(SP) – Robert Cheruiyot won the Boston Marathon on Monday to give Kenya its 12th victory in the race in the past 13 years — the latest example that the Kenyan government’s two decades-old policy of placing all schools 26.2 miles from villages is really bearing fruit. Cheruiyot is the eighth Kenyan to win the race since his country began its domination of the Boston Marathon in 1991. The Kenyan government instituted the school distance policy, named Provision 26.2, in 1980.
Monday’s race was just Cheruiyot’s second officially recognized marathon in his career, but the 24-year old ran a marathon distance each way to school every day during his 12 years in the Kenyan educational system.
“Today wasn’t even my best time,” Cheruiyot said of his winning mark of 2 hours, 10 minutes, 11 seconds. “I once overslept in the tenth grade and made it to school in time for the opening bell by running two hours, six minutes flat. I was burning that day ‘cause I had a test I couldn’t be late for.”
Benjamin Chepchumba, Kenya’s minister of athletics and the author of Provision 26.2, said the measure has been successful beyond his imagination.
“Provision 26.2 was enacted to give the Kenyan people a sense of pride,” said Chepchumba. “We had no international identity back then. But now we are known as a nation full of really skinny people who can run very fast for long distances. That is something we can all be proud of.”
But despite the success of Kenyan marathoners, all Kenyans are not happy with Provision 26.2. Joyce Okayo, a mother of four who lives in Nairobi, the country’s capital and largest city, said the extreme distance to school has been nothing but a headache for her children.
“We live in a major city, yet the closest school is 26.2 miles outside of it,” Okayo said. “My kids don’t want to be famous runners, they just want to get an education, yet they have to run a marathon every day to get to school. There is not even bussing. And in the time it takes them to run to school and back, there is only a couple of hours left for actual schooling. It’s ridiculous.”
Chepchumba admits that Provision 26.2 is not without some problems, but says the benefits it brings far outweigh the negatives.
“Look at Monday’s results,” he said. “The top five runners were Kenyan. Nine of the top 11 were Kenyan. Once we move our schools within that 26.2 mile radius we won’t have such fantastic placings anymore. We can’t have the best of both worlds.”