Witty Blind Ath­lete

Slightly over 21 years ago, Henry Wanyoike lost his eye­sight af­ter a stroke. But then things started look­ing up for him when he took to the ath­letic tracks and they have never stopped. He is the cur­rent holder of three world records in 5,000 me­ters, 10,00

Business Daily (Kenya) - - PRO ILE -

Do you ind that peo­ple treat you bet­ter be­cause of your vis­ual im­pair­ment or be­cause you are a celebrity? I think peo­ple treat me bet­ter be­cause of my suc­cess. When you are suc­cess­ful ev­ery­body wants to be as­so­ci­ated with you. You owe it to them to be hum­ble, re­spect­ful and down-to-earth be­cause it’s the same peo­ple who make you who you are. I also think that most peo­ple have stopped see­ing my dis­abil­ity but now fo­cus more on the good work I do. I’m train­ing for this year’s marathon as an uber ath­lete. What kind of ad­vice would you give some­one like me? If you have new shoes, don’t run the marathon in them! New shoes cause se­ri­ous blis­ters, so you have to “break” them first by run­ning in them for at least a month be­fore the marathon. Go with your pace dur­ing train­ing and dur­ing the marathon, don’t race with peo­ple, race with only your time. Don’t for­get to stretch be­fore and af­ter the run. Lastly, you see those wa­ter points dur­ing marathon? Al­ways pick a bot­tle of wa­ter there to drink, even if it’s a sip. Hy­dra­tion is very im­por­tant. I will be leav­ing in a few days for the Vi­enna Night Run and then the Cologne Marathon a few weeks af­ter that, so I’m train­ing and hy­drat­ing. Run­ning must have been very lu­cra­tive for you… It needs a lot of de­ter­mi­na­tion, dis­ci­pline and sac­ri­fice. I’m proud that you can­not talk about sports of peo­ple with dis­abil­ity with­out men­tion­ing the name Henry Wanyoike. Be­ing a role model in this way is a great thing. I have vis­ited over 700 schools to give talks and give hope to young peo­ple who feel hope­less. I find that very lu­cra­tive. Do you re­mem­ber the dreams you had be­fore you lost your eye­sight? My dream was to be­come a world cham­pion in ath­let­ics. At that time I was al­ready run­ning for my school teams and very good in 5,000m. I used to go all the way to the na­tional lev­els. When I lost my sight in 1995, I was so dis­ap­pointed and I thought it would never hap­pen. Three years af­ter that I picked my­self up and got to work; re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion and what not. Then I started run­ning and it was tough in the be­gin­ning, I fell down so many times, you can see from the scars on my hands. (Chuck­les). But I stuck to it and I’m proud of my­self be­cause be­ing a world cham­pion is not so easy. Did you meet your wife be­fore or af­ter you lost your sight? (Chuck­les) We met af­ter. How did you meet?

We met in 2001 dur­ing my train­ing at Nyayo Na­tional Sta­dium. I had gone to a phone booth to call my guide who was late. This was be­fore we had mo­bile phones. She had just fin­ished call­ing and so I re­quested her to help me make that call. How did you know that, ‘I want to marry this one’? Ini­tially, she didn’t seem like she wanted to help me, I had to con­vince her. She kept ask­ing me; how did you come here? Who brought you here? But later she helped me. Then I asked her out for a cup of tea— there’s a café near there. Af­ter that I gave her a phone-booth num­ber she would call and she also gave me a phone booth num­ber I would call. (Laughs) Then we be­came friends! I’m cu­ri­ous. I once in­ter­viewed some­one who is vis­ually im­paired and she touched my face and de­scribed me. Can you de­scribe your wife to me? (Laughs) I can’t tell you ex­actly how she looks like but I know she is a good lady be­cause she al­ways takes care of me. I also know she is brown in com­plex­ion and is a bit taller than me. I also had to ask her what she looks like at some point... Wait, can you tell what com­plex­ion I am? Here, touch the back of my hand and tell me... (Touches feels my skin) You are black. (Laughs). When you lose one sense your other senses get bet­ter. So from the tex­ture of your skin I can tell your com­plex­ion...i can tell that my two sons looks like me. We have four chil­dren, two who be­long to me, one that my wife had in a pre­vi­ous re­la­tion­ship and one who we adopted. I think you be­ing vis­ually im­paired has come with so many bless­ings. You have done so much… I move to churches, to or­gan­i­sa­tions, to schools… telling peo­ple that you should be proud of the way you are. You need to ap­pre­ci­ate what­ever you have. We need to thank God and be grate­ful and al­ways take the chal­lenges you are go­ing through in a pos­i­tive way. If you were told that you had an hour of sight what would you want to see? The first thing I’d love to see is my wife. (Chuck­les). Then I’d love to see my own chil­dren and then these 10,000 chil­dren we have sup­ported un­der ‘See­ing is Be­liev­ing’ pro­gramme. I would want to see the dif­fer­ence I’ve made to these chil­dren. Then I would want to see the 80 chil­dren I’m tak­ing care of un­der my foun­da­tion. I think my hour would be over af­ter that…(laughs). Choose be­tween fame or for­tune. For­tune. If you are seated across the ta­ble talking to some­one, can you tell if they are wear­ing a sad face? Yes and if they are smil­ing or not. I can also tell if you are sad if you speak. The voice is very im­por­tant. I de­cide to open to some­body the first 30 sec­onds of meet­ing them. When you stood up and pulled a chair for me when I came in I knew you were a good per­son. There are some small things peo­ple do with­out re­al­is­ing that shows what kind of peo­ple they are, and we— peo­ple with vis­ually im­pair­ment— note them a lot.

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