The runners had competed against each other since 2007.
Though they were fierce rivals, Deriba Merga and the late Sammy Wanjiru were also very good friends. Merga, a former Boston Marathon champion from Ethiopia had battled Wanjiru, a Kenyan, in numerous races throughout the world, including the 2008 Olympic Marathon where Wanjiru won gold.
Sammy Wanjiru, 24 passed away at his home in Nyahururu, Kenya on Sunday.
“I was shocked to my core when I heard the news,” Merga said yesterday. “This is a very tragic thing that has befallen him.” Merga had been in California competing in the 100th edition of the Zazzle Bay to Breakers. “We’ve run together many times and we are very close as friends,” said Merga. He then alluded to the 2007 Fukuoka race when Wanjiru edged him out by 11 seconds. “We were together until one kilometer remained. For 41km, we ran together, and after that he beat me.”
In April of 2008 the friends and rivals competed in the London Marathon. There, Wanjiru prevailed again, taking second place, while Merga settled for sixth.
“I feel great sadness in my heart,” Merga said.
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