When the history books on Kenya are written, INEOS 1:59 and October 12, 2019 will feature prominently. The books will talk about this landmark event and dates that exposed the many sides of Kenyans. To begin with, before October 7, not many Kenyans knew about the INEOS 1:59 challenge - most of us assumed it was just about another Kenyan running event. Kenyans are spoilt when it comes to matters running - we have come to believe that we were born to win all runs - although we occasionally let Ethiopians win.
We assume that our wins come effortlessly, forgetting the amount of sweat, toil and tears that goes into it.
We can recite all the vital statistics and injuries of Lukaku and Ronaldo, but we cannot muster even the slightest details about our impressive athletes like Rudisha, Obiri and Conseslus. For those who do not know – running is very hard and causes havoc on the human body.
Before October 7, Eliud Kipchoge was just another of Kenya’s runners, another fellow from the Rift Valley who runs. It does not help that he was a bit understated, lacking the flamboyance of the likes of Ezekiel Kemboi or the drama of Asbel Kiprop.
Maybe that is why most of us failed to embrace the fact that he has been running for over 15 years and is now a world record holder, an Olympic Gold medalist, has won the Marathon Majors and even the world acknowledges that he has earned the G.O.A.T (Greatest of All Times) Title.
We only gave him the credit and recognition he deserves when we saw images of the hugely expensive private jet that was his mode of transport from Eldoret to Vienna. Suddenly, Eliud was elevated from us: another runner to a celeb to be feted and praised.
I am sure his ratings would have gone up higher had the jet come with a few video vixens. It is a bit disturbing that we had little regard paying some attention to this guy who has undergone a gruelling and punishing running schedule over the last four months (clocking over 200kms per week).
We like to pride ourselves as a God-fearing nation that values people for who they are and what they have inside their souls – but this last week has proven us so wrong. We are a nation that responds more to trinkets and conspicuous consumption than to grit, hard work and determination. I am willing to bet that Eliud would not have gotten all the attention he received had he been on a commercial flight - like all other times - it was all about the jet.
Eliud’s tagline has been No Human is Limited, which speaks volumes about what he has just achieved. Yet many Kenyans failed to grasp the profound enormity of this statement and instead chose to head down the path of creating real and imaginary barriers. The usual loud bandwagon of naysayers started doing their analysis as to why it was virtually impossible for him to hit his target.
People, who a few days ago, could not tell the difference between hamstring and pronation were suddenly experts spewing forth misinformed analysis and random facts to pour water on Eliud’s ambition. Guys and girls who have never known any form of physical exertion save for lifting beers or roasting meat were posting furiously about all the reasons they considered Eliud’s challenge to be Mission Impossible.
It was quite galling to see some of the figures for they even got the distance wrong (it is 42.195kms and not 42kms).
This trend is a bit worrying because it extends to all aspects of our lives.
I do not know when we become the nation of naysayers and put downers. Every time one of us tries to do something great, or does something great, we find some reason to discredit their ambitions or water down their achievements.
Someone gets a good job; we scoff at their abilities and deem them unworthy.
Someone acquires a new car or house; we compose choruses about who they bedded to get them, failing to acknowledge any hard work involved.
I hope that going forward we can perhaps change our ways and banish the naysayers for they do not serve any useful purpose to society.
Yet the INEOS 1:59 challenge has ended on a good note. Thanks to the challenge, many Kenyans now know that marathoners have crazy speeds; massive endurance and they too can ride in swanky jets.
Thanks to the challenge, many Kenyans know that the work of pacemakers is no joke, that breaking any record is no mean feat and that Eliud does speak good English - and he is a true inspiration to the world.
So we hope that next time one of us does dare do something great, we will get fully behind them without pouring shade and scorn over their achievements.