Eliud Kipchoge’s historic marathon time on Saturday was greeted with joy and pride in his native Kenya.
“I am happy today because he has won in Kenya and in the world. I thank him so much for this, for me, for Kenya and the world,” said Kipchoge’s mother Janet Rotich who watched in her home village Kapsisiywa as her son became the first man to run the marathon distance in less than two hours.
Kipchoge’s run in Vienna was broadcast live on all Kenya’s television stations.
Even so, in Eldoret, the city 40 kilometres from Kapsisiywa where the 34-year-old runner, his wife and three children live, and in Nairobi, crowds gathered in the early morning to watch the run on giant screens.
In Eldoret, the fans watched in feverish excitement as their champion ticked off the kilometres and exulted when Kipchoge crossed the finish line with a clock displaying 1hr 59 min 40 sec, throwing hats and water bottles into the air.
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta quickly issued his “hearty congratulations”.
“You’ve done it, you’ve made history and made Kenya proud while at it. Your win today, will inspire tens of future generations to dream big and to aspire for greatness. We celebrate you and wish you God’s blessings,” President Kenyatta continued.
Kenya’s vice-president William Ruto, who had made the trip to Vienna, sent out a series of tweets.
“A blistering 1.59.40! Congratulations @EliudKipchoge for the historic achievement in shattering the sub-two-hour barrier for the marathon; you are arguably the greatest runner of all time.”
Athletics, along with sevens rugby, is the most successful sport in bringing Kenyans together, regardless of their social or ethnic background.
In Kapsisiywa, Eliud’s older brother, Wilson Sugut, said the run showed what individuals could achieve.
“He told the world that no human being is limited and that he will overcome this two-hour barrier,” he recalled. “People couldn’t believe it, but now we can believe it.”
(with AFP inputs)