THE MARATHON CHAMPION
GWIJI WA MBIO ZA NYIKA
Komen was walking to school on a Monday when he saw the lady. She was in a small navy blue Passat. What attracted his attention was the way she drove the vehicle.
She drove slowly and looked as if she was a learner, that is, a late learner in driving as such.
The lady looked about forty five years old. Impulsively, Komen made a sign of the tortoise to her. The lady saw the sign and made a slaughtering sign at Komen.
By the time Komen got to school, he had forgotten about the lady. This was because he was late and he knew the master on duty would cane him.
Komen’s home was about ten kilometers from his school. But the teachers were not concerned about the distance.
Each pupil had to be within the compound at exactly seven regardless of the distance one had to cover.
After the thrashing by the master on duty, Komen rushed to class Seven Central which was his class. By then the teacher of Mathematics had already started the lesson.
Mr. Muniafu, the Mathematics teacher, also took the chance to cane the boy for being late for his morning remedial.
But since Komen was a vibrant and cheerful boy, he did not allow the caning to make him sad. By the mid morning breaks, he had forgotten both the caning and the Passat lady.
On Tuesday he was late again and he saw the Passat lady again. And he made the tortoise sign again and the lady made the throat cutting sign at him.
He smiled as he rushed to school. He knew that at least he had met someone who shared a private joke with him. This happened every day up to Saturday.
Saturday was also a school day. The only difference was that it was only class seven and eight that went.
At the same time, being a weekend, the teachers allowed them to reach school at exactly eight. Komen did not know that this Saturday was going to be a life changing day to him.
He left home at around six thirty. As usual he jogged. At the usual point and travelling in the opposite direction was the Passat lady.
While Komen was travelling downhill she was moving uphill. As usual he made the sign of the tortoise.
But this time instead of the lady making a slaughtering sign, she stopped suddenly and allowed the vehicle to move backwards in free gear.
Then she parked the car and suddenly jumped out with the car keys in her left hand. All this happened in what seemed a millisecond to Komen.
When she crossed the road to his side of the road, Komen realized that she was coming after him. He started running and to his surprise the lady started running after him.
Komen felt a sudden fear in his stomach. He was also surprised to realize that she had relatively long strides.
The lady was not very tall but her legs were long. She was very light complexioned and her hair was very long.
It was easy to notice that she was in perfect shape for a woman of around forty five.
It was the toughest race that Komen had ever faced in his life.Komen ran as fast as he could but the lady easily kept a constant distance behind him.
There was no soul in sight. Ahead of him was a small incline and he hoped she would fall behind him when they started going up the hill.
After all she was about fifty and a woman as such.
He eventually reached the hill and he glanced back to see if the lady was losing it. To his surprise, he realized that she had gained on him.
By now Komen’s breath was coming out in short gasps. His chest was full partly due to fear and partly due to the strain of running very fast. He was also sweating heavily.
But since he was not sure of the lady’s intention, he tried to increase speed and at least get to a place where there were some human beings.
But the faster Komen ran, the faster the lady came after him.
He had hoped that there would be some soul at the river where most of the women fetched water but as he came over the hill, he saw to his dismay that there was no soul at the river.
The river was halfway between home and school. As he went over the bridge he realized he had to run all the way to school.
This was because there was going to be nobody on the road up to the school. He knew that road very well.
He felt that he had been running for ages. His mouth was dry and he was almost fainting. His chest was now like an overheated vehicle engine.
He could see the gate of the school about a half a kilometer away from where he was.
As he made the last effort to sprint, the lady sprinted past him and to his surprise she did not even try to grab him.
He just stopped and knelt on the ground: he wanted to regain his breath. He saw the lady run up to the gate of the school and then she started running back towards him.
“How are you Champion?” It was the tall lady looking at him.
She pronounced Champion the way a white person would have pronounced his name.
"I am Komen not Champion,” he gasped.
He did not feel any fear at all since he was by now very close to the school.
“We covered the ten kilometers in thirty minutes. That is as fast as the world marathon champion. So you are a champion.”The lady said.
Komen was curious.
"Are you one of them?” He asked looking at her.
“I was one of them twelve years ago. I am now retired but I participate in local races. We will be having the Karbarnet Half Marathon on Saturday next week.
The prize is two hundred thousand. Can you give it a shot?”
“No thanks. I will be in school.”
“It is okay. Run to school before you are late.” With that she was gone.
He watched her as she went down the road. She was not running very fast but she kept the same pace all the time.
He instinctively learnt the first rule of the champions: maintain the pace or increase the pace but do not by any chance reduce your pace.
He was surprised to realize that it was only ten past seven when he entered the school. Other pupils turned to look at him.
It was then that he realized that he was sweating heavily.The Monday after the race with the Passat lady, Komen arrived at school at exactly seven thirty.
He was sweating but he was on time to avoid the thrashing. He had taken forty minutes to run the ten kilometer distance from his home to school.
On Tuesday, he arrived at seven twenty five. Afterwards, he was at school at either seven thirty or seven twenty five. He never received strokes of the cane again for being late.
ALL THIS HAPPENED when he was in primary school. He did his class eight exams the following year and succeeded to join Iten High.
That was the place where he realized that being a champion was very important.
The first thing he noticed about the school was that students were allowed to go for cross country practically every school day.
That was because the trainer of athletes in the school was also the Principal.The Principal was a very tall Nandi man called Mr. Koech Arap Samoei.
Mr. Arap Samoei was very strict when it came to athletics. He had an athletics schedule for the School in his office.
On Mondays at five thirty in the morning every student in the school participated in the morning cross country race.
The track they had to follow was over small hills all the way to Tengecha Market and then through a freezing forest back to the school compound.
Besides the forest and the hilly terrain, there were two streams which the students had to ford. At five the stream waters were practically frosty.
The streams were responsible for the damaged sports shoes. The total distance was about twenty two kilometers.
Many of the students did not have sports shoes but that was no excuse. Everybody had to run on Monday morning at five thirty.
On Tuesday, the roadwork, as the students referred to it, was optional. Only serious athletes went for the Tuesday roadwork. It was also in the morning at five thirty.
The gate men only allowed the boys out of the gate at that time. On Wednesday, cross-country was compulsory. But this race was in the evening at around four after classes.
While the Monday race was held in the morning when it was still very cold, the Wednesday race took place when the sun was still very hot.
On Sunday, nobody was allowed out of school.
The worst mistake a boy could make at Iten High was to miss the cross-country race. It was punishable by a suspension from the school and later on uprooting of a stump.
And there were very many stumps in the school.The school had ten fields and all the fields had tracks for athletes.
The school owned a total of about three hundred acres of land. The principal of the school wanted to make sixteen standard fields for the school for the sports activities.
KOMEN DID NOT HAVE any problem adjusting to the school routine. He liked the races and he was soon going for the roadwork every day.
He wanted to compete with Tenai, the best athlete in the school, for the school championships.Everyone knew that there was no one as fast as Tenai in the school.
Tenai himself was a tall thin boy of about eighteen. He was very dark complexioned. He was not very talkative. In fact the only thing that Tenai could contribute on was cross country.
At this time Tenai was in form three.Tenai went for road work every day and for the last two years nobody had beat him.
He always covered the twenty two kilometers in about fifty six minutes. Everybody else covered the distance within one hour or one hour and some minutes.
Komen started copying Tenai the very first time he went for road work. He noticed that Tenai never started very fast.
But as he ran, Tenai would keep on increasing the pace until the last one kilometer. Then he would practically sprint the last stretch of one kilometer.
During the second term of the year, the Iten High Half Marathon Championship was held. The top contenders of the race were of course Tenai- the reigning Iten High Champion- and Kiplimo.
No one paid any attention to Komen.The race was to start at seven thirty that morning. Before the race the principal gave his speech.
“Good morning champions. This is very important gentlemen. Remember this could be your life career and it can make you a millionaire.
Some of us have worked for over twenty years and we have never seen one million shillings. But look at our champions: look at Kipchoge, look at Paul Tergat, and look at Tecla Lorupe.
They are all millionaires because they used their God given talents. Gentlemen, I for one did not know that I could be a millionaire through athletics. My father only emphasized on academic achievement.
Of course I worked hard and I am still working hard today. If I were to be taken back to my school days today, I would run.
And that is why I give you this chance to change your destiny by running. Run my boys, run.
The prize for today is school fees for the next year for the champion and a cash prize of twelve thousand shillings pocket money to be spread over the next year.
With that I declare the Iten High Championships open. Thank you.”
None of the students paid attention to the school fees payment. All wanted the twelve thousand shillings pocket money.
That was a fortune to boys who were usually given a maximum of about five hundred shillings per term. Komen started slowly but made sure that he kept pace with Tenai and Kiplimo.
He was not worried at all about the other boys. To him they were just pacemakers. All of them would be panting after a half a kilometer.
Kiplimo was a little bit ahead of Tenai. But he kept glancing behind him as he ran. Komen was just directly behind Tenai and he did everything that Tenai did.
Every time Tenai increased pace Komen would do the same.Soon all the other boys had fallen behind Komen, Tenai and Kiplimo.
By the time they reached the halfway mark of the race, the three were about two kilometers ahead of all the other boys.
It was an interesting trio, two tall boys and one relatively short boy running up and down the hills.
When they were about six kilometers to the finishing line, Komen decided to go for it.
He increased pace and went quickly past Tenai. Tenai was amused to see the small boy sprinting past him. He knew he would overtake him on the last hill before the finishing line.
But Kiplimo was determined to maintain the lead. When Komen came sprinting Kiplimo also increased his pace.
As he ran, Komen recalled the Passat lady and the way she had pursued him.He could also remember the way the lady had increased speed when his lungs were almost bursting.
He knew Kiplimo would not maintain the pace when he realized that Komen was not going to give up.
And sure enough, after about five hundred meters Kiplimo slowed down a little bit and Komen sprinted past him.
By this time Tenai had realized that Komen was not going to reduce his pace and so he was sprinting after him.
But he noticed that even though he was gaining on Kiplimo, the distance between him and Komen was increasing.
Komen increased his pace when he started going up the last hill to the finishing line.
By now he was one and a half kilometers ahead of Tenai who had overtaken Kiplimo.
When he came to the top of the hill, he felt his chest was bursting but he knew that Tenai was still coming after him.
He tried to increase speed again in the homestretch but he could not. This was because he had been running at his maximum speed for over ten minutes.
Ahead of him he could see the crowd of teachers and workers staring at him. Everyone was surprised.
“KOMEN, YOU covered the twenty one kilometers in fifty three minutes. Can you maintain the same if I gave you fifty thousand as a reward?”
It was the principal speaking to him a week later. Komen was going to represent the school in the athletics championships at Nakuru the following week.
The principal wanted him to be the best. This would of course earn the school some prestige.
“I will try to do so sir.” Komen replied respectfully. By now he had tasted the sweetness of being a champion.
From the day that he had won the championships, no one in the school including the school captain said anything to him except praise.
He was excluded from all work starting from washing the dorm on Saturday morning to cleaning the class during the week.
The Nakuru Championships were a walk over to him. He easily won the race in fifty five minutes. The second best boy came some ten minutes after he had arrived.
The only good thing about the race was that he was spotted by Isaiah Kiplagat himself.
And Isaiah told him that he had to take part in the World Half Marathon to be held in Boston USA.
This was a surprise to him. He had not expected to take part in any world athletics activity until when he was of legal age.
“No talent in this world is underage. We are going to organize all the necessary documents for you.
Of course your father will sign on your behalf the legal documents.”Kiplagat told him.
“It is okay sir. I am very grateful for your confidence in me.”Komen said.
KOMEN travelled to Boston with four other athletes to compete in the World Half Marathon.All of them were older than him.
One was Kiptanui, the other was Kemei, then Kandie and Rono. Flying for twenty four hours in a Jumbo was an experience in itself to Komen.
The World Half Marathon that year had a prize of a hundred thousand dollars.That was an equivalent of eight million Kenyan shillings.
The day they were to run was extremely hot, hotter than any sunny day in Kenya. But Komen had taken the precautions as he had been advised.
He drank over three liters of water about an hour before the race.
The good thing about this marathon was that the route they followed was a very well maintained road. There was not even a single pothole on that road.
The people taking part in the marathon were over three hundred. Komen knew that most of them were the pacemakers.
He was not worried in any way when they started sprinting off.After only about one kilometer, about one hundred of them had given up.
At the three kilometer mark, over two hundred were out. At this point Komen changed from his gear one to number two.
When they finished ten kilometers Komen re-adjusted his speed again and was now running a little bit faster than when he started. By now he was the tenth.
Directly ahead of him was his fellow citizen Kandie. Kemei, Kiptanui and Rono loved running as a team.All of them were behind him.
Two other white men dropped out of the race and Komen was now the eighth. A few moments later, the three Kenyans came up to him.
"Try to keep up with us. This race is ours,” Kemei said to him in Swahili.
Komen ran faster in order to keep up with them. But after about one kilometer he felt he should increase the pace.
He knew he was running with them and at the same time not running with them.He had to apply his own basic rules.
As he increased his pace, he overtook everybody else and he was soon leading.
When he sensed that he was about three kilometers from the finishing point, Komen decided to sprint all the way to the finishing line.
His competitors, who had been hoping to catch up with him, gave up.
They did not even try to run after him when they discovered that he was going to sprint all the way to the finishing line.
By the time he came to the finishing line, he was one kilometer ahead of everybody else.
EVERYBODY IN Kenya was excited. It was the first time a high school boy had won the World Half Marathon. And what a boy he was!
He was only fifteen and yet a champion.When he landed at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, very many Kenyans were there waiting for him.
Cameras were trained on him even before he could alight from the plane.
Amongst those waiting for him were his parents, his principal Mr. Arap Samoei and very many other people. Everybody was dancing and singing his name.
After taking a sip of sour milk, he was led by his parents and a few policemen to the Passat.
And whom did he see in the Passat if not the lady he had seen when going to primary school two years earlier.
“Who are you?” He asked after settling in the back left seat.
"You look surprised Komen. This is your aunt Hilda Chepkemoi. She is also a Marathon Champion.”His father said.
"So you are my auntie? Why didn’t you tell me so?” asked Komen as the Passat moved towards the Nairobi city centre.
Komen alikuwa akielekea shuleni Jumatatu alipomuona bibi huyo.Alikuwa anaendesha gari aina ya Passat.Kitu kilichomshangaza Komen ni jinsi huyo bibi alivyoliendesha gari hilo.
Aliliendesha gari hilo polepole sana na alionekana kama mwenye alikuwa anajifunza kuliendesha gari, yaani mwanafunzi mkongwe sana wa kuendesha gari.
Huyo bibi alionekana kama mwenye ana miaka arubaini na tano.Komen alimuonyesha alama ya kobe.Huyo bibi alipoiona hiyo alama akamuonyesha alama ya kuchinja.
Komen alipofika shuleni, alikuwa amesahau yote kuhusiana na yule bibi. Ilikuwa ni kwa sababu alikuwa amechelewa na alijua angeadhibiwa na mwalimu wa zamu.
Nyumbani kwa kina Komen kulikuwa mbali sana na shule. Lakini hili halikuwashughusha walimu.
La muhimu kwao ni kila mwanafunzi afike shuleni kwa wakati unaofaa, yaani saa moja u nusu asubuhi.
Baada ya kuadhibiwa na mwalimu wa zamu, Komen aliingia darasa la saba.Alimpata mwalimu wa Isabati akiendeleza somo la hesabu.
Mwalimu Muniafu, mwalimu wa hesabu, alimuadhibu kwa kuchelewa kuingia darasani.
Kwa sababu Komen alikuwa mwanafunzi mchangamfu,hakuruhusu kuadhibiwa kuharibu siku yake.Alikuwa amesahau haya yote na hata bibi wa Passat wakati wa mapumziko.
Siku ya Jumanne, Komen alichelewa tena kuenda shuleni na akamwona huyo bibi wa Passat kwa mara ya pili.Komen alimuonyesha tena hiyo alama ya kobe.Bibi huyo akamuonyesha ilea lama ya kumnyonga.
Alitabasamu huku akikimbia kuelekea shule.Alijua amekutana na mtu anayedhaniana naye.Hii ilifanyika mpaka Jumatano.
Jumamosi ilikuwa siku ya shule lakini kwa wanafunzi wa darasa la saba na nane.
Ilikuwa siku ya mapumziko. Hivyo basi wanafunzi waliruhusiwa kuingia shuleni saa mbili asubuhi badala ya saa moja u nusu.Hiyo Jumamosi, Komen hakujua kuwa itabadili maisha yake milele.
Komen alitoka nyumbani saa kumi na mbili u nusu.Kama ilivyo desturi yake, alikimbia polepole akielekea shuleni.Alipofika pahali pake pa kawaida alimuona huyo bibi.
Huyo bibi alikuwa kwa gari lake la kawaida na alikuwa anasafiri kuelekea upande alikokuwa anatoka Komen.Kama ilivyokuwa mazoea ya Komen, alimuonyesha alama ya kobe.
Lakini kwa wakati huu, bibi huyu hakumuonyesha alama ya kuchinja badala yake alilisimamisha gari lake kwa ghafla.
Aliachilia gari likarudi nyuma kidogo na liliposimama, alitoka akiwa na ufunguo mkononi.Hii yote ilifanyika kwa muda uliokuwa mfupi sana.
Huyo bibi alipovuka barabara kuelekea upande alipokuwa Komen, ndipo Komen akatambua anmwandama.Alianza kukimbia na huyo bibi naye akaanza kukimbia akimfuata.
Komen alihisi uoga. Alishangaa jinsi bibi huyu alikuwa na hatua ndefu.
Ingawa huyu bibi hakuwa mrefu, alikuwa na miguu mirefu. Ngozi yake ilikuwa ya maji ya kunde na nywele zake zilikuwa ndefu.
Ilikuwa rahisi kubaini kuwa alikuwa na siha njema.Umri wake ulikuwa miaka arubaini na tano.
Hii ilikuwa mbio ngumu sana ambayo Komen aliwahi kushiriki.Komen alikimbia kwa kasi sana lakini huyo bibi alimfuata kwa mwendo uo huo.
Hakuna mtu alionekana mbele yake.Mbele kidogo kulikuwa na kijilima.Komen alidhania kwamba bibi huyu atakufa moyo mara tu watakapoanza kupanda kile kijilima.
Hii ingetokana na umri mkubwa wa huyo bibi na pia alikuwa mwanamke.
Komen alipofika mlimani aligeuka kidogo ili aone kama huyo bibi amekufa moyo.Alistajabu alipogundua kuwa amemkaribia badala ya kubaki nyuma.
Kwa wakati huu Komen alikuwa anapumua kwa shida.Alitokwa na jasho huku akihema sana na pumzi yake ikitoka kwa mshindo.Haya yalibaini uoga na kukimbia kwa mwendo wa kasi sana.
Aling’ang’ania kufika pahali ambapo pana watu kwa sababu hakujua lengo la mwanamke yule.
Alivyojikakamua ndivyo yule mwanamke alivyojikakamua.
Komen alidhani kuwa kungekuwa na watu karibu na mto kwani ilikuwa desturi kuwapata wanawake ambao walifika hapo kuchota maji.Lakini hakuwa mtu karibu na mto.
Mto ulikuwa kati ya shule na kwao nyumbani.Aligundua kuwa atakimbia mpaka shuleni.
Hii ni kwa sababu alijua hakutakuwa na mtu mpaka huko shuleni. Aliijua hiyo barabara vyema.
Alihisi kama mtu aliyekimbia kwa miaka mingi bila kupumzika.Mdomo wake ulikauka sana.Alikuwa Karibu kuzirai.kifua chake kilikuwa ni kama kinaungua.
Hapo ndipo aliinua kichwa chake na kuona mlango wa shule yao kwa umbali.
Alipokuwa akijaribu kukimbia kwa kasi zaidi ndipo aufikie mlango wa shule yake, huyo bibi aliongeza mwendo na kumpita Komen.Hakujaribu hata kumgusa Komen.
Komen alipoona kwamba huyo bibi ameenda mbele yake, aliinama ili apate kupoa kidogo.Huyo bibi alikimbia hadi kwa lango la shule, halafu akapinduka na kuanza kukimbia akirudi alikokuwa Komen.
“Hujambo Gwiji?” Huyo bibi alimsalimu Komen.
Alitamka neno Gwiji kama jina lake Komen.
“Jina langu siyo Gwiji.Ninaitwa Komen,” Komen alisema huku akipumua kwa shida.
Hakuhisi uoga wowote kwa sababu sasa alikuwa karibu sana na shule yake.
“Tumekimbia mwendo wa kilomita kumi kwa muda wa dakika thelatini.Huo ni mwendo sawa na mwanaridha mkuu wa Riadha za Marathon.Kwa hivyo mimi nakuita wewe Gwiji," huyo bibi akamwambia.
Komen alitaka kujua jambo.
“Je wewe ni mmoja wao?” Alimuuliza huku akimwangalia kwa karibu.
"Nilikuwa mmoja wao miaka kumi na miwili ilyopita.Sasa nimestaafu lakini bado huwa nakimbia kwa mashindano ya vijijini.Kutakuwa na Karbarnet Nusu Marathon Jumamosi ijayo.
Zawadi ya mshindi itakuwa shilingi elfu mia mbili.Je utajaribu?”
“Ahsante lakini sitaweza.Nitakuwa shuleni.”
“Ni sawa.Kimbia uende shuleni usije ukachelewa.” Halafu huyo bibi alitimua mbio akaenda zake.
Komen alimwangalia huyo bibi akikimbia akielekea kulikokuwa gari lake.Hakukimbia kwa kasi sana lakini alikimbia kwa mwendo bila kupunguza.
Komen alitambua siri ya kwanza ya magwiji: enda kwa mwendo uo huo au ongeza mwendo lakini usipunguze mwendo.
Komen alishangaa wakati alipoingia shuleni alipotambua kwamba ni saa moja na dakika kumi tu. Wanafunzi wengine walimtazama sana.
Hapo akatambua ya kwamba alikuwa anahema sana na ametoa jasho nene.Jumatatu iliyofuata baada ya mbio na bibi wa gari la Passat, Komen alifika shuleni saa moja na nusu.
Alikuwa anatoa jasho lakini la muhimu ni kwamba hakuadhibiwa kwa sababu ya kuchelewa.Alikuwa ametumia dakika arubaini pekee.
Siku ya Jumanne, Komen alifika shuleni saa moja na dakika ishirini na tano.Baadaye, akawa anafika shuleni saa moja na nusu au saa moja na dakika ishirini na tano.Hakuadhibiwa tena kwa kuchelewa.
HAYA YOTE YALIFANYIKA wakati Komen alikuwa bado katika shule ya msingi.Alifanya mtihani wa darasa la nane mwaka uliofuata na akafanikiwa kujiunga na shule ya upili ya Iten.
Ilikuwa huko ndiko alikotambua kwamba kuwa mkimbiaji mashuhuri ni kitu cha dhamana sana.
Jambo la kwanza alilolitambua alipofika Iten ni kwamba wanafunzi wote walikuwa wanaruhusiwa kwenda kukimbia kila siku ya shule.
Mkufunzi wa mbio alikuwa mwalimu mkuu wa hiyo shule.Mwalimu mkuu wa shule hiyo alikuwa ni mwanamume mrefu wa kimo aliyeitwa Bwana Koech Arap Samoei.
Bwana Arap Samoei alifuatilia sana mambo ya riadha.Alikuwa na ratiba maalum ya riadha kwa afisi yake ambayo ilifuatwa na kila mwanafunzi wa hiyo shule.
Walifuata njia iliyowapitisha kwenye vijilima soko ya Tengecha.Baadaye waliingia msitu ulio na baridi nyingi na kurejea hadi shuleni.
Kuongezea; kwa msitu na vile vilima kulikuwa na vijito viwili ambavyo havikuwa na daraja.Iliwabidi wanafunzi kuvuka hivi vijito kwa kuingia majini.Saa kumi na moja asubuhi maji haya huwa baridi mno.
Hivyo vijitHizo mbio zilikuwa viliharibu vyatu vya wanafunzi.Hizo mbio zilikuwa umbali wa kilomita ishirini na mbili.
Wengi wa wanafunzi hawakuwa na viatu vya michezo lakini hiyo haikuwa kijisababu.Kila mwanafunzi lazima akimbie Jumatatu asubuhi.
Siku ya Jumanne, Mchakamchaka yaani mbio ilikuwa tu kwa wale wanafunzi waliokuwa wanapenda riadha.Nazo hizo mbio zilikuwa saa kumi na moja ya asubuhi.
Walinzi wa lango la shule waliwaruhusu kutoka nje ya lango mara tu ilipofika saa hiyo.Siku ya Jumatano, kukimbia kulikuwa ni lazima.Lakini wakati huu zilifanyika saa kumi baada ya madarasa.
Mbio ya Jumatatu zilikuwa asubuhi sana wakati kulikuwa na baridi nyingi.Lakini za jumatano zilikuwa wakati kuna jua kali sana.
Jumapili hakuna mwanafunzi aliruhusiwa kwenda nje ya shule.
Kosa kubwa ambalo mwanafunzi angefanya shuleni ilikuwa ni kukosa kushiriki mbioni. Mwanafunzi aliyefanya makosa haya alitumwa nyumbani ili amlete mzazi kasha baadaye alipewa kiziki ang’oe.
Kulikuwa na viziki vingi shuleni.Shule ya Iten ilikuwa na viwanja kumi.Hivi viwanja vyote vilikuwa na laini za mbio.
Shule ilikuwa na hekari mia tatu ya shamba.Mwalimu mkuu wa shule alikuwa na mpango wa kuvitengeza viwanja kumi na vitano kwa ajili ya michezo shuleni.
KOMEN ALIZOEA KUFUATA UTARATIBU wa shule bila shida yoyote.Alikuwa anapenda mbio.Baada ya kuwa kwa shule kwa muda mfupi, alijizoesha kwenda mbio kila siku.
Alikuwa anajipanga kushindana na Tenai. Tenai ndiye alikuwa gwiji wa mbio shuleni humo.Kila mtu alijua kwamba hakuna yeyote ambaye angeweza kukimbia kama Tenai shuleni.
Tenai alikuwa kijana mrefu an mwembamba sana.Alikuwa na umri wa miaka kumi na nane. Alikuwa na ngozi nyeusi ti ti ti.Tenai hakuwa mcheshi. Alikuwa anapenda tu kuongea juu ya kitu kimoja yaani riadha.
Wakati komen alikuwa katika kidato cha kwanza, Tenai alikuwa katika kidato cha tatu.Tenai alikuwa akikimbia kila siku. Kwa muda wa miaka miwili kabla ya Komen kujiunga na hiyo shule, hakua aliyemshinda Tenai.
Tenai alikuwa akimaliza mwendo huo kwa dakika hamsini na sita ilhali wengine wote walimaliza baada ya saa moja.
Komen alianza kujifunza kukimbia kama Tenai siku ya kwanza alipoenda kukimbia. Alitambua kwamba Tenai hakuanzia kwa mwendo wa kasi.
Lakini aliongeza mwendo vile alivyokaribia kumalizia. Baadaye alikimbia kwa kasi sana alipokuwa amebakisha kilomita moja.
Katika muhula wa pili wa huo mwaka, Mashindano ya Nusu Marathon ya Shule ya upili ya Iten yalifanyika.Washindani wakuu walikuwa Tenai ambaye alikuwa gwiji na Kiplimo.
Hakuna aliyefikiri Komen angeweza kushinda.Mbio zilipangwa kuanza saa moja u nusu asubuhi.Lakini kabla ya mbio, mwalimu mkuu alihutubu.
“Habari ya asubuhi magwiji. Hili ni muhimu sana. Kumbuka kwamba hili linaweza kuwa njia yako ya kujikimu maishani.Na wengi wamenawiri sana katika ukimbiaji.
Wamepata pesa kutokana na mbio. Sisi kama walimu tumefanya kazi kwa miaka zaidi ya ishirini lakini hatujawahi kupata hata million moja.Lakini waangalie magwiji wetu.Kwa mfano Kipchoge.Mwangalie Paul Tergat na umwangalie Tecla Lorupe.
Hawa wote wana mamillioni kutokana ukimbiaji.Nisikilize vizuri.Mimi sikufikiria kuwa ningekuwa tajiri kupitia kwa ukimbiaji.Baba yangu alinisisitizia kutia bidii masomoni tu.
Kwa hivyo nilifanya kazi kwa bidii na bado nafanya kazi kwa bidii. Lakini ningerudishwa kwa siku zangu za shule leo hii ningekuwa mwana riadha.
Ndio nataka kubadili maisha yenu kupitia riadha. Kimbieni kabisa vijana wangu.
Mshindi wa leo atalipiwa karo yake yote ya mwaka ujao.Tena atapewa shilingi elfu kumi na mbili kama pesa za matumizi ya mwaka ujao.
Natangaza sasa kufunguliwa rasmi Mbio za Magwiji wa Iten.Ahsanteni.”
Wanafunzi hao hawakuwa na hoja na karo kulipwa.Hao walifikiria tu juu ya elfu kumi na mbili za matumizi.
Ilikuwa pesa nyingi kwa vijana ambao walikuwa wamezoeshwa shilingi mia tano kama pesa za matumizi kwa muhula mzima. Komen alianza hizo mbio pole pole lakini alihakikisha kwamba anakaa karibu na Tenai na Kiplimo.
Hakujali hao vijana wengine. Kwake aliwaona tu kama wale wawekaji mwendo.Wote wangechoka sana baada ya nusu kilomita.
Kiplimo alienda mbele kidogo na Tenai.Lakini akawa anatazama nyuma mara kwa mara huku akikimbia.Komen alikimbilia nyuma kidogo na Tenai na alifanya kila kitu Tenai alifanya.
Kila wakati Tenai aliongeza mwendo naye Komen aliongeza. Baada ya muda mfupi, kila kijana alikuwa amebaki nyuma ya Komen, Tenai na Kiplimo.
Walipofika kati ya mwendo, hao watatu walikuwa mbele ya vijana wengine wote kiasi cha kilomita mbili.
Mwendo wa hawa watatu ulikuwa unafurahisha sana.Wawili wao walikuwa warefu kiasi na mmoja wao alikuwa mfupi wa kimo.Na wote walikuwa wanakimbia wakipanda na kushuka vilima.
Walipokuwa wamebakisha kilomita sita kumalizia mbio, Komen aliamua kukimbia kabisa.
Aliongeza mwendo na kumpita Tenai. Tenai alicheka alipoona huyo kijana mdogo akimpita. Alijua atampita watakapofikia kilima cha mwisho kabla ya kumaliza mbio.
Lakini Kiplimo hakutaka kupitwa na huyu kijana Komen.Wakati Komen aliongeza mwendo hata Kiplimo naye aliongeza mwendo.
Komen alikumbuka vile yule bibi wa Gari la Passat alimkimbiza.Alikumbuka pia bibi yule alivyoongeza mwendo wakati Komen alikuwa amechoka kabisa na anahema.
Komen alijua kwamba Kiplimo hataweza kustahimili huo mwendo wa kasi.
Kiplimo alipunguza mwendo wakati alitambua kwamba Komen hatapunguza.Komen alimpita na kuenda mbele yake.
Wakati huu Tenai alikuwa ametambua kwamba Komen hatapunguza mwendo.Kwa hivyo alikuwa ameongeza mwendo ili ampite.
Lakini Tenai aliona anakaribia sana Kiplimo; lakini mwendo kati yake na komen ulizidi kuongezeka.
Komen aliongeza mwendo alipoanza kupanda kilima cha mwisho kabla ya kufikia kimalizio.
Kwa wakati huu alikuwa kama mwendo wa kilomita moja na nusu mbele ya Tenai ambaye alikuwa amempita Kiplimo.
Alipofika juu ya kilima, Komen alikuwa anahisi kama kifua kinapasuka.Lakini alijua kwamba Tenai alikuwa amemfuata kwa kasi.
Komen alijaribu kuongeza mwendo wakati alifikia karibu na kikomo lakini hakuweza.Hii ni kwa sababu alikuwa amekembia kwa muda sasa kwa mwendo wa juu kupita kiasi chake kwa dakika kumi.
Mbele yake Komen aliwaona walimu wake na wafanyi kazi wa shule ambao walikuwa wakimtazama kwa mshangao.
“KOMEN, ULIWEZA kukimbia kwa muda wa dakika hamsini na tatu.Je utafanya vivyo hivyo tukikupa shilingi elfu hamsini?”
Alikuwa mwalimu mkuu akizungumza naye Komen baada ya wiki moja.Komen alikuwa anaenda kuwakilisha shule yake kwa riadha ya magwiji huko Nakuru wiki moja baadaye.
Mwalimu mkuu alitaka Komen awe bora kuliko wengine wote.Hili lingeongeza umaarufu wa shule yake.
Nitajaribu niwezavyo mwalimu.” Komen alijibu kwa heshima.Wakati huu komen alikuwa ameonja uzuri wa kuwa gwiji.
Kuanzia siku ile aliyoshinda hizo mbio hakuna mtu shuleni aliyesema kitu kwake.Hata mkuu wa wanafunzi katika shule hiyo alikuwa anamsifu.
Alitolewa kwa ratiba zote za kazi za shule.Hakuwa sasa anaosha bweni Jumamosi au darasa siku za shule.
Mbio za magwiji za Nakuru zilikuwa mteremko kwake komen.Aliwashinda washindani wake wote kwa muda wa dakika hamsini na tano.Aliyekuwa kwa nafasi ya pili alimaliza dakika kumi nyuma yake.
Kitu cha muhimu sana katika mbio hizo ni kwamba mkuu wa riadha Kenya Bwana Isaya Kiplagat alimwona.
Na Bwana Isaya alimwambia kwamba atashiriki Mashindano ya Magwiji ya “Half Marathon” ya Ulimwengu huko Boston Marekani.
Hili lilimshangaza Komen.Hakutarajia kushiriki mashindano yoyote ya kiwango cha dunia hivi karibuni.Alifikiri kuwa lazima angefikisha umri wa kisheria ili akubaliwe.
“Hakuna talanta ambayo haijakomaa. Tutashughulikia stakabadhi zote zinazohitajika katika safari.
Baba yako ndiye ataweka sahihi kwa stakabadhi zako.” Kiplagat alimwambia.
“Ni sawa. Nimeshukuru sana kwa kunipa hii fursa.”Komen alisema.
KOMEN alisafiri hadi Boston na wanariadha wengine wane. Wote walikuwa wanaenda kushindana kwa mbio za Half Marathon.Hao wote walikuwa wakubwa wake.
Mmoja wao alikuwa anaitwa Kiptanui, mwingine Kemei, wa tatu Kandie na wa nne Rono.Kusafiri kwa ndege kwa muda wa saa ishirini na nne lilikuwa ni jambo kuu kwake.
Mshindi wa Mbio za Nusu Marathon mwaka huo angezawadiwa dola elfu mia moja.Hiyo ni kama shilingi millioni nane za Kenya.
Siku ambayo walikuwa wanakimbia kulikuwa na joto jingi sana ukilinganisha na maeneo nchini Kenya.Komen alifuata maagizo aliyokuwa amepewa.
Alikunywa maji lita tatu saa moja kabla ya mbio kuanza.
Jambo zuri katika mbio hizo ni kwamba barabara waliyofuata ilitengenezwa vizuri.Haikuwa na kishimo hata kimoja.
Walioshiriki katika mbio hizi walikuwa watu mia tatu. Komen alijua kwamba wengi wao walikuwa wale wa kuthibiti mwendo.
Hakuwa na wasiwasi wakati walianza kukimbia kwa mwendo wa kasi sana.Baada ya kilomita moja, wakimbiaji mia moja walikuwa wamejiuzulu.
Wakati walifikia kilomita mbili, walisalia kama wakimbiaji mia moja.Hapo ndipo Komen aliongeza mwendo kidogo.
Walipomaliza kilomita kumi, Komen aliongeza mwendo tena na sasa alikuwa anakimbia kwa mwendo wa kasi kuliko vile alivyoanza.Kwa wakati huu alifikia nafasi ya kumi.
Mbele yake kulikuwa na Mkenya mwenzake Kandie.Kemei, Kiptanui na Rono walikuwa wakikimbia kama kikundi.Wote walikuwa nyuma yake.
Wazungu wengine wawili walijiuzulu na sasa Komen akakuwa nambari nane.Dakika chache baadaye, Kemei, Kandie na Rono wakamfikia.
“Jaribu kukimbilia karibu nasi. Hizi mbio ni za Wakenya,” Kemei alimwambia kwa Kiswahili.
Komen aliongeza mwendo kidogo ili awe karibu nao.Lakini baada ya kumaliza kilomita moja, alihisi ni wakati wake kuongeza mwendo tena.
Alijua anakimbia nao na tena hakimbii nao.Ilimlazimu atumie sheria zake yeye mwenyewe.
Aliongeza mwendo na kuwapita wakimbiaji wengine wote. Sasa akawa nambari ya kwanza.
Alipoona kwamba umebaki mwendo kama wa kilomita tatu hivi, aliamua kutimua mbio hadi amalize.
Wengine waliotamani kumpita wakafa moyo walipoona kuwa anaongeza mwendo.
Wanariadha hawakujaribu hata kumfuata walipogundua huo ndio mwendo wake mpaka mwisho wa mbio.
Alimaliza kilomita moja mbele ya washindani wenzake wote.
KILA MTU nchini Kenya akafurahia sana.Ulikuwa wakati wa kwanza mwanafunzi wa shule ya upili kushinda mbio za Dunia.Je kijana wa aina gani!
Ana umri wa miaka kumi na mitano lakini gwiji.Ndege yao ilipotua katika uwanja wa ndege wa Jomo Kenyatta, watu wengi sana walifika kumsubiri.
Kamera zilikuwa zimemwelekea hata kabla hajaanza kutoka kwa ndege.
Kati ya watu waliofika kumlaki ni wazazi wake, mwalimu mkuu wa Iten Bwana Arap Samoei na watu wengine wengi. Kila mtu alikuwa akicheza huku wakisifu jina lake.
Baada ya kunywa maziwa iliyochacha, aliongozwa na wazazi wake na askari wachache hadi kwenye gari la Passat.
Alishangaa kumwona yule bibi aliyemkimbiza akiwa katika shule ya msingi miaka miwili ilyopita.
“Wewe ni nani?” Komen aliuliza baada ya kuketi katika kiti cha kushoto upande wa nyuma ya gari.
“Umeshangaa Komen. Huyu ni shangazi yako Hilda Chepkemoi. Yeye naye ni Gwiji wa mbio za Marathon.” Babake alimwambia.
“Kumbe wewe ni shangazi yangu? Kwa nini hukuniambia?” Komen aliuliza huku gari lao likielekea kati kati ya jiji la Nairobi.