Until I Meet the President
Since 2017, an athlete by name of Maryanne Wangari (pictured), a resident of Nakuru, had tried in vain to reach the head of state and present him with a glass vase trophy she won in a road race in Germany.
Her story begins in 2012 when she registered for the Nairobi Standard Chartered marathon, and emerged almost the last. Disappointed with her rear finish, she decided to throw in the towel, and call it quits. But a talent scout who was at that event spotted her, and seeing much potential in her, took her, with others, to Nyahururu for rigorous training in ‘making athletes out of novices’.
And this paid off in her first foreign participation in a German road race, a charitable kind of event, when she emerged the winner – and dedicated her maiden win to President Uhuru Kenyatta.
And here is the reason. Around the time the race was taking place, Kenya was heading to the ballot in a hotly contested General Election. Uhuru Kenyatta was facing off with Raila Odinga in a historical vote that saw the Supreme Court scoring a first in Africa by annulling the results and ordering a repeat. No one knew of Maryanne or her exploits in the streets of Munich at the time, and seemingly even now. The race was a low key affair to begin with, for no Kenya’s seasoned athletes or big names in the field were participating. It lacked international exposure, and by any standards, it was a local town or municipality organized affair.
And as it coincided with the balloting, she made a resolve that were she to win, and the president win the vote, then she would dedicate her win to him.
And as we know it, Uhuru Kenyatta was declared the winner in a second round boycotted by his then rival.
However, it had been hard, if almost impossible, to access the president and present him with ‘his’ trophy.
A look at the enormous glass vase trophy shows she had stencilled it with “You are the best Mr President” words complete with a decorative mug shot of him and a map of the country decked with flag colours. And so are her running gears that bear the president’s images and “I love you, Mr President” endearing captions.
Then there are medals she had collected from the five international races she had participated so far.
|Present for the President|
However, the quest of meeting the president and giving him what he ‘deserves’ is one she cannot let go off. “I made a resolve and will not rest until I fulfill it,” she said.
The 29 years old self-sponsored athlete had reached out to politicians and the media alike in her efforts to reach the head of state. And in case of the politicians, especially her local legislator, all it amounted to was photo ops for PR reasons with the vocal MP promising to ‘connect’ her to the state house.
There is a misplaced consensus by many that visiting the head of the state amounts to asking for favours. The athlete avers to this insisting her mission is a simple one and she’s not seeking anything in return.