“Is the impossible, possible?” .. The Beginning

 “IS THE IMPOSSIBLE, POSSIBLE?” .. THE BEGINNING

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“Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up, it knows it must outrun the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning in Africa, a lion wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the slowest gazelle, or it will starve. It doesn’t matter whether you’re the lion or a gazelle-when the sun comes up, you’d better be running.” (Christopher McDougall, Born to Run)

A marathon in under 120 minutes.. an average speed of 13.1mph.. 4:34 mile pace average.. 5k splits of 14:13.. 10k splits of 28:26.. and half marathon in 59:59…. Is it possible? Surely not!!

Wilson Kipsangs splits for the current marathon world record of 2:03:23 looks like this-

– Average mile pace-4:42.

– 5km average 14:36,

– 10km average 29:12,

– Half marathon 61:36..

Its difficult to comprehend that sort of running speed.. However, its still a bit off sub 2 hour splits!!

The great emperor of distance running Haile Gebrselassie believes that a sub 2 hour marathon may well take another 25 years before we see anyone capable of going under two hours.. However, Uganda’s Stephen Kiprotich, though, the current Olympic and world champion, believes there’s room for optimism.

“Lowering the record to 2:02 will be done soon, definitely before the next Olympics in Rio,” he said. “Then it will again take some time.”.

Let’s take a look at some of the great athletic milestones of years gone by- the first sub 10 second 100 metre sprint- Does anyone remember Jim Hines? The first sub 4 minute mile- Anyone remember Roger Bannister?.. Both records were deemed “impossible” at one time or another.

And looking outside of athletics, you just have to look at what the likes of Michael Phelps achieved for swimming.. And what the likes of Felix Baumgartner has achieved for the human race in general- These guys are “one-offs” who have achieved unbelievable feats of extraordinary proportions.

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If history is to teach us anything it’s that human beings can achieve unbelievable things. The examples above demonstrate the human form’s sheer capacity for endurance and defying the odds.. Its true that records are there to be broken.. Barriers are there to be cleared.. Impossibilities are there to be made possible..

Mr Bannister states in his autobiography that-

“Whether we athletes liked it or not, the four-minute mile had become rather like an Everest – a challenge to the human spirit. It was a barrier that seemed to defy all attempts to break it, an irksome reminder that man’s striving might be in vain” (Roger Bannister, Twin Tracks: The Autobiography).

There is no doubt that the sub 2 hour marathon is also a challenge of the human spirit.. And indeed a challenge of many other things as well.. Its true that we may have a while to wait to see such a feat, and no doubt it will take someone out of the ordinary to achieve it. It will require a person who has a physiological make-up much superior to anyone who has come before.

But there is no doubt that evolution will dictate that the sub 2 hour marathon will inevitably happen.. And whoever becomes the first to stop the clock at 1:59:59 will accomplish something so significant that it will be on par with anything ever achieved before, in sport or otherwise.. It will be a majestic feat and an indicator of what the human body can do when trained and primed and pushed to the limit.. It will indeed show that what is impossible can be possible.

But my question is this- Does the person who will eventually run under 2 hours for the marathon live among us today? Could that person be someone who IS NOT from the more traditional running nations of Kenya or Ethiopia? A Ugandan perhaps??

The reason I say Uganda is because I was present at the Olympic Stadium in London when Stephen Kiprotich, the Ugandan marathon runner, stood aloft the podium at the closing ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games to receive his gold medal for winning the Olympic marathon, and where the topic of conversation first turned to the possibility of a sub 2 hour marathon..

I first visited Uganda back in 2008 with the charity “Share Uganda”. Ever since I’ve had an affiliation with the country.. Kiprotichs’ amazing Olympic feat propelled the nation of Uganda into the realms of long distance running supremacy; alongside the likes of Kenya and Ethiopia. However, amazing as it may sound, Kiprotichs gold is only the second gold medal Uganda has ever secured in Olympic games history, and the first middle/long distance medal..

Uganda, which is nestled among the two hotbeds of marathon running- Kenya and Ethiopia, has often lived in the shadow of these great marathon running nations.. In comparison to Uganda’s 2 Olympic gold medals- Kenya and Ethiopia have long produced Olympic, world and Commonwealth champions over the last 30 years..

Through my visit in 2008, I discovered how beautiful Uganda is, and I have since had a great interest in the country.. Couple that with my fascination of long distance running and the possibility of the sub 2-hour marathon happening sooner rather than later, I feel that Uganda will be an ideal setting to study further the subject of a sub 2 hour marathon.

I also believe that Uganda has a huge amount of undiscovered talent when it comes to middle and long distance running, and indeed sport in general.. Stephen Kiprotichs Olympic marathon triumph has given me the motivation to carry out this trip (all be it 2 years later). I hope my visit to Uganda will give me a better understanding of distance running in the country, and indeed a better understanding of running in general..

I feel that Kiprotich’s Olympic triumph is a story of inspiration; one that all young Ugandan runners can aim to replicate.. It has given them a right to dream big, where before there was perhaps no opportunity to do so.

I will travel to some of the most remote parts of East Africa (Kenya and Ethiopia included).. I will visit the people.. Study the people.. Live with the people to get an understanding of what motivates and drives these people. People who come from severe deprivation and poverty, and become world class athletes who continually push the boundaries of human endurance.

Specifically, I will profile 2 athletics clubs in Uganda- the Kapchorwa Athletics Foundation which is based in Eastern Uganda in the region of Mount Elgon, and the “Fame Athletics Club” based near Kampala.. I will also profile individual people- young athletes (primary/secondary school age), current athletes who are trying to make it, as well as athletes who have succeeded at national and international level.. I will also profile coaches and club administrators along with governing body officials etc.

I will embark on this trip following the completion of the Commonwealth Games in August this year. Please follow my story and comment below any thoughts you may have-

Thanks and stay tuned for more updates in the coming months.

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4 thoughts on ““Is the impossible, possible?” .. The Beginning

  1. There is an important relationship between enabling athletes to understand their talents and actually giving the opportunity to have this talent fully put into use. In Uganda, we have enough talents; in the hills of Kapchorwa, there are numberless talents lying wasted. A number of these athletes have resorted to peasantry farming, and others have completely been rendered useless. An awakening can be made and a new lease of hope can just be felt. I would simply think that an effort can be put in place; Many Kipsiros, or Kiprotichs are all with us. I remember Kiprotich confessing that many athletes who are even better than him are out in the villages, but with immeasurable difficulties, they cant even manage to buy athletic shoes or training materials and cant even start running. If we look at this scenerio, we can say that it all come to one thing: Giving athletes the right resources, and we will simply get the right results.

  2. I’m sure Ugandans will be really excited to learn that you have chosen to come here for your study.
    Not technically minded at all (plus am a below average runner!) but I enjoyed your post. Keep it up 🙂
    The whole country went crazy when Kiprotich won his gold medal in London – oh that he could win another one!

  3. Well Collins,I am sorry that I could not give you an immediate response.Like athletes we are all running around for bread.You must keep chasing to have something for the family and the athletes.To many things need to be done if some of these dreams come true
    1.Promote the importance of athletics and sportsmanship in the context of development.
    2.Increase participation of high performance in athletics in Uganda.
    3.Bring international interest to Uganda to promote athletics and help to spur the local economy/sports tourism.
    4.Foster relationship between the developed sports world and local clubs like Fame Athletics Club.
    Once an appropriate environment is created the sub 2hrs in the marathon is possible.I got a student who rode a bicycle for 4 years ridding 80km per day in total not to get an Olympic cycling medal but an education.Many examples can be sited.So your study is a blessing with the right inputs and encouragement you will achieve your objectives of the trip.Karibuni,Webale kujja,you are welcom.

  4. Collins you deserve to be Knighted and happy that I have been part of your heroic experience.
    This deserves to be a book written it sounds like some interesting music. May we live to see our dreams.
    James William Mugeni
    FAME Athletics CLUB.

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