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 thick 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 from 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 really 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 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.