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Wanjiru- The tribute

NYAHURURU, Kenya, May 17- “There's gon' be some stuff you gon' see, that's gon' make it hard to smile in the future. But through whatever you see, through all the rain and the pain, you gotta keep your sense of humour. You gotta be able to smile through all. Remember that.” – Tupac Shakur.

Samuel Kamau Wanjiru, (10 November 1986 – 15 May 2011) a true global sporting star whose tragic end on Sunday night will spur on his legacy even further.

His meteoric rise to global acclaim and spectacular demise eerily echoes revered American rapper, Tupac Amaru Shakur (16 June 1971 – 13 September 1996) whose colourful life was ended by bullets.

He was 25 and Wanjiru died at 24, but despite the year difference, the pair did it all in their young lives, the extravagant talent, the indestructible will to top their game, the drama and finally, their untimely and painful deaths.

Their existence was intertwined by the sad pointer both were tortured geniuses, choosing to express themselves through excellent natural gift and reckless abandon in equal measure. Enigmas who no one, even themselves knew.   

To Kenyans, Wanjiru, the former world half marathon record holder who was primed on an attack on the marathon world record in September, is one of the counted symbols of national unity that transcended the fractious ethnic divisions- he brought something close to the ‘Kenyanness’ that his nation of diversity craves for.

Millions stayed up all night or woke up in the wee hours of the morning to cheer him on as he delivered the first Olympic marathon gold to his nation in a record time of 2:06:32 at the Beijing Games in 2008.

“This country has lost a hero,” was all his training partner in Eldoret, Duncan Kibet who enjoyed a run with the fallen star on Sunday morning before he left camp for the trip to Nyahururu that would be his last could say.

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Likewise, Tupac was a symbol of urban America’s rise against perceived social imbalances who even though he is not solely credited with the evolution of rap to the mainstream, he is the one who gave the genre the spark that turned it into a multi billion dollar industry.

To the world, Wanjiru was the nearest the globe will see to an almost indomitable ultimate distance runner who at his prime, he had the marathon world in awe and in his feet.

Even the official titleholder of the fastest marathoner in world, Ethiopia’s Haile Gebrselassie did not have the temerity to take him head on, not even with a big pay day on the cards.

From the crushing victory in Beijing, to the gutsy win at last year’s Chicago Marathon, Wanjiru was one of the fiercest competitors of the ultimate distance.

Similarly, at the height of his fame, Tupac was untouchable in his trade as he combined skill and sometimes-ruthless demeanour left his peers in knots.

“As a competitor, few will ever get to what he was. I idolized him when growing up and when I got the chance to train in him, I could see what a true champion is,” stable mate Matthew Kisorio who captained Kenya to this year’s World Cross said.

And just as Tupac spurned millions from his music that ultimately led to self-obsession, Wanjiru’s legs brought him an enviable fortune that fuelled the eccentric life of his ‘gangster’ alter ego.

Tales of the late rap guru’s escapades with women, alcohol fuelled life, flashy cars and property, brushes with the law and sometimes a complete disregard of other people were aped by the late marathoner to the hilt.

“He had his problems but Wanjiru was on the way back to his right path. He had worked hard to regain his fearsome form and he was making a great effort to sort his life,” his coach, Claudio Berardelli said.

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Both global icons also possessed an unmatched will to overcome adversity in their decorated careers.

Wanjiru roused himself from serious knee and back injury to win in Chicago marathon last year, beating the form runner of the moment, Tsegay Kebede in a titanic battle of wills.

He also lived through a potentially fatal accident in January when his SUV rolled on the Nakuru-Nyahururu highway and some how, his spouse Triza Njeri and watchman, William Masinde spared him jail time by withdrawing threatening to kill and assault charges they had filed after another drunken rage on the night of December 29, 2010.

The Chicago win in 2:06:24 gave him his highest single pay day in his career as it confirmed him the winner of the World Marathon Majors $500,000 as well as another said $350,000 from appearance fees, winner’s purse and other endorsements.

Tupac survived being shot five times and a jail sentence to record one of his best selling albums, All Eyez on Me, that pushed nine million copies that was penned behind prison walls.

Incidentally, both lived months after they crafted their resounding comebacks.

Despite his excesses, Wanjiru was known to those closest to him as one of the finest people you could meet, especially away from the public gallery, be it on the marathon course or entertainment joints he visited.

His acts of charity and sense of family responsibility dots the Nyahururu skyline.

Parallel sentiments were also fronted in the immediate aftermath of Tupac.

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As he lies in state awaiting what will be a fitting send off, Wanjiru’s impact on marathon running world and his legacy can only take the path of the posthumous Tupac, whose music still blares loud on many speakers to date.

A legend gone too soon, one who missed his last hoorah but who lived the full cycle and no one can begrudge Wanjiru his rightful place in the highest pedestal of his sport and nation.

“The way he met his death was not deserving of how he lived but we have lost probably the best ever distance runner we shall ever see,” Berardelli added.

Didn’t they say the same of rap king Tupac?

“Our lifestyles be close captioned addicted to fatal attractions, pictures of actions be played back in the midst of mashin’ No fairy tales for this young black male, Against all odds, though life is hard we carry on, livin’ in the projects, broke with no lights on
To all the seeds that follow me protect your essence.” – Tupac

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  1. sammy

    May 17, 2011 at 3:51 pm

    Kenya has lost one of the most talented kenyans

  2. Rumba

    May 17, 2011 at 4:58 pm

    Beautiful piece Mutwota… Beautiful!

  3. doreen

    September 23, 2012 at 11:23 am

    Strategy advisor..can you do a piece on the differences in te party manifestos.

  4. Zeki Timona

    September 23, 2012 at 3:06 pm

    Police should be sending a strong message to those who plan and implement violence by aprehending the culprits.We saw violence in Nyanza during by election and before that , goons were attacking Miguna2 in the presence of the police and cameras.Not long ago we heard RAO campaign press release information of how TNA was and has been planning to cause chaos and then blame it on ODM.This is a very serious complain which should not be taken lightly.The truth should be exposed.We kenyans should ignore violence and engage in a healthy political competition

  5. Mohammed

    September 24, 2012 at 1:32 am

    Welll said.

  6. Deno

    September 24, 2012 at 2:50 am

    Good one bro. Let them know.

  7. Amos Kasera

    September 24, 2012 at 6:19 am

    When i feel like reading politics. The last thing i want to read is an article authored by “strategy advisers” of one of the officials from either TNA or ODM camps. I prefer writers who are articulate, unbiased …. the likes of Mutahi Ngunyi. I was not even half way through reading this article when i realized its one of those one sided articles. on scrolling down to find out about the author, i wasn’t surprised.

  8. Kwessi Pratt

    September 24, 2012 at 7:30 am

    Mister Kuria you are only being smart tribalists! Simply playing with words and twisted facts to make them look pretty plausible. However, beyond that is total emptiness. First, by-elections in the country, as history has shown, are won by those who have deep pockets. In other instances as was the case in Ndhiwa, tribalism is the deciding factor. And not only that, those who win in those by-elections hardly make it in election proper. Examples litter all over the country. Nakuru, Wajir, Nyeri, etc, are some good examples. Guys who were elected through by- elections quickly faded from the scene when the main event checked in.

    Now if Kenyans were told that those guys were pointer to better life on election of those fellows in Nakuru, Wajir and Nyeri, what would they have done when same same quickly disapeared from the scene? We should be careful not to parade tribalism disguised as facts. By the way, we knew who was going to win in the three consituencies even long before the polling day. There were several factors including tribalism that clearly pointed to that.

    Uhuru is being prepared by illogical people to go it alone in coming elections. He wont go far at all. Infact, its interesting to hear that G7 is looking for future without him. Thats because you cant negotiate with bloated sense of self-importance marked by desperation. Even ICC matter reduces Uhuru to a man standing on quicksand. But folks around him are quickly fronting desperation as unassailable strength of sorts. That he is inflated balloon waiting to burst is not in doubt at all. Pride comes just before fall, even the Holy Bible says as much guys!

    Brother Uhuru is unashamed tribalist who thinks that small communities should just forget the presidency. He doesnt seem to understand what that twisted logic means to majority of people in the country. He even seems to forget that the mere fact of parading tribal numbers is toxic. But of course people essentially wearing empty bravado thats meant to cover utter desperation normally behave this way. Its noteworthy since we went around praying for him and other brothers, Uhuru simply took it the wrong way. He assumed that he was more equal than others. Prayers are actually never meant for such selfish people!

    Its astonishing that a guy we believed was not a tribalist is turning out to be the worst kind. However, signs were there right from the start that Uhuru had a huge sense of self-entitlement. Surprisingly, that selfish feel of being owed by Kenyans is backed by vacuum. In his political career, the guy has remained bereft of achievements. When he led local government ministry, he was totally unnoticable. His stint in finance ministry was marked by scandals, if not outright thefts! Needless to say, whenever “mistakes” occured, he hardly explained himself.

    If Uhuru were ever to became the CEO of the Republic, Kenyans should rest assured impunity would become the order of the day. They should also start living with reality of their president being tried by ICC. Once the charges have been confirmed, there is no escape from trial. Here again, Kenyans need to ask themselves why they should go through such a situation when they are blessed with so many leaders? Are we prepared to be blacklisted by international community because of a single individual’s selfish greed for power? Are we supposed to be used as shield by some fellow who thinks that he is indispensable? Are we prepared to have the country sank by people whose presence in leadership never translated in to anything? Are Kenyans really supposed to be held hostage by seemingly empty tribalists?

    • Jannadas

      September 24, 2012 at 10:40 pm

      I salute you.

  9. Chitiavi Mukwanja

    September 24, 2012 at 9:54 am

    This is a total misconception! Expecting that TNA would not win Kangema or ODM would not win Ndhiwa is being unconsciously incompetent in political analysis. In the case of Kajiado, nothing has changed from 2007. One community still holds sway in demographics. Further to this, Kibaki got 48k votes and Raila got 29k votes in 07. This time TNA got 25k and ODM got 13k votes. Do I need to say more??? The correct version of arguments is that G7 has a valid reason for concern because TNA is bound to have a field day in most of there areas perceived as their strangle hold. With the exception of GNU that their civic candidate gave stiff competition to TNA’s…guess because Kiunjuri and Co. didn’t go in heavily, the other parties are indeed ‘donkeys’.

    • Jannadas

      September 24, 2012 at 10:37 pm

      This my learned friend is the coorect way to see it

  10. Peter Konza

    September 24, 2012 at 10:15 am

    Kwesi, you may try to play ignorance, but kenyans have continued to mature in politics. Below are some writings reported by different people quoting different speakers. Infact, none of these opinion letters have quoted Uhuru personally claiming this or that will happen. Raila has been mentioned.
    I also don’t see logic when you say that G7 is looking for a future without Uhuru. I do not remember when all the other G7 members elected leaders forfeited their seats to seek them back on an alliance Ticket. On 22/9/2012, Raila urged Kalonzo to rejoin ODM and support him for a one term president agreement. Does that mean now that the two are in an alliance? Can you be kind enough to remind Kenyans what scandals were recorded during uhuru’s tenure at the treasury? I think there are better means to defend a course than to be led by malice, ignorance and mere hatred,


    By-elections were about Raila and Uhuru- Daily Nation 23/9/2012 by Kwendo Opanga,

    Race between Uhuru and I: Raila


    Wednesday, September 19
    2012 at

    Raila Odinga described the Monday by-elections in
    which Mr Kenyatta’s The National Alliance (TNA) won two seats against
    ODM’s one as an early indication the two-horse race was beginning to
    shape up

    By-elections to gauge aspirants’ popularity


    Friday, September 14

    Campaigns for next Monday’s by-elections in three
    constituencies and a number of wards across the country are set to end
    on a high tempo on Saturday with leading presidential aspirants hoping
    to use the results as a measure of their popularity ahead of 2013.

    The major political parties identified with Prime
    Minister Raila Odinga, Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka, Deputy Prime
    Ministers Uhuru Kenyatta and Musalia Mudavadi and Eldoret North MP
    William Ruto have each fielded candidates in the parliamentary
    by-elections in Ndhiwa, Kajiado North and Kangema.

    • Kwessi Pratt

      September 24, 2012 at 12:25 pm

      @Peter Konza: Obviously you are trying to tell us that however doesnt support our village boy hates him. That can never be true. But you know when you are arrested by tribalism, you hardly have any words to defend your position. Having said that, you better realize that however attempts to go it alone in the next election, WILL be committing political suicide. Before I even venture on other issues, can you tell us what can be associated with brother Uhuru at national level?

      I find if funny that you dont seem to remember that everytime Uhuru presented budget, seemingly enormous “errors” appeared only a few hours later. Were they really deliberate mistakes or genuine errors? And would hundreds of millions or billions for that matter, be classified as mistakes? And all that happened in no less than two instances! Perhaps, you need to tell us what are scandals anyway, if those faked mistakes were not. Am surprised we seem to be in agreement about his performance at local government ministry but not this one.

      Brother Uhuru is certainly having bloated self-importance thats not supported by ideas and known achievements. His bloated attitude has even made it impossible for G7 to come together. Actions speak louder than words pal! With recent wins in village by-elections, be sure the fellow WILL purport to have support across the country now. However, forces aligned against us cant allow him to get anywhere at all. Either he has to stick with others or he goes to waste. He has shown through words and deeds that he has no time for those who dont have tribal numbers. Actually his seemingly one day fun party, TNA, is on record on that one!

      Uhuru has actually never made election deals with anybody since he joined politics. The only person he ever supported was president Kibaki in 2007 and the reasons for that are too obvious! He is therefore not a team player at all. You should tell us any grouping that he ever fitted in. Remember when he went to Lukenya with other guys, he quickly returned alone in Nairobi. Infact, it would be very valid to say that he was the one, through his actions, who helped merchants of deceit craft 41 against us! May be when he joins other leaders on table of brotherhood, he expects to be treated like a crown prince when we dont have kingdoms here!

      • Munyambu Chege

        October 1, 2012 at 10:32 am

        Why deals, to hoodwink the innocent kenyan electorate? I think Uhuru believes in working for the people, with the people, and by the people. Raila has shown his true dictatorial colours by his capacity to create enemies without regret, and using KANU old tricks of chasing those who hold different opinion, it cannot work now during the multiparty era. How do you work for the public as the leader deputized by your wife? With that kind of winning methodology you would need alliances. If fitting in a group is hopping from ford to ford kenya, to ndp, to kanu, to Ldp to narc, to odm,to………,to………, until Jesus comes back, i would urge uhuru to cement his crown prince status for ever. The principled Uhuru did not vie for presidency in 2007 when he knew he could not make it alone, instead he supported the winning team as a wise leader. Raila admitted in Mombasa that most of the pre-election promises by the leaders have not been fulfilled due to coalition handle where decision implementation takes long to be executed.
        Why advocate the same failing mechanism if one really cares for Kenya and it people?

  11. ukweli mtupu

    September 24, 2012 at 4:31 pm

    Mr. Kuria and Mr. Gachoka must be on each other’s necks to impress the king!?
    What sometimes astounds me is the blind loyalty typical of the North Koreans to their ‘dear’ leaders. In our context or just any other context, there appear to be a blurred distinction between extremism, centrism and liberalism. At times is like listening to the late Jewish extremist Kahane or Iranian president Ahmedinajad, Chavez, KKK, BNP, Talibans, Rev. Jimmy Jones,Osama Bin Laden, American Evangelists, the Tea Party, Salafis or the Nazis! What feeds all these extremists is twisted truth which is fed to the masses as existentialist threat to a group of people or ideology and where no rational discourse about the issue or thought is exercised or allowed by the individual or ‘merchants’ of truth – ‘The Gospel truth’ sheer nationalism at a primordial level? The Challenge that is there with humanity is to draw them to the middle, a position where you have room to articulate thought, idea, belief etc. May be by achieving that such people like M/S. Kuria. Gachoka, Miguna Miguna, Muthahi Ngunyi, Mutuma mathiu, Kwenda wa Kwayera, Dr. Mutua, and the other lot above et al and the politician, may be irrelevant and hence loose a source of living and so existence?

  12. kamolo nicholas

    September 27, 2012 at 7:49 am

    waititu should face murder just as the innocent Kenyans who perished in scenario.

    • Kwessi Pratt

      September 27, 2012 at 1:51 pm

      @kamolo nicholas: While I have no time for likes of Hon. Waititu, seemingly something is being clouded to sacrifice the guy. Certain watchmen had caused death in his constituency. He only used bad language in propagating the interests of his constituents. His situation is even worsened by the fact most Masai Mps came very hard on him. And not only that, DPP and security minister ordered for his “arrest” not for investigations! Are we missing something here?

  13. Rodgers Amugune

    November 2, 2012 at 7:00 am

    Nairobi is acapital city of Kenya therefore some Central leaders should avoid contradicting kenyan
    s!!And avoid impunities.

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