From double world cross-country team champion, to policewoman and dog whisperer; we bring you three interesting tales of the unexpected about Kenyan endurance all-rounder Margaret Wangari.

1. Rifle Range

After joining the police force in 2007 – a familiar route for many Kenyan athletes, as it gives them the security of both a regular income and an opportunity to train full-time – her basic training involved a visit to the rifle range.

15 bullets to fire at a target 200m away was the challenge facing her, and coincidentally Asbel Kiprop – the 2008 Olympic and 2011 and 2013 World 1500m champion – who was stood next to her on the range facing the same test of his skills. Yet there was a snag. Wangari, who weighs in at a mere 45kg, struggled to even lift the rifle.

“The rifle was very heavy for me. I could not shoot well,” she explains. 

Margaret Wangari SPIKES ()

"Those arms can't lift a rifle..."

When the police trainer came to counting the number of bullets which had hit her target, Margaret had a complete ‘washout’ scoring zilch. Yet when adding Asbel’s score, the figure was 26! 

How so?

“I was seeing Asbel’s target,” she admits. “Now Asbel was not a sharp shooter he did not shoot 15, maybe 12. The other bullets were all mine,” she adds with a hearty laugh.

The police assessor turned a blind eye to the mix-up and as Margaret admits: “He had to put something down on his file, so I was given nine and Asbel, because he was a man, insisted he put down ten.” 

Thankfully, she has since improved her accuracy on the rifle range, but admits that her and Kiprop still joke about the incident.

2. A dog’s life

Competing on the US road running circuit in 2011, Wangari fully embraced the culture of the circuit, and like many other runners, stayed at host families ahead of races rather than the usual hotel for most other athletics competitions.

She said many families treated her 'like a queen', but there was one time when she had a less than pleasant experience staying with one particular family thanks to their aggressive and unfriendly, large dog.    

“It was a very tough dog and I feared it,” she explains. 

“It was always barking at me and chasing me around the house. It was like a cat chasing a mouse. After three or four days I was shifted to another family.”

3. Hubby-who?

Part of a 30-35 strong training group in the town of Ngong near Nairobi, Wangari is currently getting the better of her husband Jacob Yator (a 2:09 marathoner) on their long training runs.

“Sometimes I finish in front of him and he has to chase me,” she adds with relish. “It is a motivation [to beat him]. It is like, wow!” 

Margaret Wangari SPIKES ()

She may be as light as a feather, but she's not to be underestimated

So after training, does she dare to pass comment to hubby? Well, of course she does.

“I tell him ‘thanks for being a good support to my running career, but tomorrow try not to finish behind me’. Then we laugh,” she adds giggling.

Bonus points…

Because it’s so much fun, here are three more Wangari-quick-facts that will definitely come in handy for a pub quiz one day:

4. She is a huge fan of the Disney movies because they “make her laugh and help relieve stress”. Her favourite is The Lion King, and if she were a character from the Disney epic, she would most likely be Timon, the meerkat.   

5. Her guilty pleasure is McDonalds – a Big Mac with fries – which she likes to eat from time to time. 

6. If she was US President for the day, she said she would “encourage the American runners to become champion runners like the Kenyans!” 

Photography: International Athletics Consultancy