Kenyan Marathoner retires at 86 years


From start to tape, 89-year-old John Ruengo runs with the grace of a seasoned runner, dazzling many as he navigates hills and valleys, sometimes beating runners half his age.

Fuelled by camel soup, which he says oils his knees, the octogenarian marathoner, John Ruengo, has mastered his sport and is unmatched in the country among his age mates.

However, the sprightly, retired community development officer, who lives in Mutunyi village, Buuri Sub-county, Meru County says he is planning to hang his boots after a career spanning more than 70 years.

Should he do so, Ruengo will bow out on a high note, having religiously competed in, and finished, the 21-kilometre half marathon whose course is rated as among the most challenging.

“Now, I feel as if my body is giving up and I want to retire. If my condition improves, I might run in the next edition but for now, I want to stop running competitively,” he said.

He started running in 1948 as a primary student and even represented Kenya in the full marathon in the 1962 British Empire and Commonwealth Games (now known as the Commonwealth Games) at the Perry Lakes Stadium in Perth, Australia.

Embrace exercise

He trains four days a week, running five kilometres in the morning, and an equal distance in the evening.

“I would encourage everyone, both young and old, to embrace exercise to stay fit. It’s a way of keeping young. I believe I’m the oldest marathoner in the world after Fauja Singh retired in 2013 aged 101 years. He sent me a letter urging me to carry on,” Ruengo said.

Last Saturday, Ruengo was among the more than 1,400 runners who lined up to raise funds to promote wildlife conservation, secure a better education for 10,000 children, provide water for 50,000 people and better health services for over 40,000 residents of Meru and northern Kenya counties.

He was first in the category of runners above 52 years and earned accolades from Safaricom Chairman Nicholas Ng’ang’a.

“He has been running religiously for the last 20 years while holding a miniature flag; he’s very patriotic,” Mr Ng’ang’a said.

His sons Bernard Wachira and James Njogu, and granddaughter daughter Nyaguthii Njogu also competed in various races.

But as he exits the arena, Ruengo has little to show for it and remains poor, living from hand to mouth.

He now wants to concentrate on dairy farming and has bought two heifers, which he hopes will one day produce enough milk for him to make a living.

He has appealed to Safaricom to buy him a gas cooker and a mature milking cow so that he can settle down once he retires.

After his win, Ruengo received a Huawei phone and gift voucher worth Sh10,000, which he intends to trade-in with one of the local residents for cash.

He hopes that Safaricom will build him a house “since the one I live in is not warm.

“I talked to their representatives and I hope they will consider my request,” he says

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