I'm always in enormous awe of the Kenyans when it comes to long distance running. They are almost always there on the podium at the end of marathon races all over the world. Whether it's in their genes or the training method, or both, it is interesting how they keep raising the bar all the time. I won't be surprised if the world record for the marathon (42.2km) dips below 2hours during my lifetime. After all, it now stands at 2:03:23, set by Wilson Kipsang of Kenya at the Berlin Marathon last year. If the record goes below 2hours at all, my guess is that it will most probably be set by a Kenyan runner.
We've had our share of the Kenyan runners in the Borneo International Marathon (BIM) too. But the Kenyans that I've seen in the BIM did not impress me as much as those in the likes of Wilson Kipsang. Far from impressing me, they disgust me!
A few years ago, some of you may remember that the prizes for the top winners in the BIM were fairly attractive. They were not anything to shout about, but they were more than what they are today. What happened back then was that we had a couple of Kenyans that came to our shores to run the BIM. They came strictly to win, and only to win! And of course they did win!
However, after a while a few more of them joined the BIM. As we all know, not all of them could be the winners. Some of them, although fast runners by our local standard, could not win. They're among the fast finishers, but not the winners.
It was fun seeing the Kenyans running against each other. But the trouble was that they joined the race with the attitude of someone jumping into a bottomless pit, hoping that there's a safety net at the bottom somehow. They come with a one-way plane ticket and zero pocket money. If they can win the race, then they're safe. If not, then they would become the "victims"they would be stranded in KK and become a nuisance, until some fools are willing to fork out the money to send them home. While they're at it, they would be interviewed by the press, and they'd spew out plenty of rubbish about the organiser.
Such was the case a few years ago when a fourth-place finisher was stranded because he had no money to go home. However, it was rather amusing how he came up with a story about why he lost the race. He said he was leading the other Kenyans, but somehow lost his way and ended up fourth! Of course the timing mats that recorded the order of the runners at several points during the race showed that he was never leading at any time during the race. Then he said he was walking at the coastal highway one evening, and a bunch of crooks robbed him. The robbers then tried to beat him up, but he ran away and eventually jumped into the sea to escape. That was why he had no money on him.
I have long forgotten his name, and I've been trying to search for his photo online, but failed to find any. So I'm just posting this photo to give you an idea of him.
A lot of hoohahs because of the joker, and then it was decided perhaps it's best not to offer big prizes for the race. We could live without these trouble makers.
A few years have since elapsed, and we haven't seen the Kenyans in the BIM. But this lately they're coming back again even with the small prizes on offer. Times must be getting tough, and some desperate people may be willing to jump into that bottomless pit again for whatever little fortune there is down there. Of course it's not our policy to reject runners who'd like to join the BIM. So we saw 2 Kenyans last Sunday. And of course they won their respective races.
Accordingly, the organiser paid the prizes into the respective accounts on the next working day as promised. But what do you think happened after that? They came knocking at the door of the organiser, demanding for cash. They had no money even for meals. Here are the famous marathon winners.
They are now not only the famous winners, but also famous "victims" that got stranded in a foreign land with no money to survive. Some of you from KK might have seen them with their sad story in the local papers today.
Now how should we deal with these amazing runners? I would suggest that all Kenyan runners wanting to join the BIM in the future should be made to show their return air tickets and a minimum of say RM500 spending money each to be deposited with the organiser in order to be eligible to join the race. This money will be refunded when they leave Sabah. Otherwise, find another race elsewhere, because we are not in the business of victimizing these people. We don't want troubles. This is merely my idea, of course; not that of the organiser's.
Once these people are out of the picture, then maybe it's time to raise the amount of the prize money again. What say you all, hmmm?