Eliud Kipchoge is majestic on that tarmac! Ineos 1:59! No human is limited. In his pink shoes and a team of supportive pacemakers running ahead of him, anxiously optimistic fans lining the streets that he runs past, millions and millions of other exhilarated viewers watching from their televisions, computers and phones… E.K. starts waving at people before the race is over; he knows he’s got this! Some of us are most tense at this moment than at any other moment in our entire lives! He does it. In 1:59:40:2, he makes it into the Guinness World Records as the Fastest Marathon Distance (male) and First Marathon Under Two Hours. He runs to show us that no human is limited!
Eliud runs. Well, more like lumbers forward. He received the doctor’s report about what caused his collapse at the office two weeks ago; Hypertension and high cholesterol. The doctor said if he doesn’t lose some weight, and fast, he would not see 40. He has 2 daughters. The eldest just started Grade 1. In his eyes, she is an angel! A true vision to behold. She still talks faster than she thinks but her beady bright eyes and missing upper incisors make her look, oh, so cute when she speaks! He loves her.
His second is 8 months old…learning to walk. When he comes through the door of his home from work in the evenings, she squeals in excitement and tries to walk towards him. She can’t. But when she starts falling, he reaches out to her, catching her up in his arms and throwing her into the air! She squeals again, in pleasure and fear and admiration and…he loves it! Everyone laughs! Everyone is happy. His happy family!
He will leave them. Die, if he is not careful. He hasn’t told his wife, yet, about the doctor’s report. He runs to try and change his destiny.
Kipchoge also runs. He is late again. He can hear the bell still gonging at a distance. He knows what awaits him at the gate. Another whooping. Another punishment from the seemingly endless cache of creative ideas to punish students. He has cut tree stumps, slashed grass, washed the latrines, picked tea, run around the field, fetched water from the river, “walked” on his knees from the gate to the parade grounds – some 120 meters apart…he wonders, almost amused, what they will make him do today! He runs as fast as his feet can carry him. He wants this so bad. He has been told countless times that education is the key to a better life. He wants a better life! He wants it so bad, he can taste it! As vividly as the sputum rising up his burning chest. He glances back at where he has come from; almost as foreshadow of how he hopes he will be glancing back in a few years. He sees the smoke rising from his mother’s kitchen where he has left his 6 brothers and 3 sisters…only one could be taken to school. The honor was his. He has to run.
Eli ran yesterday. Not fast enough though. You see, he was caught up in a group protesting the grabbing of school land by some big shot politician. He was on his way home from a grueling night shift as a security guard at a Muhindi company in Inda. The peaceful rally was soon turned chaotic by the peace-keeping Utumishi kwa Wote gang. We know them. They even wear uniform. Instead of having a sense of law and order when we see them, we feel dread and start looking around to see what direction the tear gas will drop from. Eli did not see anything yesterday. When the smoke bombs started falling, he ran. His home is in the opposite direction, but the protestors were running the other way. He has lived in this city long enough to know that when the running battles begin, your best option is to just run with the largest crowd.
He did not run fast enough. His sister who they shared a single-room shanty with waits restlessly; shifting her weight from foot to foot. The mortuary staff is not in any hurry, it seems. Or maybe she is just impatient. In pain, she knows it’s him. She knows. It is a blood thing. You just know. Her mother is on her way. She gets into town that evening. She knows, too. Her friends are with her. Some know. Some are chatting away on WhatsApp explaining to their boyfriends what a waste of time this “Shughuli” was. Eli should have just run faster!
Kip has just put the baby down for a nap in his cot. Everyone calls her Kip, but her full name is Kipenzi. She dons her turquoise tracksuit, complete with matching sneakers she bought on her last trip to Maryland. She ties her hair in a bun with a chiffon scarf, takes her earphones and iPod from the bedside drawer and tip toes out of the room. She heads into the third bedroom where the house keeping staff is cleaning away and gives her some instructions, including that she be completely silent because the baby is asleep. As she heads to the kitchen, she plugs in the earphones to the iPod and selects her running songs. In the kitchen is the cook, already working on her smoothie for when she gets back from her run. More instructions, picks her armband, slides her phone in place and wears it, then she’s out.
She needs to lose some weight. Her potty is hanging and dangling and jiggling with her every step. Her baby is 6 months now. Even if her milk supply is reduced at this point, it will not be so bad. She did EBF religiously. It is now time to take care of that body shape. What better way to do it than to run?
Chege abused her again. Came home in a mood, did not eat her food, did not sleep in bed with her, spent the night “working” at the computer…she doubts that any “work” that goes on there in the wee hours of the night is a blessed work, but she has no proof. So she shuts her bloody mouth and just watches. He once told her that she doesn’t know when to shut up. So she is learning.
The kids have frustrated her today. They cry all the time. She feels so alone. She should be happy, right? I mean, 2 kids, handsome, to say the least, gifts from God…she is so unhappy. No one will understand her if she left. No one will understand her if she committed suicide. No one will understand her if Chege one day came home and killed her. No one will understand her, no matter what she does. So, she decides to run. Picks up her kids and just runs. At first she has no idea where she’s going, but it becomes clearer the further she runs. So, she runs.
Why do I run? Why do you?
Selinah O’wakwabi – Head of Food, Fursa Africa
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