Monday, April 16, 2007

Ode to Abe..

An uttered phrase has stuck with me for no apparent reason. In was three years ago that the nicely or not so nicely named (depending on your point of view) Atalelech Ketema, who at that time was tearing up the DC road racing circuit had a post race chat with your blogers. She summed up her thoughts about running by saying that it is an addiction (likift she called it). Holding her trophy, she reflected that some people don’t even have good finishing times yet they still run. Then she glanced towards the two of us and asked how we did in the race. That was not a good question for us. Roocha did a great job of evading and I used him as a human shield. We never revealed our time but I am sure she figured we were victims of that likift.

So I could not help but think of the likift comment when I saw Abebe Mekonnen among the finishers of today’s Boston Marathon. The first I heard of Abebe Mekonnen was when his picture jumped out at me on sports page of the Dallas Morning News back in 1989. I clipped that grainy picture and I still have that newspaper clipping. Mengistu was still running Ethiopia then and it was years before we would see Haile, Deratru or Fatuma Roba transform running. I still remember the emotion and pride I felt that day. Abebe Mekonnen went on to complete many more marathons. 32 of his marathons were under 2:15:00, which is a record. His personal best is an impressive 2:07:35 which was set almost 20 years ago (1988) which makes it even more impressive. But Abebe never did well in the World Championships or Olympics. But his modesty and his hard work made me a fan.

Today, at the age of 43, 18 years after winning in Boston he braved the near freezing temperature, rain and gusting winds to finish 177th. Abebe had nothing to prove, there was no money to be made there was no glory in finishing. Yet he finished. I hope the DNF kids who were a disgrace in Mombassa are watching this old lion who goes head on against adversity.