Sunday, 3 July 2011

Just bumped into...

1992 Olympic steeplechase champion Matthew Birir (as you do)
Our sandwich stop one day happened to be outside his house. He's now a farmer
like most of the people in the famous Kip area of Kenyan Kalenjin country (unless they're athletes of course). Kenyans seem to be an unbelievably modest, matter-of-fact bunch and it was clear that this guy is no exception as he re-lived his incredible days traveling over the world as an athlete. The conversation started something like: 'Where are you from?... 'Oh you're from the UK? I used to live there...' (Where abouts?) 'Oh Crystal Palace' (Oh right, what were you doing there?) "I was involved in athletics' (as a coach?) 'No I was an athlete...' etc etc

I asked him what he did with his gold medal. He said he kept it in his house there, adding the immortal line without mirth, 'but it's perfectly safe. Kenyans don't value gold. They're only interested in cows.'

Later in the day we met a few more Kenyan internationals (hanging about, driving motorbike taxis etc etc) but the highlight was cycling past Kipsaus school where about 100 primary age boys and girls ran down the road alongside us up and down hills for up to 5km. Not a bead of sweat or panted breath - completely carefree and joyful, running just for no reason other than it was fun. Seemingly running without a ball to chase is fun to some people.

The downside of meeting all these damn fit kips is that this it is the only place so far where people are utterly unimpressed that we're cycling 2,000km.


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