Samuel Wanjiru Vs Haile Gebrselassie – Who is Faster Runner

Haile Gebreselassie Vs Samuel Wanjiru. I had hoped this two will race together this year so that we can know who is the king of the full marathon.

Samuel Wanjiru had hoped to take on Haile at 2009 Berlin Marathon but he failed to get invitation to the Berlin Marathon from the organisers. I feel the organisers bowed to the demands of Haile who has previously been quoted saying he prefers to race against the clock rather than go head to head and worry about the athlete behind his neck.

After failing to challenge Haile in Berlin, Wanjiru has entered 2009 Chicago marathon. What is interesting is that Chicago is a flat course just like Berlin. If the weather cooperates, expect Wanjiru to attack Haile record time. Berlin Marathon is on September 20th While Chicago marathon will be on October 11th. After the Berlin marathon Wanjiru will have ample time to reflect and prepare to better Haile’s effort.

A local paper here in Kenya caught up with Samuel Wanjiru on a 35K run along Nyahururu – Gilgil road last monday and the 22 year old athlete played down the Berlin politics and insisted he is 100% focused on 2009 Chicago Marathon.

One thought on “Samuel Wanjiru Vs Haile Gebrselassie – Who is Faster Runner

  1. Ken

    By a Distraught Kenyan

    I have blood on my hands – the blood of Samuel Kamau Wanjiru. I am to blame for his death, whatever the reasons and whatever the cause, at the tender age of 24. I am to blame because never again, ever, will Sammy Wanjiru be a contender for a medal, or a podium finish in a major marathon race, or break the world record in the marathon. I am to blame because never again will I see a vest with the word ‘KENYA’ emblazoned on the front, and on the back of the vest, ‘WANJIRU’, and vice-versa.

    I am to blame because Sammy was, and will forever be, a national icon, a veritable national treasure. In winning the Beijing Olympic Marathon, the London Marathon, the Chicago Marathon the Fukuoka Marathon and various global Half-marathon races, Sammy single-handedly, by the labour of his body and the steeliness of his mind, branded Kenya globally more effectively than the entire Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife, the Kenya Tourism Board and Brand Kenya can ever do. Now he is no more, and Kenya is the worse for it.

    I am to blame because when I first heard that he was having problems with his wife Teresia Njeri, I thought to myself ‘Someone should counsel that young couple on how to handle fame and tons of money at a very young age. Someone should warn the couple about the dangers of hangers-on, gold-diggers and shameless opportunists. Someone should teach and mentor them, in love, care and understanding, on how to support each other in living an extraordinary life; a life that others can only dream about, and a life that cannot be lived successfully using ordinary tools, methods and approaches. Someone should tell Teresia Njeri that she needs to be an extraordinary woman to support her extraordinary husband, to help him to defeat the forces of evil and keep him healthy and mentally relaxed enough to continue running, winning marathons, setting records, making history, and realise the potential the entire world saw in him – to become the greatest marathoner of all time, as time was on his side. Someone should point out the challenges of marrying early, and the effect this has on the relationship when mind-blowing material and social success, on a global scale, is thrown into the works. Someone should……’. But someone didn’t.

    That ‘someone’, is me. I should have taken the initiative and reached out at the first sign of trouble, for better or worse. Having met Wanjiru only once in my life, other than all the virtual time I have spent with him, cheering him breathlessly as he runs various big city marathons, I should have sought out the senior citizens of marathon running to help out. I should have looked for Paul Tergat, a fine gentleman who has climbed the highest mountains of sporting success, and who has raised a family, managed his fortune quietly and with dignity, and who has now retired from competitive marathon running and is, in every way and inch, a role model and senior sporting global statesman.

    I should have sought Haile Gebreselassie out, on the internet, and told him he had a sporting, if not moral, responsibility to mentor Samuel Wanjiru and help him as he doubtless must have been helped himself by unknown, unnamed persons, to succeed. I should have raised the alarm, banged the drums about the heads of the dozing and sleeping minions at the Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife, The Kenya Tourism Board and Brand Kenya, and forced them to call emergency meetings to assist one of Kenya’s top icons to mature and come through his problems, for the benefit of Kenya. I am soooo angry at myself.

    But I didn’t. I waited for ‘someone’ to do it. Surely, I thought, there must be someone who feels the way I do, and who is closer to Sammy than I am or ever could be, and who will step up to the plate.

    I think about the contribution that all our marathon runners make in branding Kenya, and in putting Kenya firmly on the global map. Far more than any person I know who holds the title ‘Ambassador’ in foreign lands, our sporting heroes are the real, true ambassadors of this country. They should all, without exception, be awarded the highest possible National Honour, for they deserve it, by blood, sweat, pain and tears, more than 99% of those who proudly wear National Honours on their sleeves, yet nobody knows anything they did for this country. I think about Duncan Kibet, Mary Keitany, Moses ‘Engine Kubwa’ Mosop, Mathew Kisorio, Selina Kosgey, Rodgers Rop, Robert ‘Mwafrika’ Cheruiyot (where is he? how is he doing? might he need help?), Emmanuel Mutai, Caroline Kilel, Martin Lel, Robert Kiprono Cheruiyot, Geoffrey Mutai, Patrick Makau… you understand that it is impossible to list them all here. These are Kenya’s heroes. Global treasures. Ours to ‘hold’ and ‘keep’ in trust as Kenyans for the entirety of humanity.

    I wonder whether our Government recognises their intrinsic worth, their value to the country, and the potential they can unleash in sporting tourism if handled like the delicate national treasures that they actually are. I wonder if Kenya has abandoned these treasures to the wiles of foreign coaches whose interests, beyond their percentage share of winnings and spoils, is debatable. I weep for Samuel Kamau Wanjiru, as I weep for Kenya for its seeming inability to recognise and protect its treasures.

    Yet, Sammy, like half of humanity, was but a mere man. Talented yes, but flawed. From the safety of maturity and a wide perspective gathered over many years of toil and labour with incomparable success, it is easy to criticise Sammy for his philandering ways, for his susceptibility to the forked tongues of false friends and shady bosoms, and for his ‘money-induced arrogance’. Yet, Paul Tergat ended his career without being an Olympic Champion, and even the other occupant of the pantheon of marathon greats, Haile Gebreselassie, has a snowball’s chance in hell of winning the Olympic marathon title next year in London. Sammy did it at 21 years of age. Enough said!

    So, I will not send a message of condolence to his family. That is, to me, to shamelessly shed crocodile tears. Instead, I take responsibility for Samuel Wanjiru’s death. I am to blame. I should have done something, but did not, because I was hoping that someone else would, but they didn’t. I pray that all Kenyans wake up to the tragedy of Samuel Wanjiru’s death, as he lies on a slab in some refrigerator, cold and lifeless, countless marathons never again to be run, countless Olympic medals never again to be won, countless podiums never again to be graced. It is sad beyond belief.

    Because I love running, and because I think running is the purest, most undiluted sport in the world, I will remember Samuel Wanjiru as I pound the pavements in Nairobi, preparing for my next half-marathon 5 months away in October 2011, where I hope to better my current best time of 1 hour 45 minutes over 21 kilometres. Yes, I am a snail in running terms. Yes, I must lose a lot of weight before that marathon. Yes, I wish I had the discipline to wake up on cold, rainy, misty Nairobi mornings and pound the streets before putting on my suit and tie and going to the office. But, in my mind, I am a world record holder. Like Sammy.

    I will remember his achievements and his greatness. I will also remember that raw talent, without nurture, though it lead to fame and fortune, can also be easily buried in the grave. And I will never again fail to take action, waiting for someone else to do so.

    Are you also to blame, or is it just me?


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