Boston Marathon Traditions in a Small Town
“Jambo Bwana” has been sung throughout my house on countless occasions during the last few weeks. In Swahili, Jambo Bwana means “Hello Mister” and is the title of a popular Kenyan pop song. My 8 year old, Madalyn, has been learning it in preparation for a very special day at her school – Kenya Day. For the past 23 years, John Hancock has been sponsoring this fabulous event as part of their Scholars and Stars program at Elmwood School in Hopkinton, MA – where the starting line for the Boston Marathon is.
Leading up to Kenya Day, the children at Maddie’s school have been learning about the people, culture, geography, animals, climate and music of Kenya. In addition to preparing for Kenya Day, all of the kids are participating in a Marathon Fitness Challenge. All 469 children at the school, which includes only second and third graders, will be spending the next eight weeks trying to accumulate 12,000 combined miles of running and/or walking both in and out of school. What a fabulous way to inspire fitness and grow a love of running (and a great way to get our family moving!).
Kenya Day arrived last Thursday and there was no mistaking it in my household. My daughter carefully picked out her outfit the night before. On Thursday morning at 7:00 a.m. on the dot, she burst into our bedroom, dressed for school, shouting “it’s Kenya Day!”. She, along with many of her friends and classmates, were beyond excited for the day of events which included a pep rally to meet 10 of the elite athletes of the Boston Marathon. The school also provided the opportunity for a handful of kids to actually run with the Kenyans.
At the pep rally, each marathon runner had their own unique introduction and each had their own special story. Here are just a few of the runners we met:
Wesley Korir is the winner of the 2012 Boston Marathon. He and his wife used a portion of their money to start the Kenyan Kids Foundation. He is also focused on improving rural healthcare which is motivated by the loss of his brother who died after a snake bite and couldn’t access medical care in enough time to save his life.
Bernard Kipyego is the man who is noted for training at an altitude higher than the highest mountain in New England at over 6000 feet of elevation.
Joyce Chepkirui was introduced as the fastest half marathoner in the world and just four months ago won the Honolulu marathon. She is also the fifth fastest woman in the world.
Sharon Cherop has finished first, second and third in 12 out of her 15 marathons. In 2012, she won the Boston Marathon for women.
Caroline Kilel is most noted for taking a portion of her winnings from the 2011 Boston Marathon to fund the education of five students in primary education and 10 in secondary education.
In celebration of Kenya Day, each class strived to raise $26.20 for the Kenya Kids Foundation (in honor of the 26.2 miles a marathon is made up of). They exceeded that by raising $3,673.97 which will later be given to the Foundation. The kids really learned a valuable lesson of how giving just a little bit per child can really add up.
On Kenya Day, Wesley Korir reminded everyone that even though only Kenyan runners were at the event, the Boston Marathon attracts runners from 46 countries. They were so grateful for our hospitality and celebration, but as I sat and watched, I was grateful for what they brought to our children. Kenya Day, as one senior track captain from the high school team and lifelong resident pointed out, is one he has always remembered and in fact inspired him to run. I’m certain myself and my daughter will always remember this experience too.
The day provided incredible motivation and came with many lessons. The Superintendent pointed out her own t-shirt which on the front said “Wicked Strongah 26.2” while on the back it shared an African proverb “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” Wesley Korir’s advice “Listen and pay attention to the little details if you want to succeed”. How fitting for Kenya Day, an event inspiring for all. Good luck today to all of the Boston Marathon 2015 runners.