Kenyans See ‘Hand of God’ in Eliud Kipchoge’s Record-Breaking Marathon Run

Eliud Kipchoge celebrates as he crosses the finish line Oct. 12, 2019, in Vienna to make history as the first human being to run a marathon in under two hours. (Bob Martin/The INEOS 1:59 Challenge via AP)

The two-hour marathon barrier has finally been broken. As Eliud Kipchoge arrived back home in Nairobi on Wednesday (Oct. 16), citizens of his country pointed at a “hand of God” in his record-breaking, sub-two-hour run on Saturday in Vienna.

Kipchoge, a Roman Catholic, ran the 42.2 kilometers (26.2 miles) in 1:59:40 in the race dubbed “No Human Is Limited.” He became the first runner in history to run the distance in under two hours. Later, the athlete compared the achievement to Neil Armstrong’s landing on the moon in 1969.

“I am … celebrating. I always celebrate in a calm and humane way,” said Kipchoge, after quietly reentering the country.

The race has united the people in villages, towns and cities in Kenya and stirred religious responses in the East African nation, where more than 80% of the population are Christians.

“I think he made it by trusting in God that all is possible,” the Rev. Nicholas Makau, a Roman Catholic priest in Nairobi, told Religion News Service. “He seemed (to) challenge a widely held view that humanity is limited, but he has shown that when people try, they can succeed.

“I think he is a religious person by upbringing who was doing it for his belief,” added Makau.

The Rev. Wilybard Lagho, vicar general of the Mombasa Roman Catholic Archdiocese, followed the race from the coastal city of Mombasa.

“This means we can achieve more than we have always thought,” said Lagho. “Faith contributes to the success of human beings in mysterious ways we may not be able to quantify. But I think Kipchoge knows how to balance between spiritual and physical ability.”

The race has set a good example for humanity, said retired Anglican Bishop Julius Kalu of Mombasa, who keenly watched the race from the start.

“I was impressed by the pacesetters, who I think did a good job,” said Kalu, comparing their work to the call of Christians. “They supported Kipchoge to the end. This is what we should do as Christians — support each other in both good and bad times.”

Since the 1960 Rome Olympics, Kenyans have dominated long distance running, from 800 meters to marathons, in the Olympics, World Cross Country Championships and the world road racing circuit.

The long distance running success has often stirred debates, with analysts citing physical attributes, the food and an ingrained culture of running. Recently, some religious analysts have also thrown in faith and ethics.

“The runners need their faith for endurance and perseverance, whether in training or in the actual race,” said Kalu.

In April this year, Kipchoge told Running Coach, a blog for runners, that religion played an important role in his life.

“It keeps me from doing things that could keep me (away) from my goals. On Sundays, I go to church with my family and I pray regularly, even in the morning before a race,” he said.

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Source: Religion News Service