The Power of Grounding Community

Posted: Mon, 01 May 2023 08:22

The Power of Grounding Community

Ask any runner, the culture of marathon running is solo minded. There is only one person in the world who can successfully drag you out of bed every morning at 5am: you. It's your own two legs that conspire and cut dodgy deals with the Great Procrastinator lounging in the recesses of your mind in that brown leather Lazy Boy. It's your head alone that commands the vessel that must navigate miles and miles of pain, monotony and self-doubt. Every runner knows this and is encapsulated most poignantly by the inevitable conversation we all have with ourselves at some point during the run: "Just to the next streetlamp. Just to the next block. Just past the next streetlamp..." In some settings, talking to yourself is considered a worrying sign, in running, it's celebrated. It's your own voice that carries you through those 26 miles and across that finishing line. It's you, out there, with a laser-sharp focus, battling your way through the elements.

Or is it? Patrick Sang would tell you a different story.

Patrick is the coach of Kenya's running superstars Eliud Kipchoge and Geoffrey Kamworor. He is himself an ex-Olympian with a serious athletic pedigree but you would never know it from his quiet and humble demeanour. He is the perfect embodiment of a team approach. A man with a heart of gold, who isn't just chasing gold. He's far more interested in digging for other things. Integrity. Human change. Community.

Patrick resides and trains his athletes on farmland near a small village called Kaptagat in Kenya, his home country. It's a community as much as it is a training facility. He provides all the necessary equipment and facilities to his athletes at his camp, but the athletes manage their own life maintenance, working together to acquire life skills off the road, so that they can then be reapplied and channelled into running. The older athletes act as mentors. Disadvantaged and stray kids with potential are taken in and given a pair of shoes. And another chance. Humans emerging from the shell of talent. This is what Patrick is really after. Not just medals and breaking records.

It's a modest, arid landscape and a far cry from the high-rise affluence of Nairobi (the more obvious location for the country's athletic elite). But it's the perfect earthy setting for living in connection with community and the landscape.

Patrick would say that in the same way it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a community to raise the bar of an athlete. And, more importantly, that it is also the job of the athlete to look after the community in return.

The whole world could do with a good dose of Patrick Sang right now.

Tags: Featured, Sport, Sport for development, community sport, development


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