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Sunday, March 1, 2015

Kenyan runner Hyvon Ngetich's crawling finish at Austin Marathon

Press is agog with reports of a Kenyan woman, Hyvon Ngetich, 29, finishing third at  Austin Marathon. The Austin marathon is a qualifier for the prestigious Boston Marathon ~ When asked why she didn't quit, Ngetich, a native of Kenya, said, "Running, always you have to keep going, going." If you wonder how coming third could make news, read on ! 

Marathon races are held across the globe …  Often we see running shows organised …. Running is a good exercise… Pheidippides  hero of Ancient Greece, is the central figure in a story that was the inspiration for a modern sporting event, the marathon.  He was reportedly sent to Sparta to request the help when Persians landed at Marathon, Greece.  He is believed to have run 240 km in two days.  Then he ran 40 km from the battlefield to Athens to announce the Greek victory over Persia in the Battle of Marathon (490 BC); he collapsed and died of exhaustion. And the long distance running event was named after – this is usually a distance of  42.195 kilometres (26 miles and 385 yards), run as a road race.  A half marathon is a road running event of 21.0975 kilometres (13.1094 mi) ~ it is half the distance of a marathon and usually run on roads.

Kenyans dominate marathons whether it be a medal event or a road show – however, according to npr.org  It's impossible to measure exactly what makes for marathon gold. Daniel Lieberman, Harvard evolutionary biologist Daniel Lieberman has studied the evolution of running. He spent years studying the evolution of running, including the biomechanics and physiology of children and adults who run in rural and urban regions of Kenya.  According to him, Kenyans are so fast, so dominant, Ethiopians too do well – still runners from Africa are only a little bit faster than the rest of the world, just a few minutes faster over the course of slightly more than two hours.  It's impossible to quantify all of the factors that make one runner better than another. It's probably a combination of training, determination, culture and biology.  The area of Kenya where a lot of the best runners come from — the Western Rift Valley — is a beautiful, wonderful place.  In a way, people there  are poor and work hard. There are almost no jobs apart from subsistence farming. There are no factories, and very few secondary schools. So there are really few options for young people to better their lives. They can either work hard on a farm or train to be a great runner.  The region is at high altitude. All together, this part of Kenya has a large population of incredibly fit runners who run barefoot and work hard. Besides, Kenyans, train with incredible heart, motivation and intensity, without any of the advantages that Americans get.

Kenyan woman, Hyvon Ngetich, came third, actually crawled the last mile on her hands and knees down.  It is reported that Hyvon Ngetich, 29, was leading the pack of top female runners at the 23-mile mark, but with victory in sight, exhaustion set in and the Kenyan athlete started to fade. By the time the finish line came into view, Ngetich's body began to shut down, but the determined runner was not ready to give up. Unable to run anymore, Ngetich collapsed to her knees and proceeded to crawl on all fours, her eyes locked on the finish line. Race volunteers rushed to Ngetich’s side rolling a wheelchair, but she refused to sit in it. The resolute woman continued to inch forward down Congress Avenue under the watchful eyes of medical staff, with the crowd cheering her on every step of the way. If anyone offered her help, Ngetich would have been disqualified from the race.

Right before she crossed the finish line, Austin runner Hannan Steffan beat Ngetich for second place.  Her compatriot Cynthia Jerop won the race in 2:54:22.  But it was the determined, unyielding Ms Ngetich who won the hearts of the spectators Sunday.  ‘You ran the bravest race and crawled the bravest crawl I have ever seen in my life. You have earned much honour, and I am going to adjust your prize money, so you get the same prize money you would have gotten if you were second,’ Austin Marathon race director John Conley told Ngetich. Ngetich’s personal record in the marathon is 2:34:42. Fellow Kenyan athlete Betram Keter won the men’s race in 2:16:21.

Looking back on her inspiring feat, Ngetich said she does not how she managed to finish the race at all.  The story might seem inspiring at first glance, but Dr. Laura Goldberg, a sports medicine specialist at Cleveland Clinic and medical director of the Cleveland Marathon, told ABC that people should never attempt what Ngetich did. "For the non-elite crowd, there should never be a reason why runner a should crawl to the finish," Goldberg told ABC. "I get nervous about hearing this story, how it translates through the general population."

She said dehydration, overheating and muscle cramping could have all led Ngetich to crawl to the finish line, but non-elite runners shouldn't follow her example no matter how miraculous her perseverance. Here's what to look for in her words:
·         -Your mental status has changed. While it's normal for runners' thinking to change slightly during a marathon due to exhaustion, if you forget where you are or why you're running, stop, Goldberg said. This can be a sign of overheating, an electrolyte problem, dehydration or something else
·         -You've stopped sweating or you have chills. This means your body isn't able to regulate its temperature properly. "Sweat is a way to let off heat,"
·         -Cramping is all over. Runners are used to cramps, but if it's a body-wide feeling, don't push through it.
·         -Your heart is racing faster than usual. This can be a sign your heart is in trouble, and you could pass out even if you're an elite runner.
·         -You're experiencing chest pain, shortness of breath or feeling faint. Again, your heart is telling you it's in trouble, and you should stop.

Though distance runners are used to pushing through pain, Lavie said they should recognize when it's time to stop.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
18th Feb 2015.


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