It soon grew into the huge roar of the Kenya Police helicopter rotor blades cutting through the air that sent leaves, undergrowth and dust swirling in all directions as it landed in a hastily cleared field adjacent to a tiny church.
Rather than scampering for safety from this monstrosity that disrupted the quiet hamlet of Mindililwo in Iten, Elgeyo Marakwet County, hundreds who never laid eyes on the contraption instead surged forward to receive it, ululating in the process.
In its belly, it bore Wilson Kipsang, their 31 year-old hero who left Berlin with the world marathon record* tucked away in his luggage.
For the community of the Africa Inland Church (AIC) Mindililwo, the man who stormed to global headlines when he stopped the clock at a simply astonishing 2 hours, 3 minutes and 23 seconds on Sunday had returned to his fellow parishioners to offer his thanks.
“Kimwaji Jesu, oroni…kelenji kongoi, oroni, kongoi Jehovah, oroni, oroni boiboiyet kitinye..” (Give thanks to God, this is the happiness we have),” they sang as Kipsang, his wife and local pastor among other dignitaries disembarked to receive a rousing reception.
His first stop was the AIC Mindililwo Community Church, the small iron sheet structure Kipsang and the 2012 Boston Marathon titleholder Sharon Cherop, the runner-up in the women’s race in Berlin fellowship and are among the leaders.
“Now, the world record went by 15 seconds and that is why I’m back here to give thanks and praise,” Kipsang told the congregation that welcomed him when he landed from stops at Fluorspar, where he hails from and Kapkitony, where the Berlin women’s titleholder, Florence Kiplagat, who accompanied hin in the grand home coming, traces her roots.
“Even when he was about to run in Frankfurt, we still prayed for him here. Even before London, we prayed more. This time, God answered our prayers and we are so happy with his majesty and grace.
“He is one of the leaders in this church and in charge of our academy that is growing since the population here is growing. He is a committed Christian and that is why his first stop was here to say thanks with us,” his Reverend, Oliver who accompanied him in the chopper from Nairobi, underscored.
After kneeling down on the humble earthen floor in his home church, far removed from the immaculate streets of Berlin with all trappings of modernity where he crafted his name, Kipsang who ended two years of being known as the man who came close to the world record was ready to face his home turf.
“It’s very nice since whenever victory comes, each and every one of us is very happy. Now I’m at home, people know me and feel part and parcel of my success since we train together,” the Olympics bronze winner said of the roaring reception the rank and file in Iten accorded him when he made a stop at the town’s stadium.
Thereafter, he ushered guests, including most of the group of the over 40 athletes he employed to attack and shatter Patrick Makau’s 2:03:38 previous standard to his Keellu Resort for a sumptuous reception.
As the party went on, the obviously tired star took time to state that he was not done assaulting the history books.
“If there was no headwind, I would have brought it down further. It hurt that I missed it by four seconds in Frankfurt (2:03:42/2011) but I still appreciate the time since that was the time for this year, next time, I will try to bring it down.”
Moments after he had landed back to the country, Kipsang learned he had made the short-list of ten for the 2013 IAAF World Athlete of the Year.
“It means a lot for me to be selected since I know it’s not something easy and for me that is enough,” the athlete who faces the global studs of the sport, Usain Bolt (Jamaica) and Mo Farah (Britain) in the running for the top accolade said.
“I will try to add more titles, having bronze is not enough for me. I will try to go for gold either at the World Championships in 2015 or the next Olympics.”
*Pending usual IAAF ratification procedures