used to be a drinker wrote:
Sammy Wanjiru was my favorite runner of all time. I first remember hearing about him when he ran that insane 26:41 WJR, we are the same age and that was the time I was actually starting to care about running and get into training hard and I couldn't believe someone our age could run that fast. It was incredible. I started following his career and watched with awe as he ran some of the fastest half marathons ever. I anxiously awaited his marathon debut while I trained for mine. We both debuted, his much more spectacular than mine but I was estatic to run a time good enough for the Chicago Marathon top 100 program. I watched his London battle with Lel, if you're going to lose that's not a bad guy to lose to. Then his spectucular Olympic marathon, if I ever want to be inspired I just watch that race.
Before that Olympic marathon I had actually spent the prior weekend in jail for an alcohol related offense. I remember starting to hear about Wanjiru and his drinking, his friends and it seemed to resonate with me. When I am not drinking I think I am a good person but when I drink I tend to hang out with some not so good people and do bad things that I always regret the next day. In no way am I blaming the alcohol, I am responsible for my actions as was Sammy but I could understand how it can be possible for good people to go bad espescially with alcohol in the mix.
I did ok with drinking (not getting in more legal trouble) finishing out college and ran my first Chicago marathon in 2009, the year Wanjiru set the CR. I got to start at the front because of the top 100 program and remember being within 10 feet of him at the start. I first remember thinking "Damn, he's really short in person" but then seeing how focused he looked. It was inspiring. I ran hard that day, the hardest I ever have in a marathon and collapsed at the finish. When I finally was good enough to get up and hobble around I remember asking quite a few people how Wanjiru ended up because I was thinking he would run a WR that day. Sadly it didn't happen but to hear of how fast they went out and to still run the CR was pretty awesome.
After that race my life went to shit. I started drinking heavily, pretty much every day of the week. A very low point came in the winter when my girlfriend broke up with me (completely warranted, my drinking had gotten out of control and I said and did bad things when I was drinking) and I remember her calling to tell me and I thought about jumping off my balcony. Looking back on how drunk I was combined with how upset I was I could have seen myself doing it. Ended up being in a tailspin for most of last year until a final drunken arrest and almost getting fired from my job led me to re-evaluate my life and start changing things. I had put on 40 pounds from my running weight and felt like shit pretty much all the time. I hadn't run a step in 8 months. I started running again, training for another marathon. Stopped drinking completely, no program or anything just stopped. That hurt at times, I did have an alcohol dependence problem but I got through it. I think the will power you can gain from running helped a lot. I remember watching the Chicago marathon last year, it was my 3rd week sober and I was going to do my long run after watching the race. I remember cheering for Wanjiru, thinking he would be dropped but then he responded amazingly well and the toughness he showed winning that race was unbelievable. I went out and ripped a long run that day, he inspired me.
Reading about his subsequent troubles I always hoped he would pull through and turn out better for it like I had. To hear about his death yesterday was very sad and for me it made me look back and think how lucky I was to have not died during some of my lower times. I hope he rests in peace, I will always remember him for his amazing races and how he inspired me. Looking at how healthy I am now and how much happier I am I really wish he could have found that.
RIP Sammy Wanjiru
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