The great thing about running, perhaps the greatest thing, is that if you do it right, and are lucky, you can do it for your entire life. If you can keep on running, if you avoid injury, don’t lose your mojo, and are afforded the luxury of time, then not only will you be able to enjoy your running like Natasha Wodak and Eliud Kipchoge, but, here’s the thing: you will get better at it the further, and longer, you go. Not faster, mind you. Not in most cases. We’re not Natasha. But better, with regards to age-graded curves. Simply by hanging in, you will find yourself increasingly placing higher, in your age category, and able to run further, than other people your age.
Hanging in, sticking with it, is running, and life’s, secret sauce.
In Berlin this weekend, history was made—twice. First, we have Eliud Kipchoge. What can we say about him? At 37, almost 38, Kipchoge is the humble hero rewriting the marathon record book while never, ever putting on airs. Where he lives and trains in Kaptagat, Kenya—a low-tech facility he certainly funds—he does the same chores as the rest of the group. He takes his long runs slowly; he saves his money and invests in his community and doesn’t need anything to show off his success. “Athletics are not so much about the legs,” he said, “Running is about the heart and mind.”
Kipchoge is the only marathoner to have broken two hours. Kipchoge has two marathon gold medals and four of history’s five fastest marathon times. This weekend, he broke his world record—again. And Kipchoge crossed the finish line smiling. He makes running look effortless the way he makes life look like a gift—if you hate doing something, be it your job or your running, it’s hard to do anything well.
If running is about heart, Kipchoge has that in spades.
As does Natasha Wodak. T-Fierce, 40—41 in December—reinvented herself personally and professionally in 2013 and the former track star ran her second marathon in 2020, after taking off seven years. (Interestingly, seven years is also the time Malindi Elmore—the great marathoner and human being whose Canadian marathon record Wodak broke Sunday—took off between trouncing Canadian records).
Wodak is funny, stylish, approachable, focussed, deadly; she can switch from goofing around at the start line to closing out on the 10,000 metre Canadian championships like how the rest of us use the Clapper to turn off the TV. She likes sushi and red wine and trains with Elmore and Leslie Sexton and is close with her parents and often praising her partner on her social media channels. Wodak, whose been on the cover of iRun more times than anyone else, doesn’t (always) make running look gruelling and painful, though of course sometimes it is. Instead, she hangs in there. Doesn’t give up. And sure, she relies on natural talent and healthy eating and her community and team, but there’s something else: Wodak, like Kipchoge, has a spark. Keep your sense of humour and there’s nothing you can’t do.
The Berlin Marathon this past weekend was a tremendous reminder to us all about the heights that can be reached in running. Kipchoge and Wodak aren’t phenoms in their youth breaking records, these are human beings whose ups and downs have been well documented. On Sunday, two of the world’s greatest runners experienced extraordinary heights—heights of the kind that had never before been reached before.
Think about that in your own running. Look at the pictures in the story of our two champions.
It’s never too late to be free.