The Road Ahead for Sam Chelanga

June 21st, 2011 in Articles by 0 Comments

Sam (Sammy) Chelanga won multiple NCAA cross-country titles (pictured) and numerous other accolades at Liberty University. Mike Atwood, a.k.a. Faster Than Forty’s Coach @, traded e-mails with him after he closed out his NCAA career this year with an NCAA 5K win for the Liberty Flames. Read their interview here:

FTF: Sammy, congrats on your win in the 2011 NCAA 5,000 Meters and your runner-up finish in the 10,000 Meters last week. You finished second in the 5K four times before you won this year, so it must feel great!

Sammy Chelanga: Hey! Thank you! Yes, the fact I hadn’t won an NCAA 5K before made it very special. It was a great way to end my college career. But I must say I didn’t see it coming at all.

FTF: 13:29 for 5K is a season best. What did you do this week to make sure you peaked for NCAAs? Any different training? A taper? How high does your mileage get and how low do you bring it down for racing?

Sammy Chelanga: Basically, I tried not to do big races this year. Normally I would do a huge 5K or 10K but not this season. I tend to burn out when I do a lot of races. But the training was the same as the previous years. I tend to stay within the range of 80-90 miles in singles. But I would drop it to about 60-70 depending on the race I am about to do. I don’t taper that much.

FTF: You moved into position with 1,200 meters to go in the 5K and took over the lead. You seemed extremely confident despite the talented field – especially Korir (the NCAA 10K champion). How did you know that was right time to move?

Sammy Chelanga: I saw the chase pack closing in so I thought it’d be a good idea to push a little rather than wait until the kick. I knew that they were using a lot of energy to catch up with me and Lawi (Lalang), so pushing was the only option to secure a good finish.

FTF: Korir from Iona beat in you the 10K with by 5 seconds (28:07 to your 28:12)  but your time was still solid considering your double. How did that race go for you? Anything you would have done differently with your strategy?

Sammy Chelanga: I thought it was a great race by how it played out. But as far as winning, I honestly don’t know the answer to this question.

FTF: Daegu, South Korea is the home of this year’s IAAF World Championships. Do you stand a chance of being selected for Kenya? Or will you be a U.S. Citizen in time?

Sammy Chelanga: I don’t know if I would make it in the Kenya team, but then again I do not intend to represent Kenya. I won’t be a US citizen by then, which is unfortunate because I really would love to represent the U.S.

FTF: Your brother Joshua is a pretty successful marathoner, with a 2:07:05 personal best at Berlin. Do you see yourself heading that direction? What would your marathon performance be with your current track times?

Sammy Chelanga: Yes!! I cannot wait to run marathons; that is my ultimate distance! I do not know how my times would be but I do know that I am very ambitious when it comes to marathon running. We will find out in the next year or two. On a side note, I think based on my brother’s performances, I am optimistic that I will do even better than he did.

FTF: You earned 13 All-American titles! How do you feel about this accomplishment?

Sammy Chelanga: I am honestly honored! God has blessed me amazingly! Very thankful.

FTF: What provoked you to transfer from Farleigh Dickenson University to Liberty?

Sammy Chelanga: Well basically everything from training, coaching and facilities was not conducive for any athlete who wanted to go to the highest level. I was thankful that FDU was the first school to get me to the U.S., but I did not like the way the treated me when I asked for a release to transfer. To the best of my knowledge, I kindly explained my desire to maximize my potential and that FDU wasn’t the place for me, not that I had anything against the school. However, the AD was so bitter that he basically decided that if I leave then I won’t be released no matter what, which did not really make much sense given that Liberty was in a different conference and region! Despite all this, I still love FDU and wish them the best! It is because of them not releasing me, that everybody got to see me race this year because I had to red shirt for a year at Liberty. So everything worked out for the best.

FTF: How did you enjoy your education at Liberty? You majored in Government? Any interest in politics?

Sammy Chelanga: The Helms School of Government at Liberty was a perfect fit for me. My concentration was in politics and policy. I also minored in Criminal Justice and Strategic Intelligence. These are fields which I believe will help me in my desire to serve people. Serving is what I desire the most, and I think that have knowledge and wisdom in governance is the essence of being a true servant. Eventually, I would like to participate in mission work and partner with organizations such World Vision, with which I already have very good relationship. I think anybody who has desire go to another country trying to help will understand that having knowledge in government will make it more bearable. Anyways, I don’t really know the best way to service, but I think that having knowledge in the fields that I have studied will be useful someday.

FTF: If you do pursue politics as a career, what are your long-term goals?

Sammy Chelanga: I don’t see myself going into politics, but I think I am going to do mission work. I also like to help people achieve their goals, so maybe I would start a foundation or something. We’ll see what God has in store for me!

FTF: Do you have a particular hero (political or athletic) that you aspire to be like?

Sammy Chelanga: Yes. Paul Tergat… And all the regular people I don’t know, who go through tough times every day but still never give up! These are the people that God watches over, and anyone would be inspired if they knew them!

FTF: You ran a 4:03 indoor mile. Any ambitions about breaking 4:00 this year?

Sammy Chelanga: Ha, ha! I am not crazy about going sub 4:00 but if I get a chance, I would love to do it.

FTF: What was it like to set the NCAA record of 27:08 behind Chris Solinsky’s 26:59 race last year?

Sammy Chelanga: I still can’t explain it! I pretty much know that God is working something special in my life and I have faith in Him. The 5K at NCAA felt the same way because I did not see it coming at all!

FTF: Do you have your sights on breaking 27:00 soon?

Sammy Chelanga: I can’t know if I will be able to do it during my career, but I do desire and I have that if it is according to His will, it will happen!

FTF: What does your summer racing schedule look like?

Sammy Chelanga: I do not have a schedule yet, but I do want to go to Europe and race a 5K and a 10K. I might do the BAA 10K next Sunday in Boston, MA.

FTF: Fantastic, I’ll be there! My wife is running her first 10K! What are you Olympic goals for London 2012?

Sammy Chelanga: I am in a limbo because I do know if I will be able to represent the U.S. by then! The U.S is now my home! If I am not eligible by then, I will still support the USA.

FTF: Is your family still in Kenya, or are they in the States now?

Sammy Chelanga: They are in Kenya. I am the second-to-last born in my family. My family is pretty old so basically everyone has moved on with their lives and as for me, they support me because they like my choice of residence. I still go home once in a while to visit them and also to do some mission work. We also talk on the phone and Skype.

FTF: Sammy, we happen to be friends on Facebook. How much time do you spend updating your status each day?

Sammy Chelanga: Ha, ha, cool! I don’t how often, but whenever I have something cool to say I update it. I also go there to chat with my friends and fans! They send me messages and I try my best to keep in touch with everyone of my friends!

FTF: Any advice for high school runners out there?

Sammy Chelanga: DO NOT put yourself in pressure to run so fast like the best runners in the nation. You are young, and what really matters is that you take those baby steps and enjoy the experience. However, I know high school runners here in the U.S. are smart so set goals. Set them in a way such that you start with the end… For example: say I want to be able to make it to States. So, basically you start that with knowing what it takes to get you to the State Championship. Ask for help as you do this, but make sure you do it with all your heart and never back down. You are the best person to inspire yourself to do the best you can. Ignore critics, respect your competition and appreciate all the support you get from parents, coaches, teammates or anybody else. Once again, enjoy it! Be content in every situation. Win or lose, Life goes on!

Mike Atwood writes the regular Faster Than Forty column “Coach @’s Corner.” Please follow him @MichaelJAtwood on Twitter and at on LinkedIn, or to comment on this particular story, leave your thoughts below.


Author: FasterThanForty

Leave a Reply