Today I wanna share a story that happened in April this year on my last trip to the US. The last stop of my journey was Boston and I arrived there just a couple of days before this years edition of the famous Boston Marathon. All the signs and posters were already up and looking at them made me dream about maybe one day I can run this great race (with a qualifying time of around three hours there’s quite a lot of work to do).
On the last day we ordered a cab at the hotel reception to go to the airport and head back to Switzerland. We were having a cup of coffee in the lobby as a friendly looking guy came in that happened to be our driver to the airport. I instantly recognized his Nike glasses that looked much more sporty than the current fashion trend, but I didn’t gave that much thought. As we were driving through the city in the middle of the usual driver-passenger small talk the topic switched to running and marathons which obviously made my ears perk up. He started talking about the races he had done and with whom he trained with and that almost made my eyes pop out.
Our driver, the nice sporty looking guy, was Tesfaye Jifar one of the greatest Ethiopian Marathon runners of the past decade! With 2:06:49 he set a new Ethiopian Marathon record at the 1999 Amsterdam Marathon that stood for a couple of years until the famous Haile Gebrselassie came in 14 seconds faster. Jifar also stood on the podium on three Half Marathon World Championships but his biggest success was winning the New York City Marathon in 2001 with a new course record that held for ten years!
Of course I was excited about the coincidence to meet such a great athlete but it also made me sad because the story should’ve happened the other way round – we should have drove him to a race not let such a great runner drive us to the airport. His former training partner Gebrselassie made a fortune out of his achievements in sports and Tesfaye Jifar, running just a tiny bit slower, ended up being a cab driver in Boston. That made me realize how few athletes out of thousands make it to the top and can make a living out of the sport they love.
I was glad to hear that he is still a passionate runner and participates in races. Now that is one of the great things about running, you can do it and even improve without a need of any infrastructure or a huge team. Just put your shoes on and go for a run whatever your everyday job and source of income is. You just need to discover the passion about this sport and that is what connects you and me and thousands of others with an outstanding runner like Tesfaye Jifar.