The Runner's Story Is an Unbelievable One—Perhaps Literally

Moninda Marube claims to be a human trafficking victim, and it's complicated
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 21, 2018 12:25 PM CDT
The Runner's Story Is an Unbelievable One—Perhaps Literally
In this 2010 photo, Moninda Marube runs past Little Rock Central High in Little Rock, Ark. Marube, of Kenya, says he had to outrun two charging bears while training in the woods July 5, 2017, near his home in Auburn, Maine.   (AP Photo/Russell Powell, File)

When Kathryn Miles reached out to Moninda Marube last summer, her intention was to write a profile on the high-profile competitive runner and human trafficking survivor. What she ultimately ended up writing for Down East is a horse of another color. She is far from the first to report on Marube, who is now based in Maine after sharing a harrowing tale of coming to the US from Kenya to run, ending up in Coon Rapids, Minnesota, where he assumed he'd be trained by a successful running coach, also a Kenyan—only to end up, he alleged, a virtual prisoner, with his passport confiscated, his race winnings largely confiscated, and no access to a phone or the internet. He ultimately escaped, he said, after a chance meeting with a Kenyan truck driver at a grocery store, who he later contacted via a neighbor's phone, met at a truck stop, and fled the state with.

But when Miles tried to "flesh out the story"—getting, say, the name of the truck driver—he largely professed to have forgotten. And when she traveled to Coon Rapids and ultimately contacted that alleged human trafficker, a man named William Kosgei, and met with the current runners he was hosting, she found nothing of what Marube described. They all had their passports, most had phones, and she saw no hint of restrictions. Marube's explanation for this is that he is part of the Kisii ethnic group, and that "tribal prejudice" explained his worse treatment. Miles' fact-checking digs deep, and notes that Marube only voiced his story about Kosgei after learning about a US visa granted only to victims of certain crimes. Still, she allows that "none of the inconsistencies ... denials from other sources, or unverifiable claims necessarily mean that Marube wasn't in some ways mistreated or even trafficked while in Coon Rapids." Her full story has much more. (Read more Longform stories.)

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