How are you today? Have you recovered from the shock wave after the Sunday London Marathon? I still feel unwell and numb. I have tried moving on, but it is taking me longer than I had anticipated. I am optimistic that I will get over it. The world was watching and taking Kenyan tea. And Kenyan tea gave #LondonMarathon a new lease of life as we accompanied our athletes at the comfort of our homes during the race.
Like many other Kenyans, I was so sure Kenyan all-time favourite, greatest Marathoner of all times, Kenyan legend, history maker, the mighty Eliud Kipchoge was definitely going to win the 40th London Marathon that took place in London, on 4th October, 2020. Not only did he postpone his win, but he also was not anywhere close to the top three. He finished the race at position eight. Imagine that!
People remarked and expressed their utter shock. Of course, it was shocking, not only for Kenyans but for the whole world. How possible could it have been that Kipchogi (as the commentators were calling him) was not bringing home the much-awaited victory? How? What had happened to him? I followed the various conversations online, and yes, we were all racing with him, adrenaline levels rising and finally making peace with the fact that Kipchogi was not making it. I prayed, I paced up and down and hoped for a miracle, but alas, no, this time around, it wasn’t his chance. The odds were against him. I made peace as my eyes shed tears. For a while, I had forgotten that there was another Kenyan on the race, Vincent Kipchumba because my eyes were glued and fixed on the G.O.A.T, Eliud Kipchoge. I found the commentators very boring and annoying. I wished they kept quiet and let Eliud be. Later, I understood, just like the rest of us, they too were in shock.
After the race came to an end, I tried reflecting on what had just happened and wondered if at all there were lessons I could pick out of Eliud’s postponement of the big title. These are some of my take-homes. My friend Ngele Ali, whom we conversed about the race, said, ” Well, we can co-write this blog post. Let’s share our lessons.” So here we go. The first three are my most significant take-homes, and the last three are Ngele’s.
1. After crying, I wiped my tears. In every race, there will always be a winner. If you are in the race, always remember, there will be two outcomes. You could be the winner or someone else could. Whether you win today or win next time, as long as you stay the cause, you still win. Focus on the finishing line. There were many odds against Kipchoge. London Marathon always takes place in the Summer. This time it was taking place in a very unfamiliar setup. Training in high altitude then racing in low altitude in autumn (cold, windy and wet grounds), new circuit, his main person Kenenisa Bekele had pulled out of the race last minute, no fans to cheer him on board and assure him that he was doing just fine. In a usual setup, more than 500,000 fans will be gathered along the circuit cheering on the runners. COVID-19 happened, saw the marathon postponed and now only a handful of people were present. The marathon appeared jinxed from the word go. Christmas comes once a year. Eliud will give us more than one Christmas in a year. We must not forget this. It is no mean feat holding titles for more than five rounds. We still have a reason to celebrate him for keeping our country on the map. We know Kenya as the ultimate #HomeOfChampions. No one debates about this.
2. It is tough being a winner. It’s even tougher being an all-time winner in public. Here is the problem with multiple wins because it comes with expectations and pressures. Your fans world over think you can never lose. But you know what, victory is for those who stay the cause! Eliud Kipchoge did precisely that! Life is a series of wins and losses! Your biggest success isn’t how many times you win! Success is a measure of how high we bounce after hitting rock bottom. Eliud Kipchoge has achieved a lot, and we can only wish him the best after his promise that “I will be back.” He, therefore, is #StillMyHero. “London loves you,” said the commentator as she interviewed him at the finishing line! I fought my tears as I watched Eliud Kipchoge struggle to express his disappointment! I, too, could feel his regret. But, be consoled Eliud. We are happy and proud of you. Be encouraged! This is only but a slight setback!
3. Sometimes as human beings, we are so blinded and only focus on our perceptions of what success looks like, we miss the bigger picture. Yes, the majority of us had all our eyes glued on Kipchoge, we forgot that we had a full list of Kenyans who represented us at the London Marathon. And while at it, we had Brigid Kosgei who won a Gold medal in the Women’s race. We had Vincent Kipchumba who came third and won Kenya a Bronze medal in the men’s race. We also had many others including Vivian Cheruiyot, Marius Kipserem, Gideon Kipketer, Benson Kipruto, Edith Chelimo, Valary Jemeli and Ruth Chepng’ etich. We must not mourn Eliud’s loss and forget to celebrate these winners. They too worked so hard and deserved all the accolades on earth. Eliud proved to us that he is human and it is ok to fail. All human beings have their share of ups and downs. But we must also learn to accept the reality of life, that life is a mix of ups and downs, highs and lows, wins and losses. In every win and loss, there are lessons to be learnt. Mighty is not the man who wins all the time, but one who falls and picks himself up, ready to fight another day. Eliud promised, ‘I will be back.’
4. Well, my big lesson from yesterday, life has no guarantees. As humans, we plan, but God is the ultimate chess player. Also, nothing just happens. What are the odds that Eliud with all his fitness regimen would have a muscle cramp and an ear blockage after he started off so well? Kipchoge’s experience reminded us that he is human, and sometimes the odds against us can be insurmountable, but it’s our will and resilience that gets us to the finish line. I learned a great lesson in perseverance.
5. Eliud taught me yesterday that humility and grace are what set us apart from the crowd. As we win, we are called upon to be graceful and humble but imagine being able to exercise the same at a moment of defeat! I guess it takes a great sense of humility and grace to carry us forward onto the next challenge even as we miss the mark, and our success is deferred. As he recounted his experience, I loved his sense of sportsmanship – as he quipped “that’s the nature of sport” a true realisation that we win some and lose some, sometimes.
6. In my observation, Kipchoge has reached his Ikigai – his “reason for being”. Kipchoge’s sport isn’t just about winning a race, it’s far much more profound, and it’s about humanity and shining light, especially where hope and aspiration lack. The 2020 London marathon will remain memorable, not because the G.O.A.T was “dethroned” but because of the lesson, I learned through Kipchoge’s experience – even when one’s spirit feels defeated – show up!. His difficulties at the much-anticipated, most-watched marathon delivered some valuable lessons to us. When we find out our true reason for being, a deferred victory or success becomes nothing but a speedbump. His phrase, “I still have more marathons in me” sums up what a purposeful life’s journey is all about and I can’t wait to see him back on the track once again!
Writing this blog post felt very therapeutic for me. In Dolly Parton’s words, “You will never do a whole lot unless you are brave enough to try.” Are there any lessons that you picked from Eliud’s incredible performance last Sunday? Please share.
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Photo Courtesy: BBC Sports, World Athletics, Magical Kenya, Ngele Ali, INEOS.