Hyvon Ngetich crawls over finish line to bring the sporting gods down to earth
Every now and then we are drawn away into a faraway realm, glowing in the reflection of divine light. No matter what religion excites your soul, we crave that moment when we can bask in the warmth of the light that we seek. And for those of us that worship in the sweat-soaked temples of the sporting world, Hyvon Ngetich has written an enlightening prayer that has lifted our souls.
Just 50 metres out from the finish line of the Austin Marathon, the Kenyan distance runner seemed to have locked up a second place finish. But it was right then that a sapping surge of exhaustion coursed through her tired veins, forcing the 29-year-old to collapse to the tarmac.
Lying in a heap, Ngetich slipped into a blurry little world where the air and everything in it was no more than a haze. But the runner in her was still throbbing with life. Amidst the enveloping daze, Ngetich managed to hear the volunteers discuss how close she was to the finish line.
When they brought out a wheelchair to cart her away for help, Ngetich simply refused to allow her body or brain to give up on the task at hand. As a runner, she said, "running, always you have to keep going, going.”
Collecting her last diminishing resources, Ngetich set out on a brave, desperate crawl to the line. Now moving on all fours, scraping her knees and navigating with her palms and elbows, the Kenyan began the ardsuous task of carrying herself across the finish line. It was one painstaking inch after another, as she drew closer and closer to the line.
This wasn’t just about endurance, it was a journey into her own soul to try and find the resources needed to keep herself from throwing in the towel. Her intense desire and those desperate little steps started to thaw away at the heart strings of the people watching this unique finish to the Austin marathon.
Alongside the crawling Ngetich, runner after runner kept marching assiduously to the finish. Most of them were men though, and Hannan Steffan had enough in her legs to cruise past the struggling African as she pipped her crawling opponent to second place.
Ngetich was oblivious to everything around her. She would stop briefly on her way, almost collapsing flat on the ground, only to gather the last remaining ounces of energy from her argumentative sinews to finally haul her body across the line.
There have been several instances of athletes defying physical strain in the pursuit of sport, and Ngetich was writing her own chapter in this hallowed book. Its religious followers will leaf through those pages time and again to reassure themselves that their faith is indeed filled with meaning and purpose.
By the end, Ngetich had no clue where she was, reeling under the influence of mental and physical exhaustion. "For the last two kilometres, I don’t remember. Finish line, I have no idea." (sic) said the runner.
Race Director John Conley paid rich tribute to the brave-hearted runner. "When she came around the corner on her hands and knees, I have never, in 43 years of being involved in this sport, have seen a finish like that,” he said.
“You ran the bravest race and crawled the bravest crawl I have ever seen in my life. You have earned much honor, and I am going to adjust your prize money, so you get the same prize money you would have gotten if you were second,” added Conley, to wild bursts of heartfelt applause from everyone around the race.
The world was moved with the determination and dogged resolve displayed by the battling Kenyan. It was a moment that touched many a cord, but most importantly, it served to remind us that in today’s world of instant gratification, the good old values of sport and human spirit can still prevail.
Ngetich has reminded us that in sport, you can win even when you lose.