Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Joining A Kenyan Running Club

I remember the first time I saw my wife to be – I had never seen anyone make a pair of beat up Shell Toe Adidas look so good.
I remember our first kiss as the time I discovered that Einstein was right and time really is relative and sometimes can stop completely.
I remember when I proposed to her (4th July 2006) I thought I was the coolest guy in the world as I’d got the prettiest girl in the world to say “yes”.
I remember our wedding day and still smile.
Last Sunday I think may well become another one of those “I remember” days.  Last Sunday will become the “I remember the day I realised I had married a Kenyan”.
Don’t get me wrong I have always known my wife is Kenyan. After she agreed to marry me we travelled to Kenya to get her family’s blessing and they slaughtered a goat in my honour, and at our wedding we had readings in both English and Kiswahili. 
But that was all before I started running. Before I had run 26.2 miles in one go. Those were in the days of ignorance when I thought for a marathon runner to shave over 3 minutes off the world marathon record and run under 2 hours can’t be that difficult.  
On Sunday I realised I had married into possibly the greatest nation of distance runners the world has ever known. I have definitely married a Kenyan.
My father-in-law returned from a trip to Kenya yesterday and at a family dinner made an announcement. An announcement firmly rooted in his Kenyan culture:
“I am starting a running club back home - The Mount Kenya Running Club”.
Running is in Kenyans’ blood the way that Rugby has a special place in a Welshman’s heart or Cricket does in the West Indies.
My Father-in-law recently retired as a Church of England vicar in south east London but his community spirit and desire to “give back” has not diminished with him handing over his churchly duties. For my father-in-law, drawing heavily on his Kenyan heritage, one of the most obvious ways to help young people back in Africa is to start a running club.
If I’d married an American woman I would be writing now how my father-in-law was setting up softball club for the kids. If my wife had been Indian I suspect Sunday’s meal would have been about the launch of a cricket team.
But I married a Kenyan. The country that dominates distance running. A country that exports running talent to every major marathon across the world the way Poland exports plumbers. A country that literally went into a state of spiritual and psychological turmoil when it didn’t win as many gold medals in distance running at the 2012 Olympics as it had predicted.
And so on Sunday the Mount Kenya Running Club was born. My wife’s family are from a place called Naro Moru which is where my ex-vicar father-in-law will be setting up the running club. Naro Moru is a beautiful part of the world nestled at the foot of Mount Kenya – hence the new running club’s name and already he has kids eager to join.
And if I am a good son-in-law and look after his daughter I might (and it is just a “might”) be the first person of Jamaican heritage to be allowed to join a Kenyan running club (I get the feeling my father-in-law dismissively thinks I come from “just” a nation of sprinters). Living in Britain I will only be a “honorary” member but honorary is better than nothing. I even told my father-in-law of my plans to enter the Nairobi marathon and now the Mount Kenya Running Club may enter a team too. And if that happens I’ll be allowed to wear a team vest – the only condition is I get all the vests printed and donate them all to the club. (I did say he wanted to give back!)
Mount Kenya Running Club here I come.
(The picture today is of my father-in-law completing the Pisa Marathon last year)

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