The 2010 Zhenkai marathon took place with the usual anticipation of a good race and stiff competition, but the world would be shocked when almost at the finish point humanity takes place and spectators are met with a wonderful sight to behold.
Jacqueline Nyetipei Kiplimo left Kenya to take part in the Zhenkai Marathon and win for herself the grand cash prize and start her life, but her need for money and all the luxury and fame winning the race would have brought was thrown in the wind once she neared a Chinese armless athlete.
Kiplimo gave up a sizable grand prize and a chance for victory in the 2010 Zheng-Kai marathon when dropped to second after deciding to assist a competitor with a disability who wanted to drink water.
Over the course of more than 20 kilometers, Kiplimo slowed down and ran alongside a Chinese competitor, giving up the lead while providing him with water at the water stations. Kiplimo came across the runner around the 10-kilometer stage of the race and saw that he was very dehydrated. She stayed with him until he was well enough to continue on his own, which was at the 38-kilometer point.
The former Santiago de Chile marathon winner, who hails from the cattle-rustling-prone county of West Pokot, was in the lead before being passed by a Chinese elite disabled runner who was pausing to sip water.
Being the first child in an eight-person household and having not completed secondary school, she has served as the family’s financial support system by using the money she earned from running. Since she was aware that her second job will bring in some income, she said that money is not everything.
However, that helping hand swept her into fame as the cameras clicked. She was not even aware she had gone viral and was famous till she saw photos after the event.
In different interviews, Kiplimo narrated that it was not a difficult decision to make. She said that she made the decision to keep running alongside the disadvantaged athlete for the entire 38 km while giving him water at every water station.
Competitors passed her by and she saw her win fading as they all galloped to the finish line, but a generous heart caused her to lag behind. Kiplimo tried her best to catch up with the winner at 38 kilometers, but it was too late.
Surprisingly, she made second place and still managed to win some prizes and she was happy with second place. According to Kiplimo money is not everything in life and it was necessary to help those who are in need.
Kiplimo’s story could be looked at from many angles, but what stands out most would be the discrimination against the vulnerable in society. Kiplimo could have left the armless athlete standing there and struggling to open up his water to drink.
She would have made first place easily and won that cash prize, but she chose to yield to her humanity and do the right thing.
It is most surprising that after lagging behind she still manages to come up second place; a feat that most likely has never been heard of in such context.
The former 1,500-meter national primary school champion trained alongside 2014 Commonwealth marathon champion Flomena Cheyech, Elizabeth Rumokal, and Jackline Chemwok. Her personal best time for a marathon is 2:30.52.
Twelve years later, this act by Kiplimo still resounds with all who hear the story as it’s first of all unheard of and true definition of selflessness.