They do more than race back and forth between Africa and America
Sometimes, sports seem to defy physics: the reluctant bend of a deep homerun that seems to stubbornly hang in air before disappearing into an ocean of fans; the golfer’s perfect draw of an approach shot; Michael Jordan floating in for a dunk.
Watch a Ted Williams swing, watch him uncoil, and one might swear he could not have been created to do anything else in life. Purity comes to mind.
One stands in such awe when watching the Kenyan athletes of the local “Running Far” program.
They slip effortlessly past on a track as easily as running water, light as rain and pure as gold.
Many running fans have seen Kenyans they break the tape at marathon finish lines or in Olympic distance races. Seen up close, it can leave one breathless.
Ben Kurgat, coach and founder of the local Running Far program that currently hosts and trains four Kenyan runners began recently. These runners include Julius Kogo, 24, Isaac Birir, 30, Kirui Kipyegon, 29, and Kennedy Kemei, 32.
“We had an organized group of runners for several years, but with the start of Running Far, we’re trying to do things a little differently,” said Kurgat, a Kenyan who attended the University of Virginia.”
Running Far is about far more than running, he said.
“We’re refocusing the program, where ‘Running Far’ means running for a reason,” he said. “Each person in the program now does something to give back both to the community they come from and the community where they’re racing.”
A recent example included a visit to a Chapel Hill / Carrboro Pacers Youth Running Club practice in May, where over a hundred young runners from the local community got to hear stories from the Kenyans. Afterwards, the Kenyans joined group runs with the young athletes.
“Our athletes enjoyed themselves and said that it was a good cultural exchange,” Kurgat said of the event. “They felt like celebrities among the kids, but … the athletes were also reminded that what they have accomplished in running is not small. The session actually magnified their running achievements.”
Kenyan runners, left to right, Kennedy Kemei, Julius Kogo, Isaac Birir and (not shown) Kirui Kipyegon visit with youth athletes at a May 2010 practice of the Chapel Hill / Carrboro Pacers Youth Running Club.
Kurgat said Running Far also facilitates similar exchanges in Kenya between the athletes and those of their hometowns and villages.
“We’ve added (that requirement),” Kurgat explained. “They must also work with the kids back home — to teach them about the benefits of running and the opportunities they’ve discovered, like getting to see the world and things others have accomplished.
“It’s not just about coming (to the U.S.), racing, and then going back, coming, racing, and going back.
“We’re trying to give the program more meaning and more direction. Every participant benefits, and then, with their success, they can also help other athletes to succeed.”