Great life lessons from Eliud Kipchoge to take into the current year


The start of a new year is always marked with renewed optimism and hope for an improved 365 days than the last. It’s also time spent looking for something or someone to give you the inspiration to face the next 12 months.

I was fortunate enough to have one such inspirational moment when I spent time with the greatest marathoner of all time, the one and only Eliud Kipchoge.

I met Eliud as part of Safaricom’s tribute to him in the form of two murals we had commissioned to celebrate his achievements.

During this time, I was privileged to join him for a five-kilometre run at the Kaptagat training camp and was inspired by the humility, kindness and discipline shown by Eliud and his team.

This got me thinking about the life lessons that we can learn from these world-beating athletes which we can carry with us into this New Year and I picked a few from my interaction with them.

Out of the 17 marathons that Eliud has run in, his only losses have been a second-place finish at the 2013 Berlin Marathon, and an eighth-place finish at the 2020 London Marathon when he got injured early in the race.

He also failed in his first attempt to break the two-hour barrier for the marathon.

What I found profound was that as we talked, he informed me that he learnt more from the marathons he failed to win than all the other races that he did conquer.

This demonstrates how important it is to take defeats and difficult periods as learning and growth opportunities for the future rather than dwelling on the downfalls.

We often fall into the trap of taking losses as discouraging signs to give up on a project or an endeavour instead of pushing further.

It’s not about winning all the time, it’s also about what you learn when you don’t win, whether in business or in life because as it is often said you can never climb the tree from the top.

Other than being known as the greatest marathoner of all time, Eliud is also recognised for his inspirational quotes. One of his favourites states that ‘only the disciplined ones are free in life.

If you are not disciplined, you are a slave to your moods. You are a slave to your passions. He doesn’t just say it, he lives it every day.

As we arrived at his Kaptagat base early in the morning to kick off the five kilometres run, Eliud and his team had already run their planned 19-kilometre earlier that day.

There was no detour to their plans and no excuses that would deter what they had set out to do.

It is usually very easy to plan but you need consistency and discipline to actualise what you set out to do.

When we set goals, especially at the beginning of the year, not everything always goes according to plan.

In Eliud’s example of breaking the two-hour barrier, he took the first attempt as a stepping stone and this helped him realise his dream of going beyond and running a marathon in under two hours just a couple of years later.

This shows that when you aim high, you can achieve your best and your best is what you want it to be and not about comparing yourself with other people.

This year as we set our own goals, we can use Eliud as a symbol of inspiration of what we can accomplish when we learn from our mistakes and losses, when we are consistent and disciplined, when we give it our very best and when we mentor or are mentored by others.

Ndegwa in the CEO of Safaricom.

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Note: The results are not exact but very close to the actual.