On Saturday evening, I lingered over images captured on Eliud Kipchoge’s groundbreaking and history making run under the INEOS 1:59 Challenge. A shot of the man himself waving off his pacers and gesturing to the crowd as he approached the finish matched the magnitude of the accomplishment, as did every shot of crowds celebrating in his native Kenya.
The image that resonated most for me, however, was a capture of Kipchoge’s family awaiting him at the finish. His daughter shows some enthusiasm, but his sons bear the expected look of young children forced to extract themselves from bed early on a Saturday morning to stand in the cold for some reason they can’t quite understand.
The result itself invites countless questions. Does this actually mean anything in the world of road racing and will it have any impact there? What about his shoes? What makes a marathon a marathon?
The answer to all those questions is that I don’t know. Perhaps someone more knowledgeable does.
Looking beyond the major visible impacts that we may or may not see as a result of Kipchoge’s accomplishment, his children saw a vivid example of what it means to put it all on the line. Even with the controls afforded Kipchoge, he set a clear intention–one considered impossible for all but very recent history–and let the world watch as he pursued it.
Once the fatigue of the day is gone, I’d like the think Kipchoge’s children have a moment they can learn from and be energized by for a lifetime, regardless of IAAF ratification.
The philosopher and psychotherapist Irvin Yalom called it rippling. It’s as simple as it sounds. In his book Staring at the Sun, Yalom argues that one of our greatest defences against the existential threat of meaninglessness is to consider the positive ripples we’ve made by way of our actions and to follow through by acting with this as our motivator. Think about the values we want to impart and act on them. Your actions will be a gift to others.
Yalom writes, “I think we ripple on into others, just like a stone puts its ripples into a brook. That, for me, too, is a source of comfort. It kind of, in a sense, negates the sense of total oblivion. Some piece of ourselves, not necessarily our consciousness, but some piece of ourselves gets passed on and on and on.”
It’s a win-win. Our lives become filled with meaning and others are empowered with belief and excitement.
When we run, some of the greatest beneficiaries are those who watch us and see ambition on display. Children, especially, understand action. They don’t care to be told what to do, especially by adults dragging their asses. We as adults, too, often need to witness the moments that show us why it’s all worth it.
My decision to lace up a pair of shoes for the first time also came with the question of what my two nieces, both under the age of 5 at the time, would see when they looked at me. What would I teach them with my actions? I couldn’t tell them to chase dreams if I never showed any sign of passion or enthusiasm or a willingness to do something that perhaps sounded a bit inadvisable.
Kipchoge’s unquestionably remarkable run made us think about that leap we’re trying to make despite the risks. He created a ripple that may or may not be seen in road racing on a global scale, but that doesn’t really matter. In this moment, Kipchoge’s actions show that barriers can be broken with humility, joy, and fearlessness. For those who chose to see that, this accomplishment matters.