Firstly, kudos to the organisers of the first IAAF World Cross Country Championships held in Kampala. I can totally understand how demanding such an international event can be to put together. For rookies, they did remarkably. The event was colourful and people were euphoric. It was a good advert for unity. When Ugandans are not bickering, they can be very supportive. Surely no Ugandan athlete can claim to have not felt the love. The cheers were deafening to say the least.
One person who revelled in the cheers and screams from the adoring fans was medal hopeful Joshua Cheptegei. Tipped as one of the favourites to walk away with a medal, Cheptegei didn’t disappoint. Well until some point. Don’t we all love some hype or the knowledge that someone is in your corner? It is intoxicating. A pat on the back or anything that can get your adrenaline running is welcome. It doesn’t matter whether your preparation was lacking, you will step on the gas. Back in school, my parents were my biggest supporters. They hyped me with those encouraging “We know you’ll make it” words. I would get psyched for a moment but deep down I knew I was in trouble. Building confidence on ill-preparation is suicidal. You feel like the elephant in the room yet quite truthfully, you are more like some clueless mouse.
I loved the way Cheptegei bossed the first laps until he collapsed like a pack of cards. Hugely disappointing, but embarrassing? I don’t think so. The guy looked like he badly wanted the medal. He glanced behind and there was nara, zeroooo.Not a single trace of human life. Brilliant! I normally feel like this when I am driving a borrowed nice car. Ayaaaa. You start day dreaming behind the wheel, driving like a mad man and risking your life. It’s until you hand over the keys that reality rips into your skull. You go like, “Whyyyyy me?” Cheptegei had it. He had probably started envisioning which car he was going to buy, the house he was going to build and so on. The idea of success is beautiful in the head. You practically see yourself handing over cash at the car bond. This is all in your head. In reality, you are at Kiyembe stage almost waving your hands into disability. Anti to get a taxi to stop. Ohh this life!
The way Cheptegei went from dominating like Mo Farah to staggering like a dying ‘kongola mabere’ (preying mantis) doesn’t surprise me too much. He had the desire to do his country and family proud but his legs had other ideas. It’s quite unfortunate that our bodies are a complete let-down. They are too quick to conflict with what our heads want. The way Cheptegei lost, one would have rightfully thought that there was an evil invisible hand. More so; these are not the videos you want to show a child to draw some inspiration. The kid would cry himself into a coma.
For Cheptegei, it must feel so grave. Too be so close yet so far.To burst out of the blocks like a sprinter only to finish the race like an elderly woman of 90 years whose walking stick was grabbed from her. It’s painful indeed!