Catholic Faith Factor in Marathoner Eliud Kipchoge’s Historic Victory: Testimonies

INEOS 1:59 challenge: Kenya's Eliud Kipchoge after becoming the first marathoner ever to run the race in less than two hours in Vienna, Austria on October 12, 2019

As the world marvels at Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge for busting the mythical two-hour barrier and realizing his quest of becoming the first marathoner ever to run the 42-km race in less than two hours, clergy, religious, and laity in his native country are attributing his victory to prayer and faith, describing the unique accomplishment as that of a man of Catholic faith.

“The entire family is Catholic and from the family, it (Eliud’s victory) was a moment of joy and jubilation, with a summary of: God fulfills His promise,” Kipchoge’s cousin, Fr. Kennedy Kipchumba told ACI Africa Saturday.

“I was part of the close to 3,000 people who were following the race from a big screen and with all of them, we ended up bowing to God to thank him for this much he offered to us,” Fr. Kipchumba said, explaining the events before he led the thousands of Kipchoge’s supporters in Holy Mass in the native village of the world marathon record holder, Eliud Kipchoge.

“Everybody came to Church, to say thank you to God. We celebrated Mass to thank God. We celebrated as a community; we had the family, Fr. Benjamin Oroiyo who is also a family member, Fr. Benedict Rono and we were also joined by the Deputy Governor of Nandi County, area Member of Parliament, among other local leaders,” Fr. Kipchumba said, joyfully describing the Saturday events at St. Peter's Kapsisiwa, an outstation of St. Joseph’s Sangalo Parish in the diocese of Eldoret in Kenya.

“The main person in the family is the mother, whom we brought from her house because she did not want to be in public before,” Fr. Kipchumba who is the Chaplain of St. Joseph’s Chepterit Girls school told ACI Africa.


Kipchoge’s mother, Janeth Rotich, is seen as a moral and spiritual supporter of her son, with local media having quoted her as saying, “I wake up at 3 a.m. every day to pray for Kipchoge. I pray the rosary.”

Kipchoge left Kenya on the memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary on Monday, October 7 to take part in the challenge dubbed INEOS 1:59 in Austria’s capital, Vienna, an event that has eventually made him hit the headlines of major news media entities across the globe. He had some 41 pacesetters flanking him.

On the eve of his departure, special prayers were held for him at St. Paul’s University Catholic Church where he goes for worship “discreetly” as a friend of the choir members.

“Kipchoge is a friend of students’ choir at St. Paul's University Chapel. Last Sunday we had Mass celebration for Eliud Kipchoge,” the Chaplain of Nairobi University, Fr. Peter Kaigua told ACI Africa Saturday.

Fr. Kaigua described the historic marathoner, Kipchoge as “an inspiration to the youths, a mentor to the young people and a humble man; through him the young people get to know that their dreams can be met.”

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“Before offering Mass for him last week, we used to talk about him in the university with students. We therefore opted to offer him Mass before going for the Marathon race so that God can help him realize his dream,” Fr. Kaigua disclosed.

“The day for Mass, young people had t-shirts printed in his name,” Fr. Kaigua told ACI Africa and concluded, “The University acted as (Kipchoge’s) Spiritual Pace Setter. His winning is a sign that prayer for young people has been answered.”

“I am feeling good. It has taken 65 years for a human being to make history in sports; after Sir. Roger Bannister,” Kipchoge has been quoted as saying just after crossing the finish line at 1:59:40 on Saturday, October 12.

“I am the happiest man to run under two hours to inspire many people; to tell people that no human is limited, you can do it,” a delighted Kipchoge was caught on video cameras saying and added, “I am expecting more athletes from all over the world to run under two hours.”

“I have tried. I am the happiest man to run under 2 hours to inspire many people; to tell people that no human is limited, you can do it.


Reacting to Kipchoge’s historic victory, clergy, religious, and laity in Kenya have seen him as a man of great inspiration, some interpreting his success in the context of the Extraordinary Missionary Month (EMM) whose theme is “Baptized and Sent.”

“Eliud Kipchoge, baptized and sent! I saw his mother with a white Rosary on her neck. This is just how faith is handed on in the family set up. The mother passes it on to the child,” Fr. Samuel Nyattaya of Kenya’s Kisumu Archdiocese has shared with ACI Africa and added, “Am so happily surprised at the demonstration of his Catholic Faith!”

“Our God is unlimited; human being is created in the image of this God thus s/he too is not limited and that is what Eliud believes "NO HUMAN IS LIMITED",” Sr. Margaret Mutiso has told ACI Africa, citing the slogan under which Kipchoge undertook his Saturday herculean race.

“I believe that God is happy to see us putting efforts to maximize our potential. He (God) must have been so happy to see this courageous Kenyan encouraging the entire world with his belief,” Sr. Mutiso who belongs to the Daughters of Sacred Heart said and added, “He (Kipchoge) is advocating for a peaceful world where all live together in harmony and we're not limited to do that.”

“Faith is the sum of truth revealed by God. Secondly the desire of God is written in (the) human heart. Given Kipchoge’s mantra that no human person is limited, one sees faith in action in the desire he had proclaimed of winning,” Fr. Alex Okware has told ACI Africa.

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“Kipchoge inspires us to be the best at what we do, whatever it is. We should never settle for mediocrity. I am really proud of him,” Fr. Antony Mwituria has shared with ACI Africa.

 “Determination and put God ahead of everything ... And everything will be yours,” Fr. Micah Kemboi shared with ACI Africa and added, “I am happy.”

“Am excited that he's Kenyan first but touched by his faith and determination,” Sr. Joan Namulanda of School Sisters of Notre Dame has told ACI Africa

“It is so inspiring to see how our brother athlete Eliud Kipchoge has given his all in the INEOS 1:59 challenge and amazing how Kenyans from around the globe, regardless of religion, ethnic group, are filled with enthusiasm and are proud,” Fr. Joshua Mege shared with ACI Africa and added, “May the Lord bless his passion to enrich lives and in the spirit of the Gospel (and) bring joy to faces and hearts to the least in our society.”

“It's no mean feat. Very proud that he has made it and he doesn't shy away from letting his faith have a role to play in his achievement,” Fr. Patrick Shyachi has told ACI Africa.

“I congratulate him. Despite being a man who believes in himself he has strong faith in God,” Sr. Nancy Karanja has told ACI Africa and added with regard to Eliud Kipchoge, “He is a risk taker, a man of action. He is a mentor.”

“Considering the fact that he engaged his home Church to pray for his victory, it makes me very proud to be a Catholic,” Francisca Musa has shared ACI Africa.

“The University is planning to celebrate another Mass for him in his presence immediately he is back in the country,” Fr. Kaigua of Nairobi University Chaplaincy revealed in a Saturday interview with ACI Africa.

Saturday, October 12 has been about Kenyan world record marathoner Eliud Kipchoge making history by engaging all available resources at his disposal, including his Catholic faith. He has shown the world that what is considered impossible can be possible, setting a stake in the marathon race for the rest of humanity to chase after perpetually.

Fr. Don Bosco Onyalla is ACI Africa’s founding Editor-in-Chief. He was formed in the Congregation of the Holy Ghost Fathers (Spiritans), and later incardinated in Rumbek Diocese, South Sudan. He has a PhD in Media Studies from Daystar University in Kenya, and a Master’s degree in Organizational Communication from Marist College, New York, USA.