This year’s Smithsonian Folklife Festival – an annual cultural celebration during the weeks leading up to July 4th – featured China and Kenya. Along with the traditional food, music, arts, and crafts, the Kenyan exhibit offered daily fun runs with Kenyan runners.
How often do you get to run with a Kenyan Olympian? Exactly.
The festival and runs took place on the National Mall, which is conveniently located just steps from my office. Which also meant that, for a mid-morning work-day run I needed to recruit a partner-in-crime from outside my usual pool of suspects. I enthusiastically recruited co-worker and sometime running buddy, Peter. Who in turn recruited another co-worker, Greg (who runs so fast that he seems like a Kenyan to me). The three of us met on a fine sunny and hot Tuesday morning at the designated festival corner. And waited. And commented on how the festival was suspiciously empty.
Guess who, in her unbridled enthusiasm, missed the minor detail that the festival was closed that Tuesday? Awkward.
So we took a Kenyan-less picture, went for a short Kenyan-less run (speedster Greg is working his way back from an injury so he was willing to plod along at Pussykat pace), then returned, sweaty and dejected to work.
After my pretty awesome managers cleared me to skip a routine weekly meeting, I made attempt number two on Thursday, minus my co-worker PICs. However, I ran (SEE WHAT I DID THERE? Okay that was actually totally unintentional) into Coach Sharlene from my running group, introduced myself (she coaches a different pace group) and roped her (unwittingly) into some typical Pussykat shenanigans.
We ran with the incredibly nice and gracious Henry Wanyoike and Joseph Kibunja. Nearly twenty years ago, Henry lost 95 percent of his eyesight following a mild stroke, nearly derailing a promising running career. He returned to running though and has since won gold medals in a number of Paralympics and world championships, including in the marathon, 5,000m and 10,000m. Joseph is Henry’s track guide and childhood friend. Their story is pretty amazing.
Fortunately, they slowed way down in order to run with random and sundry groups of people each day. (Except Tuesday. When the festival was closed.) Otherwise, I would never have been able to ask how the DC hundred degree heat compared to Kenya (more humid) or how many miles they run a week (about 100. Kenyans! They’re just like us! I run 100 miles in a … month). I know, I know. I’m nothing if not a brilliant international running conversationalist.
Importantly, had they not slowed their pace for plodders like me, I would have been unable to take this gold medal selfie:
Then he proceeded to take a bunch of pictures like this:
“Take a picture of my butt while I’m running!” Said no woman ever.
To be fair, I once took a disposable camera on a mud run, which I strategically removed from a zip lock bag for various photo ops. I demonstrated a remarkable ability to take action shots consisting almost entirely (and unintentionally) of my friends’ butts.
In any event, with just the slightest bit of nudging (and not a bit of stink eye!) (full disclosure: there may, possibly, have been some side eye), the very nice man shifted his position and managed to get the money shot:
After that, the run proceeded without incident.
Okay, there may have been one minor incident.
Which occurred just after I noticed that a man running just ahead of me needed to tie one of his shoes. Ever helpful, I called out, “Hey! Your shoe’s untied!”
Note: That’s something that you probably don’t want to say when you are running next to a 95% sightless runner who is not the one whose shoe is untied. Awkward.
Thankfully, I managed to quickly stammer, “oh! Not you! Another guy! Who’s … over … there! Not you!” before causing an international incident resulting in injury to a Kenyan Olympian.
After that we finished the run without incident. Really.
Well, maybe just one more. Yes, that’s right, friends. This experience marked the half way point. Woot! Woot!