In all honesty Kenya isn’t a huge presence on the global map. However, we are pretty well known for two things. One is our magnificent wildlife, which in an interesting twist contributed to the world the Swahili word for journey ~ safari. The other is our long distance runners. I understand that the latest simile that is taught is run like a…Kenyan! True to form, our elite runners have definitely done us proud and constantly raise up the Kenyan flag in marathons and half marathons in cities far and different from our own.
It seemed quite befitting then when our First Lady Margaret Kenyatta decided to run the London marathon in 2014. The marathon is a well known charity event, and her commitment was to heighten awareness of the need to address our continued challenges with maternal and child mortality. Seemed natural perhaps for a Kenyan but she was not a likely candidate at all. At a dimuinitive 5ft and nearly 50 years old with no athletic endeavors in her past she was a very unlikely marathon candidate, Kenyan or not. She had never run a 10k or half marathon let alone a whole 42kms. But she was determined to be a beacon for so many Kenyan mothers who didn’t have the voice she did.
As she began training people started watching, listening and rallying around her. As a run up to her training, she invited Kenyans of all walks to join her in a half marathon in Nairobi as she prepared for London (where she set a new record for being the first First Lady to complete the London marathon). In its first year, the half marathon drew thousands, and became an incredibly active platform for highlighting the plight of thousands of Kenyan mothers who die from preventable childbirth complications. Soon after, the campaign was dubbed Beyond Zero and has steadily raised funds for the purchase of mobile clinics to combat unnecessary maternal and child deaths.
The FLHM 10k was the first road race I ever took part in. I guess I responded to that rallying call and decided to play my part, as little as it was.
Last year I ran with my two daughters to get them to understand how one persons’ dream can mobilize so many, and how important being an active citizen is.
Today was the third edition of the FLHM, and more than $2 million has been raised this year towards the costs of the final eleven counties who don’t yet have their mobile clinics. The people turned out in their thousands to run for health. Elite and amateur, kids and adults, foreigners and citizens, in wheelchairs and on legs, they came. The FLHM has a feel good factor like no other race in Kenya. Leading by example, citizen Margaret is a simple and passionate example of the power of servant leadership. And how much more powerful is the message when it comes from those like her who are the thrust unexpectedly into the limelight through no desire of their own, but choose nevertheless to meet it head on.
Essentially, she has brought thousands to her cause which in reality is a cause for all Kenyans, and in a touchingly perfect way ~ by using what we are best known for, to shine a light on being the best we can be.