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When 30-year-old Caroline Rotich broke the tape at the 119th Boston Marathon on Monday in 2 hours, 24 minutes and 55 seconds, at least one person was not surprised—her coach Ryan Bolton. But what has come as a surprise in the running world is that Rotich has been coached by Bolton, a former Olympic triathlete and Ironman triathlon champion, for the past six years in Santa Fe, N.M.
“I always expected her to win,” Bolton said Wednesday night, just two days after Rotich’s huge victory, the first big international win of her career. “She has developed so well over the past five years, showing clear signs of greatness.” And, on April 20, it all came together. Rotich not only earned $150,000 for her win; but, also, some much due recognition for her coach. It’s not rare for Kenyan athletes to train part of the year in the U.S., but training under a U.S. coach is certainly an anomaly. Although Rotich was challenged to share much about her coach because of the language barrier at the post-race press conference, she did say, “People ask why I am coached by someone who knows about other sports like swimming and biking, but it is my choice. I trust what he does because I have seen the results in my running.”
Triathlon was first contested in the Sydney Olympics in 2000, and, on Team USA was a South Dakota-born, Wyoming-educated 27-year-old by the name of Ryan Bolton. He was a three-sport star in high school who went on to compete in track and cross country at the University of Wyoming. Turning his attention to triathlon after college, Bolton recorded several top-10 finishes in international competition. He also placed 25th at the 2000 Olympics and went on to win Ironman Lake Placid in 2002. However, in 2004, he promptly retired from competition and decided to return to grad school to pursue an advanced degree in exercise science/physiology.
“In 2006, I started coaching triathlon; but, running was my love, and that was the background I came from, and I moved to Sante Fe for lifestyle,” said the 42-year-old Bolton. “I got connected to a small group of East Africans, who asked if I could ‘help out a bit.’” Bolton says he told them “you don’t just partially coach someone, especially when it’s their career—you’re either full-in or you’re not full-in.” He started with a couple athletes about nine years ago and it progressed from there.
However, as is the case all too often in the world of professional sports, the politics of agents, manager and national federations can make things complicated, uncomfortable and overbearing. Not wanting to deal with those situations, Bolton wanted to split from several athletes and agents, but offered to keep coaching any athlete who wanted to stick with his program. He offered to find them other agents who wouldn’t be as pestersome. Virtually every athlete followed him, including Rotich.