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The marathon is one of the most difficult races in track and field, at a little over 42 kilometers (26.2 miles). Most marathoners will tell you their bodies hold up for the first 30 kilometers; the last 10 kilometers are all mental toughness. To be a world-class marathoner, you must run that distance in 2 1/2 hours. But for some, achieving a marathon finish is a lifelong dream.
Jacqueline Nyetipei Kiplimo’s dream of being a world-class runner began when she was a child in Kenya. She soon realized she had the talent and the willpower to compete. She also knew she would have to train full-time, which meant not being able to work to help support her family. But she was confident that she could bring home prize money.
Jacqueline traveled to China to compete in the Zhenkai marathon knowing she had a good shot at winning the race, but more importantly, the $10,000 prize that went with it. She was leading the women’s division when a male runner arrived at the water station at the 20-kilometer mark. The man was running at a good pace but had trouble staying hydrated because a birth defect had left him without hands, and he struggled to drink from the slippery plastic bottles. But any assistance from fans or race officials would result in his disqualification. Jacqueline noticed the man and immediately knew that he needed help. She grabbed a water bottle and helped him get the fluid his body needed to complete the race. Then she ran at his pace with the bottle and helped him sip while they strode along.
Runner after runner passed Jacqueline. Her hopes of winning were getting lost in the melee of runners ahead of her. With only 4 kilometers left in the race, and certain that her new friend would now finish, Jacqueline picked up her pace. Her long stride kicked in, and she weaved through the fading competitors to finish second.
That day, Jacqueline missed out on first place, but she finished with something more important: her humanity. When asked about the bigger cash prize, she said that money isn’t everything. She returned home with the smaller prize of second place, but to her seven younger siblings, she brought home something much more valuable to her seven younger siblings: the right example.
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