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“In life, you have to start your own adventure. You have to be the instigator of your own story.”—Toby Tanser

So many times, we focus on the results of a success story. And we miss the “small” but monumental life lessons in the day-to-day experiences.

In this episode, Jon and Bryan are captivated by the unexpected exploits of Toby Tanser. He shares multiple accounts of “seemingly insignificant” crossroads he faced. And you’ll learn the unbelievable series of events that eventually led to Shoe4Africa and the realization of Shoe4Africa Children’s Hospital in Eldoret, Kenya.


(3:07) When a theater is your personal playground…  Toby shares about his early childhood and teen years.

(9:43) “It was miserable because now I didn’t know where food was coming from…we budgeted ourselves one cheese sandwich a day, and we didn’t have money for anything over that.”

(12:03) Gaining an understanding of how an immigrant feels…

(15:16) From banjos and soccer balls to quitting the cross country team, Toby tries to find his own identity.

(21:29) “Everything in my life I’ve done that’s positive has been by mistake.” Toby recounts all the jobs and random opportunities that allowed him to live his “gypsy” lifestyle.

(28:33) A blast from the past—Sebastian Coe and his impact…

(33:47) “It’s time to actually change.” Toby began to run.

(35:25) Negative influences were all around.

(41:30) Police motorbikes, spectators, a big win, and a Nike rep…

(48:06) A millionaire’s lifestyle without the money and a move to Sweden.

(52:00) An “Irish Leprechaun,” Noel Berkeley strikes a deal for a Swedish wife, and two friends plan to go to Kenya.

(59:43) Getting dumped, lost bags, and judging cabbies by their teeth…

(1:06:15) How a 40-minute run achieves a lifelong dream of running with Kenyans.

(1:13:18) Not being able to sleep turns into producing a bestseller.

(1:21:37) “And I’m standing next to a guy who can’t even get the pair of shoes, but you know, can run ten times faster than me. So I started to think like maybe my position in life is not to be the runner that I wanted to be. Maybe I can be the person that helps you.”

(1:27:03) A picturesque run on the beach almost cost him his life.

(1:35:06) “And it was very strange because it felt like somebody was coming with a bullhorn and screaming get up, you’re not supposed to end here.”

(1:41:58) A wooden bench, a Somali nurse, and no fluorescent lights… Toby’s 1st experience with an African hospital.

(1:53:46) Brain surgery 11 days later…

(1:59:38) Running with Martha Stewart’s assistant in New York on 9/11…

(2:02:30) “And I said, I need to stop doing races, and I need to put time on this shoe program and health program.”

(2:05:32) The problem with charities…

(2:11:30) Empowerment, education, and health…

(2:15:02) “The best gift you can give a nation is healthy citizens.”

(2:18:43) 9 out of 10 kids with cancer in East Africa die.

(2:23:36) 152 hospital beds can save 500 lives.

(2:25:03) What does Go Be More mean to Toby?

(2:29:21) “So a hundred dollars donation was what turned into a hospital that’s treated over 500,000 children. So don’t ever think that anything is, you know, insurmountable. It’s standing up, to go be more.”

If you liked this episode, check out our interviews with entrepreneur Ron Sarmiento and 5-time Olympian Abdi Abdirahman.

And, you can now get these show notes sent directly to your email. Sign up here!

Recorded September 7, 2020.


Shoe4Africa – homepage

Train Hard, Win Easy by Toby Tanser – Amazon

More Fire: How to Run the Kenyan Way by Toby Tanser – Amazon

The Essential Guide to Running the New York City Marathon – Amazon


Toby Tanser –, @shoe4africa


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