There are many things that people say can’t be done. Until someone does them. To watch someone achieve the ‘impossible’ is always inspiring, because it gives us hope that, despite difficulties and barriers, even the impossible is possible. And in the case of marathoner Eliud Kipchoge, not only are his incredible sports accomplishments inspiring, but so is his Catholic faith.
Kipchoge, who won a gold medal in the 2016 Summer Olympics, broke a mythical barrier on Saturday by finishing a marathon in under two hours. The 34-year-old Kenyan finished a marathon in Vienna in 1:59:40, with an average pace of 4:34 per mile. While Kipchoge accomplished something no other runner has ever done, his time is not eligible as an official world record, because there were a number of factors in the race that were designed to help him meet his sub-two hour goal. The course was specially selected to have as few inclines as possible, he had a group of pacers who periodically ran in formation in front of him, and he wore Nike Vapor Fly shoes, which are controversial in the running world.
This week on St. Joseph’s Workshop, Father Matthew Spencer, OSJ reflected on another secret weapon that Kipchoge relied on to achieve what many said could not be done.
“There is another thing Mr. Kipchoge relies on, and that is his Catholic faith,” Fr. Matthew said. “And it is incredible. His mother wakes up every morning at 3:00 am and prays the Rosary for him. … I mean, if you had a mother who was praying that much for you, at that time, that discipline would be really something, wouldn’t it? I believe that Mr. Kipchoge’s own journey has been carried in part by his mother.”
After each race, Kipchoge has been known to get down on his knees, put his forehead to the ground, make the Sign of the Cross, and give thanks to God for his race. His Catholic faith is expressed through his humility and the glory he gives to God, even during the most glorious moments of his life. But even before the race, the prayers of the Catholic community in his hometown give Kipchoge strength and support to run the race well.
“It’s more than just his mother. It’s also his whole community,” Fr. Matthew explained. “He lives in this town of about 250,000 people, and the people there have such faith. I don’t want to generalize, and obviously everybody is not going to Mass every day where he is, but you read the witness of those who are with him in Eldoret, Kenya and you hear the faith of a people who have been coming to Mass, praying for him, who have been gathering together and praying for God’s blessings upon him.”
“You start to realize how faith binds all of these beloved children of God together,” Fr. Matthew said. “How it supports them. Not only that, but many priests in his community talk about how important his own faith is to him.”
And while most of us don’t know someone who is breaking barriers and world records, there is a lesson to be learned from the faith shown by Kipchoge and his loved ones.
Fr. Matthew told his listeners, “Maybe there’s a lesson for me and for you, inside of these beautiful, edifying stories coming out about his own faith. Maybe you and I have to realize, when faith is so important to us, then we accomplish so much more. When we come together as a community we discover that there are no barriers to our successes, there are no limitations to how far we can go spiritually. When we are united, in the Church that Jesus founded, together we can accomplish all things in Christ.”