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james ngandu

James Ngandu: From Green and Gold to Houston Gold

by George McCarthy

A little less than a decade ago, James Ngandu started running while enrolled in college back home in Kenya. Fast forward to today, with the crafting of his athletic and academic abilities at Tiffin University wedged in the middle, James is a professional marathon athlete, and was recently crowned the 2022 Houston Marathon gold medalist. He credits his success in the sport to the development of skills such as endurance and tolerance – two attributes that remain valuable in the context of athletics and one’s daily life.

james ngandu

James earned his Bachelor of Criminal Justice in Law Enforcement and a Master of Business Administration in Leadership at Tiffin University, whilst competing on the Men’s Track and Field Team throughout. Since leaving Tiffin in 2019, James has been solely focused on running as his profession, but notes how the combination of being a student athlete taught him the importance of time management, cooperation and maintaining a positive attitude.

James’ teammates and coaches were crucial throughout the process of his 12-week training regime as a student, presenting him with the “gift of patience,” that proved useful over the course of his race preparations. There existed a consistent reminder that the goal James wanted to achieve wasn’t going to be reached overnight, so the commitment and support shown by the support system James had surrounded him with were important factors. Over the course of the 12-week preparation period, James completed many different types of training, including six 40 kilometer runs, two half marathons and a 10 km race to get himself not just physically, but also mentally ready for the race. Using his experience and knowledge gained competing at TU, James knew that distance training was very taxing, so despite not following a specific diet plan, he was well aware of the necessity of maintaining positive hydration levels and allowing for efficient recovery.

Confident in his preparations, yet nervous and anxious due to the pre-race jitters, as James was well aware of the competition he was up against, mentioning the personal best of Kelkile Gazahegn, winner of the 2020 Houston marathon – two hours and five minutes. James explained how most marathons are usually already won by the last five miles of the race, however this one came down to a sprint finish, with James beating out second placed Abdi Abdo by seven-hundredths of a second, which was naturally a stand-out highlight of the race for James.

James emphasized his ever-present gratitude for the opportunity to compete and be a part of the Tiffin University Track & Field and Cross County family and to graduate as a Dragon. He says “I don’t think I’d have been on the start line, leave alone winning a gold label marathon, if I didn’t get a chance to run at one of the best teams in the country.”

Coach Jeremy Croy, who as James’ coach on the track and field team here at TU, said “We have patiently been awaiting Jame’s marathon debut for several years now. He continued his TUTF success immediately after grad school in several 10 mile and half marathon distances. It was only a matter of time.” Coach Croy, who is in his 22nd season at TU, went on to say “James continues to be a legend on and off the track and has inspired many during his time here and post-collegiately. We will continue to be his biggest fans!”

Tiffin University is incredibly proud of James’s successes both as a Dragon and since leaving, and will continue to look forward to tracking James’s future achievements.