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A PRAYER OF MOTION: A LETTER TO ELIUD KIPCHOGE





Elder Eliud Kipchoge,

May, the spring of 2017, I was in my final year of high school. It was the culmination of a decade of tumultuous adolescence. Years marred by rebellion and iconoclasm. Education did not make sense to me, (it does right now). My life seemed to ebb in slow motion, as if I was an alien, trying to learn the ways of the world. Those were the lost years which I had been inches away from suspension and utter expulsion from the Kenyan academic system. Prefects who tried impose their will on me, I exchanged blows with them. My parents would tell me something, their voices would be distant, like folks shouting from under the sea. I don’t know why I was living, but I was alive. I woke up, ate, read boring chemistry, wrote poetry, played UEFA, and slept. I had no dimensions about my life, no markers. I was existing.



On the 12th of May, you took part in the Breaking 2 project by Nike. Working with you, the best sport scientists, pacers, and two mythic runners: Zersenay Tadese and Lelisa Desisa. At the Autodromo track in Monza, Italy. You proceeded to run 25 seconds shy of two hours.



I did not know you then. I had never heard of you. I did not give a rat’s ass about marathon and running. This is a reversal, considering I spent my high school years in your home region, Nandi, a place soaked in running folklore. Every weekday evening, we would be forced to run. I hated it. To escape running, I joined the football team. I did not have a glittery career there. I made one appearance, the coach said I dribbled too much, that I was a selfish player. He was right. When my I picked my leaving certificate, thus it was scribbled “diligent, hardworking, blah blah blah and a very good footballer!” I chuckled at that. Finally, after I had left is when they recognised my talent. It made me think of how we Kenyans don’t appreciate people when they’re alive. We mourn when they die and ask God why he took them away, but when they were flesh and blood, we couldn’t give a shit.



Forgive my language Eliud. I am a vulgar writer. Some people tell me that I should be more courteous, but I tell them to fuck off! I believe that our words should honestly come by. And if I use a subtle word where I could have used a forceful one, I can’t sleep at night. It would be lying to myself. I would feel a cheat and a con. And as Paulo Coelho says we should never lie to ourselves. If this gets to you, pardon my language. 

 


At the start of December 2017, I was done with high school. I felt like Moses, after guiding the Israelites through the Red Sea and the desert. High school had been the ultimate hell for me, I’d never enjoyed a single bit of it, maybe the buried minutes of playing UEFA and running for food. I wonder how your high school years were, how did they forge you? I was in the best high school in Kenya, the topmost, this isn’t to justify anything, it doesn’t matter. But I do seat up at night and wonder how life in other schools was?

                                                                                     


2018, I hang around in Kisii, wasting time and money on computer packages. In between this time, I discovered girls and booze and lots of other things. I spent my days high, on PlayStation, shooting pool and sleeping in funny, smelly rooms called “kejas”. Have you ever taken a girl to a keja?


In September of that year, I joined campus. I was still confused and disillusioned. I had no idea what I wanted out of life. I was existing. My hair was matted in baby locks. I was drifting through days, wondering what my life meant? Have you had moments like that Mr? When nothing seems to make sense? That was my season of wandering in a sea sketched in charcoal.


Sometimes before that year drew to a close, I watched Breaking 2, the documentary by National Geographic. It was the ultimate behind the scenes of how you’d tried to shatter the indomitable two-hour marathon barrier. To say I was challenged would be lying. I wasn’t, I did not care. You were some other runner doing his thing. I only watched the documentary because I love documentaries. Stories have been my salvation since I was a kid. I recommended the documentary to my eldest brother, he told me he’ll watch it, I don’t think he has. Elder brothers should be caned for not listening to lastborns.


I forgot about you. I forgot about Breaking 2. I reverted to my fucked-up existence. I changed courses twice. Twice! Who the fuck does that? My parents screamed at me, but I paid them no attention, this was my life, and I was going to live it how I found fit. I went on with my mini circus. In campus, I chased girls, got fucked up with drugs. I was a man floundering in darkness, trying to hold on to something but everything was an insidious slippery eel.

                                                                                                              

I watched the documentary again. I am a chap who does things over and over. I reread beautiful stories. I listened to the words you were spewing in the documentary. You seemed like a zen master to me. “If you don’t rule your brain, it will rule you. I tell my mind that if I’m able to do this thing, I do it. If I shed all those minutes away, it would be easier for another human to break this barrier. The world is just 25 seconds away.”


Those words stuck in my mind. I didn’t know how to apply them into my life. But they were there, in the background, hanging on for life, trying to come alive in my chaotic head.


I’ve never cared about athletics. I forgot about you and your message, again.


Mid last year, I got wind of the INEOS challenge. I remembered how Breaking 2 had unfolded, you had failed to reach the summit. But here you were again trying to push past human boundaries. I thought to myself, maybe the meaning of life is going past our limitations, doing that which has been deemed impossible, only then we can find meaning out of the chaos that is life. Jordan Peterson puts it’s so well; “life is suffering. Do some hard things, do them well and justify your miserable existence on this earth.”


When you were gearing up for the INEOS challenge, now I was behind you. Your message was in my head. I was getting the basic principles of finding meaning, but yet to hit nirvana.


In October, you glided through the streets of Vienna.


It was a cold Saturday. I was on a farm in the outskirts of the city. With my cousin, we streamed the race on YouTube. Silently we rooted for you to obliterate that two-hour barrier. I have always been interested in people doing spartan things. You were the Dan Pena of racing, the Wim Hof of marathon, the Dorian Yates of the track. The spirit of Henry Worsley, the first man to trek Antarctica alone, was with you. The mood of the whole country flowed with your fluid motion. I wondered why humans revere people who do things most folks are scared of? Were you a god, running among men?


At the finish line, you hugged your wife and children. That makes me ask. How did you choose her? How did you know she was the one? When women offer themselves to you, how do you navigate those treacherous waters of human lust and desire? Don’t you feel bogged down by having a family? Would you prefer a life of solitude? Or every man should strive to have a family? To leave a breathing and kicking legacy of children? What do you think of men who’ve made the conscious choice to live in solitude, who’d rather be engulfed in silence, than the noise of children and the drama of wives and girlfriends?


By the way, when you posted photos of the GQ interview, my Instagram crush commented with weird emojis. She’s a very gorgeous woman (the crush), has her shit together. Times I wonder what I can do to her should we be in a room together, alone. Did you pay attention to her? Or beauty doesn’t affect you?

                                                                                            


2019 drew its curtains on the hardest year of my life. I wasn’t alive in 2019. I was a shell walking around. In retrospect, I realize that we humans have a spirit, which is different from our physical bodies? Last year, my spirit was sick and bedridden. I felt disconnected from everything. I wanted to sleep all the time. In eastern spirituality, I was down in the hierarchy of beings. My chakras had shut down. Life was a boring monotony of school, writing, sex with girls of equally dead spirits and loads of sleep. My energy was off, and I could feel it. 


You may ask? How are you involved in all this? What’s your grand role?


I read your interview with GQ magazine. Talking to Knox Robinson, you said that your goal was to reach 3 billion people and preach the gospel of running. Well, your gospel has already reached me. I’ve received your sermon.


 Fast forward 2020, I have been grabbed by this furious energy of motion. It’s like the world conspired to push me hard, and I’m realising that we humans are capable of more than we think we are.


I started running, I got addicted. Runner’s high is true. Mornings I wake up, mist in my face, gusts of cold winds buffeting me, I run. Running has changed my life in ways I never thought possible. My energy levels have skyrocketed. I no longer want to be asleep. I want to be doing something, something hard, something which pushes me to the limit. Endurance has seeped into my life. Everything I do, it’s with the singlemindedness and purposefulness of running. In all, I feel alive, my spirit is free and unchained. Would all of this have been possible without your message? I don’t know.

 

Running is like meditation, a prayer of movement. All the time I am racing in the tracks around where I stay, my mind goes blank.  It’s like a filtration process goes on in my head. I get clean ideas about what I am writing, or big decisions I should make. Running has all the answers to life. Whenever I zoom past other people on the road, or other people zoom past me, I get the epiphany of how it all echoes the story of life.


In life, some people will get there ahead of you, you will get there ahead of others, it doesn’t matter, as long as you keep moving.


We, humans, are just particles vibrating at the basic level, motion charges those particles, we need to keep moving, or the energy dies down.


Folks who don’t run, stuck on their couches like potatoes, fat and heavy, complaining why life is beating them down, need to start running and see what happens. We, humans, are built to run, in our caveman days, running was our salvation from beasts.


Weeks past, I raced up Ngong hills.  At the elevation of 8071 feet, it mirrors your training camp, Global Sports Communication, perched in Kaptagat. I was alone, that morning, mist, wind and low temperatures swirling around me. It felt good, forging against the elements. Up there, below the windmills, I thought of how we humans are small in nature. We are nothing. My ego died a painless death. I thought of the clip where you’re scrubbing toilets and thought ‘yes, we need more humility than pride in this world.’

                                                                                                     


I can’t wait to see you go up against Kenenisa Bekele. It’s going to be a clash of the titans, a rumble in the jungle. Man, up against man, as it has always been since the beginning of time. All the best in that race. The race of the century.


Farewell, Mr. And thank you for sharing your gift with the world. Salute.


Psst!

Kipchoge's photo was plucked from his Instagram account.


I shot the other photos on a Nikon D7100 and edited them on Visco.


A special mention to CHIEF SARETO 


7 comments:

  1. You've discovered your writing voice.Congratulations.

    ReplyDelete
  2. This is such a piece bro. So captivating and at the same time so informative.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I'm happy you are back I thought you had vanished.Great pieces great ideas great stories keep doing it

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  4. Umeongelea Nandi,UEFA,na Sareto ukakuwa familiar jooh..were you a liger..

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