African Greatness: Berlin, Records, Runners

Dennis Kimetto, 2014 Marathon World Record Holder, Berlin, Germany

Dennis Kimetto, 2014 Marathon World Record Holder, Berlin, Germany

The Berlin Marathon, one of six in the World Marathon Major series, wrapped up on Sunday with a spectacular win by Kenya’s Dennis Kimetto on the fastest course in the world. Turns out being a champion requires a little more than your best, it requires your all. I think that’s what Kimetto delivered on Sunday as he ran his way to breaking a world record and now owing the title of the only one to ever run a marathon under 2:03. I’m still all WOW..I mean 2:02:57 is a super big deal! Hats and cloaks and everything off to Kimetto; a well deserved and superbly executed run. I couldn’t do it better even close. Emmanuel Mutai’s second place of 2:03:13 hardly seemed to matter in the wake of Kimetto’s victory but was a valiant effort nonetheless, though he will hardly get the props for it. Ethiopia’s Abera Kuma came in third with 2:05:56. On the women’s end, we had Ethiopians: Tirfi Tsegaye running first place with 2:20:18 and Fayse Tadese taking second with 2:20:27. USA’s own Shalange Flanagan followed with 2:21:14. Good for her. In a field dominated by African greatness, she held her own and was able to come in the top three women..way to amazing feat in and of itself.

There’s something here for us, if we take the time to sift through the stats, when we get past the buzz of records and rightful pride and glory of the runners; there’s something there. For those of us who care to look past the fame and fortune of the élite runner, we will find passion, diligence, humility, sacrifice and belief. How many of us dedicate ourselves to running, or any field of choice for that matter, with those qualities? Yet how many of us want the pride and the glory and the medal. If we learn anything at all, it is that when we see runners like Kimetto up there on the world stage, it wasn’t just running that got him there. It took all the qualities we described before and a lot of heart and then some to live his dream. Compare Kimetto before 2010 with Kimetto today, that of a subsistence farmer in Kapngetuny, Kenya; a relative unknown, fast forward today; marathon world record holder. There is a story there, one that inspires not just us but I’m sure the country of Kenya and the nation of Africa. A seed of hope has been planted in the heart of every Kenyan boy and girl..they can dream, have a right to dream. Because if Dennis Kimetto can do it, so can they.

The difference, as I see it, is not so much in the opportunity as in character. Growing up, I would often hear ” you have to want it badly enough.” I think so, in fact I believe so. Some children have it made and live the life of the idealistic – dream it and it will happen, that’s the life of the privileged. Then there are those who are faced with reality from early on – you want it, you have to work hard for it. Yet there are others still, who will hardly have even that as a choice – so depraved are their circumstances. Life is most often not an equal opportunity employer, we are often called to play the hand we’re dealt and a lot of the times it is far from easy but I still say – you have to want it enough. For me, I do not think of myself too much of a dedicated runner. I think I like to run most times and if I have a goal..say, a marathon..I’ll train for it; run 5 times a week, try to eat well, do cross training, long runs, some group training for speed and pace etc. But at the end of it, I am no where close to the training and dedication put out by the likes of Kimetto or Flanagan or Kara or any of those élite runners who run daily, hundreds of miles per week. Me, I’m doing awesome if I have a 60/70 mile week. Sure I understand it’s their job and so that has a lot to do with it but still.. If you didn’t like or care about your job, chances are you wouldn’t have it right.

Make no mistake, I’m a runner. I’m no Flanagan but I appreciate the sport, I advocate its benefits and I enjoy it most times. I am not a committed, 365-days-a-year runner, but I run over two-thirds of that so I think I qualify for runner status. I may never know the sacrifice of Kimetto but I know the sacrifices I live with to achieve my running dreams; the hard work, the aches and pains, the financial cost, the level of belief  in myself and my dream, the passion to achieve.. I know what those things mean to me and I believe it is a story that each runner can tell. For my part, I hope to be telling it, one day soon, from Berlin.

Let running ‘Greats’ inspire your run

Camille Herron,  Guinness World Record, 2012 Women's Route 66 MarathonEvery child needs a hero, one who can either fly, is super fast, super strong or has some eye-boggling gift that defies human ability.  As  we grow older, that hero takes on different qualities and / or definition and plays a different, but no less important role in our aspirations and dreams. Who doesn’t love a good hero? Someone who does what we dream of, only better.  For runners, it’s no different. We derive inspiration from many of either our fellow greats or those who’ve gone before us and put their indelible stamp on running history.

Some of the greatest runners have used the running platform to raise awareness for causes, to speak out against various ills in society or to garner support for a personal dream or idea that has impacted the world.  Still, there are those who inspire us because of their determination and drive to overcome their physical, mental or psychological limitations.

Here are a few who inspire me.

83-year-old, Bob Dolphin and Lenore Dolphin are running proof that age is just a number. They are race directors of the Yakima River Canyon Marathon; Bob has completed more than 500 marathons while Lenore volunteers at most of these events.

Six year old, Keelan Glass, is a world record holder. With a time of 2:46:31, she is the youngest half-marathoner in the world.

Kathrine Switzer, the first woman to run the Boston marathon in 1967. Amidst much controversy she finished and later went on to win the NYC marathon.

American Sprinter Allyson Felix, an Olympic gold and silver medalist, she fights against the physical inactivity epidemic.

Paula Radcliffe, world record holder for women’s marathon and mother, she has run while pregnant -training for the 2012 London marathon, and as a new mother.

Jason Smyth, a Paralympic runner, who was likened to Usain Bolt in the 2012 games. He is visually impaired with 10 percent vision because of an hereditary, degenerative eye condition and the fastest disabled runner of all-time.

There are many others such as Usain Bolt, Kara Goucher, Shalane Flanagan, Meb Keflegizhi among others who carry the running torch that advances the sport of running and inspire us to dream big, to never give up and to set our sights on making a difference doing what we love one step at a time. However, whomever and wherever they are, because of them the world is a better place and we salute them as we aspire to become an inspiration ourselves.

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