9.08AM. 12th October 2019. It is seven minutes to the start of Eliud Kipchoge’s marathon at Prater Park in Vienna Austria. In a few minutes time, he will attempt to do what no human being has ever done by running the entire 42km marathon in under two hours. Like millions around the world, I have been waiting with breathless anticipation for this marathon, which has officially been dubbed as INEOS 1:59 Challenge.
I dash to the kitchen to pour some white tea into my silver flask. The one with the black bottom. I want to start watching the marathon with a steaming cup of cardamom-flavored white tea in my right hand and a thick slice of Blueband plastered bread in my left hand. A few minutes earlier, I was at Naivas to buy unsliced bread so that I can slice thick, uneven slices and spread on them thick layers of Blueband margarine. I find the taste and feel of self-sliced bread to be better than the thin, sliced bread.
Just as am pouring the steaming tea into the welcoming flask, everything goes silent. The drone of the pump that is pumping water into my tanks goes silent. The voice of the NTV lady who is commentating about the historic race disappears. Fear grips me as I rush from the kitchen to the sitting room. I find to my horror that the electricity has disappeared. That’s right, off all the days that electricity could have taken a break, it chose today, at this historic moment, to do so. I slump into my brown-cushioned cane sofa. I want to cry. The race is beginning at this very moment and am not watching it!
I dash from the sitting room through the veranda into my home office. I would have preferred to watch the marathon on the big screen in the sitting room but anyway I will have to stream it on the laptop, which I hurriedly switch on. As fate would have it, the mobile phone Internet that am projecting to my laptop is so slow that youtube is not loading. I buy more bundles just to be sure that the problem is not insufficient bundles, but that doesn’t help. I am almost crying now.
I run off the house towards Jam Rescue club along Outering Road, eager to watch the marathon there. But when I arrive at the Club, the place is more silent than a church on a Monday morning. There are only two people there, both cleaners who are scrubbing the rough floor tiles. I honestly want to start crying now. This cannot be happening. So I decide to test if the internet on my phone is working now.
There he is! There is Eliud Kipchoge in a white top, running, surrounded by black clad pacemakers. Awesome! I walk home watching the marathon. Feeling as if Eliud can see that am finally watching his race.
I decide to get into The Growler, my car, to watch the marathon from there.
That is where I am sitting now. The marathon is at the halfway mark and Eliud is on course to finish it in under two hours. Am watching this on the official INEOS Youtube channel for this race. One of the commentators is a lady, a former American long distance runner whose voice is absolutely beautiful. I smile at her voice.
Thirty kilometers are over. Twelve remaining. The lady with a beautiful voice says that she can see some strain on Eliud’s face and the two other guys who are commentating the race with her agree. My heart starts to sink. He has to finish this race in under two hours. I tell my car’s frayed black steering wheel.
Joan texts me, saying that her heart is beating fast as if she is actually running. I can’t reply. I can’t afford to miss even one second of the race. My small bro Jay calls me. I disconnect. We are into the last thirty minutes. The lady with a golden voice says that Eliud is within ten seconds of the two hour mark. He is on course. My heart joins Joan in racing alongside the champ. The greatest of them all.
Bernard Lagat and several other pacemakers join Eliud in the final five kilometers. Lagat, a longtime friend of Eliud is 44, older than me and still running long distances at fast speeds. This gives me hope.
We are in the final 500 meters now. Eliud springs into life, even though he had been springing along for the entire race. He raises his hands and beckons to the pacemakers to step aside.
He sprints down the final three hundred meters. The finish line is in sight. He raises his hands in the final fifty meters and crosses the finish line in under two hours. 1 hour, 59 minutes and 40 seconds to be precise. I shed a tear as I clutch at the rugged steering wheel.
I am immensely inspired to run the marathons of my life with similar focus and determination. So help me God. I will also make my own history. I fish out my phone and send a whatsapp text to Eliud. Thank you so much for inspiring an entire generation. May God Bless you.
Yes, I have his number.
When my eyes slummed shut at 12.45AM, I knew that I would wake up in less than four hours, by 4AM. My body knew that the 4.30 morning run was mandatory. So I was not surprised when at 3.45 AM, my eyes flicked open. My phone was hiding beneath the white pillow next to me. After I found it, it informed me the time and I smiled, happy that I was truly the boss, able to tell my body what to do as opposed to the other way round. Alas, little did I know that my body would shortly be sending me a message that I would be inclined to disregard.
Don’t go for this run. These words were initially hazy. So I drank my cardamom tea, put on my socks, slipped into my long-sleeved running top, then into my Nike running shoes. Don’t go for this run. My left leg told me by way of a gentle throb. Nothing painful, just a dull feeling in my left ankle, as if I had been standing on that leg for a while. I descended the stairs, opened the gate and started walking briskly. The security guard with a permanent frowning face was on duty this morning, sitting by a bonfire with a man I didn’t recognize.
I ran briefly on the twenty-metre rough road outside our court’s main gate, just to taste the state of my body. Don’t go for this run, it insisted. I will go for this run, I responded. Today, I was planning to start running at the tarmac, but when I reached it after a brisk walk on a 100-meter rough road, I saw a police van ahead. Thankfully, police nowadays don’t ask any man they meet at such hours for a national identity card like they used to, back in President Moi’s days. But still, I decided to continue walking until that van passed. I turned right onto rhino road and was just about to begin running when I saw another police van ahead, plus two groups of people conversing in low tones. Again, I postponed the start of my run and walked briskly past the people and police van. I wonder what happened here. Did someone die?
I started running.
My footsteps became louder and faster as I slammed into the sandy tarmac. But I felt uneasy. Although my heart was in the run, my body wasn’t. Today, I was hoping to beat yesterday’s record of 7.1 mins/km. But my left leg was leading the rest of my body in a lingering protest at my decision to overrule its clear instructions earlier. So I stopped running but instead of taking a U-turn, I walked for a few meters and continued running. Stop! My body commanded. I finally turned back. It was 4.47AM.
We must learn to listen to our bodies. Although there are times when self-control requires that we overrule the body’s voice, there are also times when we must listen to that voice.
The guy running towards me was stocky, probably a good ten kilos heavier than me. But he was running faster than I was, his face barely visible because of a red hood that was covering three quarters of his face. His large frame reminded me of a rhino. So it felt as if a rhino was charging towards me.
The guy in front of me was running as fast as my I was cycling, and that hurt my ego. I was actually cycling relatively fast since I was still within the first kilometer, and was thus still full of energy. Yet there he was, running as if he was riding a bike. Seriously?