• Glorious! Multitudes See the ‘Hand of God’ in Kenyan’s Record Breaking Run

    Surge Summary: A world champion Kenyan runner breaks the two-hour marathon barrier – and he and many others credit God’s help for that accomplishment.

    An astonishing athletic feat was accomplished just over a week ago, as the two-hour marathon barrier has finally been broken. As Eliud Kipchoge, already marathon world-record holder and one of Kenya’s most consistent long-distance runners, arrived back home in Nairobi on Wednesday, his fellow citizens credited a “hand of God” in his record-breaking, sub-two-hour run on Saturday in Vienna.

    Fredrick Nzwili/Religious News Service writes:

    Kipchoge, a Roman Catholic, ran the 42.2 kilometers (26.2 miles) in 1:59:40 in the race dubbed “No Human Is Limited.” He became the first runner in history to run the distance in under two hours. Later, the athlete compared the achievement to Neil Armstrong’s landing on the moon in 1969.

    The race stirred religious responses in his East African nation, where more than 80% of the population are Christians. The Sunday following the event, Kenyans attended church services to thank God for Kipchoge’s achievement and praise Him for what they see as the work of a Christian role model.

    “I think he made it by trusting in God that all is possible,” the Rev. Nicholas Makau, a Roman Catholic priest in Nairobi, told Religion News Service. “He seemed (to) challenge a widely held view that humanity is limited, but he has shown that when people try, they can succeed. I think he is a religious person by upbringing who was doing it for his belief,” added Makau.

    The Rev. Wilybard Lagho, vicar general of the Mombasa Roman Catholic Archdiocese, followed the race from the coastal city of Mombasa.

    “This means we can achieve more than we have always thought,” said Lagho. “Faith contributes to the success of human beings in mysterious ways we may not be able to quantify. But I think Kipchoge knows how to balance between spiritual and physical ability.”

    Anglican Bishop Julius Kalu of Mombasa, who’d been closely following the race from the start, pointed out another lesson from Kipchoge’s stunning feat: The race has presented a good example for all of humanity.

    “I was impressed by the pacesetters, who I think did a good job,” said Kalu, comparing their work to the call of Christians. “They supported Kipchoge to the end. This is what we should do as Christians — support each other in both good and bad times.”

    From 800 meter contests to marathons, athletes from Kenya have dominated long distance running since the 1960 Rome Olympics — in the Olympics, World Cross Country Championships and the world road racing circuit.

    Analysts have debated the reason runners from the country of fifty-million have prevailed so consistently in the field. Suggestions have included physical attributes, the food and an ingrained culture of running — and lately, some religious assessors have also tossed in faith and ethics as a partial explanation.

    “The runners need their faith for endurance and perseverance, whether in training or in the actual race,” said Kalu.

    In April this year, Kipchoge told Running Coach, a blog for runners, that religion played an important role in his life.

    “It keeps me from doing things that could keep me (away) from my goals. On Sundays, I go to church with my family and I pray regularly, even in the morning before a race,” he said.

    Live coverage of his latest challenge drew thousands of spectators from around the world to social and public places — including church centers in Kenya.

    Christians were gathering to pray for Kipchoge’s success even before he left his homeland; his elderly mother among them:

    “I prayed and fasted for him so that he achieves what God had planned,” Jane Rotich told the Kenyan newspaper The Standard soon after the race. She said she had been waking up every morning at 3 a.m. to pray for her son.

    The thirty-four-year-old marathoner has come excruciatingly close to finishing several of the races in under two hours. In 2017, for instance, he came within a tantalizing 25 seconds of the two-hour mark in Italy. The following year in Berlin he was just 1 minute and 29 seconds off the mark.

    Impressive as is this most recent exploit,

    the record-breaking run in Austria on Saturday will still not count as a record. The “race” was designed specifically for Kipchoge and for the goal of finishing in under two hours. There were no other competitors in the run, the date was chosen for optimal weather, and he was supported by a rotating team of pacesetters as well as a car that used lasers to show the best place to run. These advantages are not allowed during typical marathon running and will keep this achievement off any official records.

    That aside, no matter how one qualifies this accomplishment … twenty-six miles in under two hours? Staggering.

    According to the runner, an official record was not his goal anyway. What he actually wanted?

    [S]imply, to see if it could be done. In his tweet before the race, Kipchoge wrote: “I don’t know where the limits are, but I would like to go there.”

    “I expect more people all over the world to run under 2 hours after today,” he said after the race.

    Meanwhile, for Kipchoge, it’s on to the next barrier to be broken: Next year’s Tokyo Olympics to hopefully – prayerfully, no doubt — improve on his already certified world record; and perhaps get that sub-two-hour marathon performance on the books for good.

    H/T: Fredrick Nzwili/Religious News Service

    Image: Adapted from: C.Suthorn / cc-by-sa-4.0 / commons.wikimedia.org, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=72779428

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