Paul Tergat and Moses Tanui's Secret
-December 21, 2001
The low-key trip of
Kenyan greats Paul Tergat and Moses
Tanui to Washington, DC last weekend took a surprise twist
when the Kenyan stars got a private meeting with America's
#1 runner, President George W. Bush, in the Oval Office.
Tanui and Tergat were in town promoting
Operation Smile (a volunteer medical services organization
that performs reconstructive surgery on children with physical
deformities around the world). They attended a small 10 km road
with roughly 600 entrants on Saturday morning, where only
a few of the runners seemed interested in meeting them (although
registration reportedly increased by 30% in the two days before the
race as rumor spread that the Kenyans would be there), and
then went to the Washington Redskins football game on Sunday
as the guest of Bruce Smith - one of the Redskins' top
defensive players and himself an active volunteer for Operation
Smile. On their way home from the game, they learned
that one very important person wanted to meet them - President
George W. Bush.
President Bush had learned the two
Kenyan stars were in town - thanks to a tip from LetsRun.com
and, being an avid runner himself, wanted to meet them.
The President, who ran a marathon in 3:44 at the age of
46 and told a national television audience on the Oprah
Winfrey Show last year that the one thing he couldn't do
without was "running", was impressed by the great
accomplishments of Tergat and Tanui even if the American
public at large wasn't.
Thus the Kenyan stars were invited
to the White House on Monday, December 17th, where they had lunch with one of the President's top
aides. They then were directed to the Oval Office,
where President Bush greeted them and chatted with them before posing for pictures.
The President showed his trademark
self-deprecating humor throughout the meeting.
He told Tergat and Tanui that he initially wanted to go
for a run with them even though they'd probably be able
to keep up with him "running backwards." However,
he had been unable to find a time that fit into his
When it was pointed out that Tergat's
former world-record of 26:27.85 for 10,000 meters came
out to roughly 4:16 per mile, the President quipped, "4:16
per mile for more than 6 miles? I should be embarrassed."
The President told Moses Tanui that
he was impressed that Tanui was still a factor on the international
scene at the advanced age of 36. The President and Tergat
talked about Tergat's two second-place finishes in the Olympic
10,000 meters. It was interesting to note that the
Tergat, a true class act, told the President that he had
been beaten by "a friend of mine from Ethiopia"
in reference to Haile Gebreselassie - the winner of the
1996 and 2000 gold in the men's 10,000. The President
tried to provide solace to Tergat by joking, "You must
have been sick (if you got second)."
Tergat and Tanui were both extremely
honored to get to meet the President of the United States.
Afterwards, Tergat acted a little like a star-struck
teenager as he half-jokingly said that he didn't want to wash his hands
since the President had shaken them.
"It was a great
honor to meet President Bush," said Tergat, the five-time
world cross country champion. "It was totally unexpected
and such a surprise. I could not believe it. It was like
I was dreaming."
a friend about this page.
Questions, comments or suggestions? Please email
the LetsRun.com staff at