"If you’ve raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses? If you stumble in safe country, how will you manage in thickets by the Jordan?" (Jeremiah 12:5). Our journey is intended to be more than simply "stumbling" through the days while the world "wears us out.” We are made to experience the thrill of "running with horses” and to navigate life amongst the "thickets." The RWH blog focuses on both the spiritual race of which Jeremiah speaks, and the physical act of running that I absolutely love. In short, it's where "the miles meet the Message" to provide insight, perspective & encouragement that might enable you & I to successfully run either of the races set before us. May our course be purposeful and may we be passionate in our pursuit of the abundant life He desires for us.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Run Like a Kenyan!

Participate in a large marathon and you’ll no doubt see the t-shirts and signs; "In my dreams I am Kenyan,” or "You’re at mile 5, just think, the Kenyans are at mile 15," or maybe "Chuck Norris is Kenyan.” Obviously, the dominance of distance running in the past few decades by the Kenyans, Ethiopians and Eritreans, (think Meb Keflezighi, who is now a US citizen), has led to our expectation that to run as a Kenyan means to run faster than the wind.  But why? Why have Kenyans won nearly every World Major Marathon in the past few years; all five in 2011 AND each with a world record! I have a theory .......

Thanks to Boston, this current project will be completed
Last night I read a wonderful story in Running Times.  It’s the August copy and in a few weeks most of the content can be found here : Running Times.  In the article ‘Surely, This is a Dream’, Philip Latter introduces us to several Kenyan runners.  One of them is Wesley Korir, the winner of the 2012 Boston Marathon. Korir’s story is incredibly inspiring, but not that much different than any of the others. Stories of survival and hope.  Hope for themselves, their  families and communities.  Hope, in Korir’s case, in the form of educational scholarships and basic medical care.

I have attached a few links below this post with more insight on Korir, they are worth the read.  They tell of his strong faith and his concern for the poor. For instance, Korir is well known for buying two Subway sandwiches before every race.  One for pre-race fuel, the other to actively seek out someone in need for a meal. But beyond this small gesture, even more impressive is how Korir directs nearly all of his race winnings to his foundation.  The $150,000 prize for winning Boston was a “gift from God, a miracle,” according to Wesley.  With this money, he joined forces with Ryan and Sara Hall to complete a hospital.

You caught that, right? He did not add to his personal wealth, nor buy an outrageously expensive sports car, or invest in more ‘bling’.  But rather, this elite athlete simply keeps giving back.  And there in lies at least a part of what brings success to this group of runners; desperate purpose! To win is to know that someone else might survive.  To use the gifts that God has given in a way to further His kingdom and show His love to others are of high priority to many like Korir.

Interestingly, though it might not be the same level of desperation, there is a strong presence of faith and social values in distance racing today. From guys like Korir and Meb, to Ryan and Sara, to Josh Cox to many others. It’s a refreshing side of professional sports that I like to try and talk about, especially to aspiring young runners. There are pockets of strong character in other sports, but they are rare.  Just think if all athletes determined to live a little simpler and to use their excessive winnings (salaries) for such causes. To be fair, just think if we all did this .......

As I read about the improbable Boston win, I kept thinking about the photos of Korir breaking the tape. He slows to a stop, he crouches down, then he simply looks to the sky.  He later talks about the praying and singing that he shared during the race. I can’t help but wonder what it feels like to cross the finish and know that you have just made life a little bit more livable for someone else. Maybe that’s what it means to “Run Like a Kenyan!”

In closing, as you watch the Olympic Marathon events next month (Women on 8/5, Men on 8/12), join me in cheering for the USA’s Shalane Flanagan, Desiree Davila, Kara Goucher, Ryan Hall, Meb Keflezighi and Abdi Abdirahman. But should the gold medal elude these six, you can be certain that a Kenyan is likely to have won. Take a moment to consider the back story, then do as all of our team will do, feel good about what that just might mean. Now, hurry on, "I think you’re being lapped by a Kenyan!”

Winning Boston, but more importantly, funding hope!
Pleased as he was with the outcome, Korir remained grounded by his faith. "Running is not my destiny," he says. "Running is just a stepping stone of what God's prepared for me. God has put something so amazing for me out there. This running, it's not Wesley--it's not the end of me. God has put in my heart helping the poor of Kenya.” - Wesley Korir, from Philip Latter article.

InterVarsity Story on Wesley Korir
Who is Wesley Korir?
Running Times - Hospital Project

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