and respect. It will instil in you the value of patience. You will sometimes need to meet at a place and then have to wait for three hours before knowing your assignment. It will be a challenge and not always easy. But your time in the army will give you a greater understanding and not to take anything for granted.

After four years in the army, you will go on to become a sponsored athlete and compete at the Olympic Games and World Championships. You will earn some major medals but you may also have to show a bit of patience before those medals are confirmed.

Looking back, there’ll be a time when you may wish you had started running a little earlier than the age of 19, but you will learn that patience and consistency will serve you best as a professional athlete. And, in reality, you are currently learning and understanding the importance of such principles during your time as a high school student.


Steve Landells for World Athletics