It's been a week since I heard of Sammy Wanjiru's death. A long week, with little time for writing. But perhaps that was good, as it gave me some time to consider what it was that I felt made Sammy special. My latest article at Runner's Tribe, Sammy Wanjiru's Dangerous Idea, takes a look at the mark I believe Sammy has left on the sport of marathon running.
I recently started reading a book called What Is Your Dangerous Idea? The book is a collection of short essays by prominent thinkers about "unthinkable ideas", ideas that, if true, would shake the foundation of their respective field or even society as a whole...
Since hearing about Sammy Wanjiru's death last Monday I've been thinking about the impact he had on the sport and how he will be remembered. Articulating what I was feeling didn't come easily, however. I'd been watching him since he was a high schooler in Japan. I felt like Sammy was more special than a discussion of his times or his talent could express.
Then it finally hit me. What Sammy was for me was the embodiment of a dangerous idea: what if we ran the marathon with no fear?
Throughout the last century, the marathon was the one distance that demanded conservatism. In sports, conservatism is the child of fear. NFL teams play the "prevent" defense because they fear the big play. Pitchers intentionally walk power hitters because they fear the home run. Golfers play for the fairway instead of the green because they fear the sand and water traps.
And marathon runners don't go out too hard in marathons, because they fear what will happen in the final miles if they do.
You can read the entire article here. RIP Sammy Wanjiru.