Lily Murgor is a rising star in Kenya’s track and field circles. But she hasn’t taken the most traditional path to athletic success. She wasn’t a child protege. She didn’t attend college on an athletic scholarship. Lily’s journey included stops in the hotel trade, the theater stage, and cocktail waitressing.
“I was a very good actor in school. I joined a theatre troupe as a volunteer and later they contracted me to be one of their employees,” Lily said. She noted that she traversed the country reenacting literature set books in many schools and her pay was between 50 and 150 U.S. dollars depending on the demand from schools.
From the acting theatres, she soon found herself in nightclubs as a waitress being confronted by drunk, rowdy patrons and their jealous girlfriends in dingy pubs of Nairobi and Eldoret.
” I was looking for opportunities in hotels and I got it. I worked in a particular hotel that later shut its doors. So in the process, I had a friend who helped me start work at a club in 2012,” Murgor said.
As a bartender, Murgor had a myriad of challenges, and top on her list at that time was a workload that paid peanuts.
“Firstly, it’s the salary. Too much work with little pay. You work the whole night but at the end of the month you end up being paid about 60 USD. Also, there are shortages(losses) you make so many losses because some customers leave without paying.”
She says ladies working in nightclubs are also frequently forced to deal with patrons who want more than a drink.
“Another thing, dealing with drunkards is tough. Once an individual takes one too many, people have different characters, others become violent while others see you as a prostitute and they try to harass you sexually,” Murgor submits.
After two years, at the age of 24, Lily finally summoned the inner courage to quit waitressing and pursue her dream of becoming an athlete.
Her sister, Beatrice Chepchirchir, encouraged her to turn to the tracks. When the going got tough for Murgor, she moved to her sister’s place in 2014. “My sister was training as an athlete and in 2014 she advised me to join her in training every morning. I had gained weight but nevertheless heed her call. So she gave me a training kit.”
The transition from bar waitress to track and field star hasn’t been easy. The days begin early and last long. In the morning she trains with her focus on speedwork, while in the evening she concentrates on endurance where she runs for 15 kilometers.
“What motivates me is that I feel like I will make it. I am an optimistic person and that’s what keeps me. I see a bright future,” she submits.
“In 2015 I turned a leaf in my life and started afresh. My uncle has a training camp, he allowed me to train there, that’s how I became serious with my training,” Murgor says.
And in 2017 her training began to bore fruits. She participated in the Family Bank race, her launching pad. But later on, she was riddled with injuries that she picked from training.
Her international break came two years later: “2019 was a great year, that’s when I took part in several athletic championships. I also traveled to China. It was unbelievable. I had not pictured myself going international.”
She took silver in the Nantong Half Marathon, China. The win would then propel her into the world of athletics.
Like any other sportsman or woman, 2020 was a tough year for athletes globally. She did not train as much even as the world slipped into a coma of sorts fueled by the coronavirus pandemic.
This year she’s looking forward to participating in the Eldoret City Marathon and the October Standard Chartered Marathon in Nairobi. Her quest is to one day take part in one of the big five marathon races globally, the Berlin Marathon in Germany.