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A Successful Runner

By: Reese Yan

Henry Rono was one of the world's best runners and set multiple world records in track. Rono found out that he had the ability to run fast in his hometown Kiptaragon in Kenya. When Rono was 20 years old, he came to America for better training and education at Washington State University. During his time in America, he set four world records, taught students, and also achieved mastery of English. After 30 years, he returned to his hometown to teach athletes in Kenya with his wife and two kids.

“Running to me was second nature,” Rono said. He added, “Education was my weakness.” Rono had a bicycle accident, so he couldn’t walk until six. His father also died in a tractor accident, and his family struggled. Rono was constantly in and out of school for several years before settling in. He was drawn to running by the time he finished seventh grade at age 19; he was inspired by Kipchoge Keino, who won the 1,500m at the Olympics. Rono decided to join the Kenyan squad to train for track. For instance, Keino said if Rono joined the Olympics in 1972, he could’ve won two gold medals, but he didn’t because the government announced an 11-hour boycott. Discovering that he had a talent for track, he soon went to America for better training.

“I could tell him exactly what to run, exactly how to do it, and he would do it,” Chaplin said. In America, he studied at Washington State University and trained every day. Rono said when he struggled to adjust to school life, running was like a way to release his tension. Rono achieved a PR in the world competition of track. 10,000m (27:31.68) in 1980, the record remained the fastest time ever run by an NCAA athlete until Sam Chelangas 27:08 in 2010 at the Payton Jordan invitational. His 3000m steeplechase world record (8:05.4) stood for eleven years. The other two were 3000m (7:32.1 in 1978) and 5000m (13:06.20 in 1981). Rono wasn’t just good at running because his studies improved. “He never talked about the records,” Chaplin said. “He was not someone to go around and beat his chest and say ‘how great I am.’” Despite a college degree and a contract, his life started to spiral out of control. He started drinking and carelessly spending money. But soon after, Rono started to realize his mistake, and he started to focus on what was important. Yemen offered Rono the privilege to teach students there. English was Rono’s 3rd language, so he took classes like poetry, advanced grammar, and creative writing. With his improved writing skills, Rono published his first book, “Olympic Dream,” in 2010. Though Rono once went off track, he realized what he did was wrong and went back to a positive track.

Henry Rono is a successful person in his country, but he was only able to achieve his goals by working hard and never giving up.

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