‘Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must outrun the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning in Africa, a lion wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the slowest gazelle, or it will starve.’
- Christopher McDougall, Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen
Six o’clock in the morning. The sound of footsteps on the pavement resonates. The streets are quiet and empty; regular inhales, exhales. The sky overhead is still dark and purple; the road ahead is vast. The horizon and the day belong to that one person on that early morning run.
It all began at the starting line of one grand and beautiful path. Man’s first run was away from predators; his first race was for his life. Then in 776 B.C., in the Greek city of Olympia, a cook called Coroebus ran a one hundred and ninety-two meter footrace. He ran for Zeus’s honor, and his own, and went down in history as the man who won the very first Olympic Game.
Since then, from predators to creditors, everything’s become a race. The gunshot sounds the day we learn to stand up straight and run. On our marks, set, off we go, as fast as each of us can. For prey, for lovers, for safety, for office. For status and power, and natural resources.
A race, by definition, is a win-lose affair. Success is measured in the number of people behind us on the track. All eyes on the finish line; we are all going for gold.
There are no medals for participation; the winner’s podium only holds one,
the higher you climb
the greater the pressure.
We’ve ruined the beauty of the run.
But last week the world witnessed a different sort of race; two girls and three boys ran all the way from South Sudan to the Rio Olympic Games. From exile or refugee camps, they did not run for gold. But for the cameras to see, for the world not to forget the sixty-five million displaced by terrorism, disease, war, poverty.
Angelina Nada Lohalith, twenty-one, ran 1,500 meters last week. She said she raced for her parents whom she has not seen since she was six.
Rose Nathike Lokonyen, twenty-three, ran the 800-meter race. She wants to organize her own race to promote peace, for the friends she left back home.
Paulo Amotun Lokoro was a cattle herder who got his first training shoes at twenty-four. Those were the ones he wore to run the 1,500-meter race.
Yiech Pur Biel started running because it was the only part of his life he could control. His eleven-year run took him from a Kenyan camp to the 800-meter race.
James Nyang Chiengjiek, fifteen-year refugee, ran 800 meters too. He said he wanted to inspire his friends at the camp with whom he shared running shoes.
Not all runners are created equal. We each run a different race, toward the people we are meant to be; your gold will not take away mine.
We do not choose what we run from, we do not know where we run to. But we can choose to run anyway, and what we are running for. We could even run together; it is less lonely this way. I’ll share my second wind with you when the road gets steep. And when at the end we must be measured, let it be against ourselves. How far we pushed, how hard we tried, how much we loved the run.
Six o’clock in the morning. The sound of footsteps. Inhales, exhales. The runner heads down the street alone. It is a beautiful race.