Barno last won Grandma’s Marathon in 2018—it was his fourth in four years and his fastest time on the course: 2:10:06. Recently, he finished third in Houston (2:11:16), fifth in Los Angeles (2:16:40) and first in the October 2021 Standard Chartered Nairobi Marathon in 2:11:07.
“I’m happy to come back, and I’d be very happy to win,” Barno said at the pre-race press conference. “I feel so good.”
The 36-year-old runner knows some Minnesota roads well. He has raced Twin Cities Marathon several years, often coming second to Ondoro. Barno lives and trains in the Rift Valley of Kenya at nearly 7,000 feet above sea level. There he lives with his wife and three children.
Tragedy struck the family in August 2020, when their oldest child, Naomi Chebichi, passed away. She was 12, and she had a cancerous tumor in her left leg.
“I lost morale in life because I had lost my first born,” said Elisha, who had stayed with her for a month in the hospital. In his process of grieving for Naomi, he said he had trouble running and lost motivation for competitive running. He took a month off and spent time with his wife and his two other children (12 and 3 years old) while wondering if he could return to professional running life—or regular life at all.
“My friends gave me moral support,” he said. “They told me to not give up and to keep pushing.”
He returned to training and eventually, as the pandemic let up, to marathon running. And amid top international finishes, he and his family received a new blessing: his fourth child, now 3-month-old Blessing Chipto.