Day of rest. Went to church. The lesson in Sunday school was on the gift of the Holy Ghost. Then we had a combined meeting of Priesthood and Relief Society in which they talked about various services that the Church offers - addiction recovery, adoption, family therapy, employment placement, humanitarian aid, and others.Then the Sacrament meeting talks were on remembering our ancestors in connection with the Memorial Day.
Yesterday I learned about the death of Sammy Wanjiru. I had dreams about him all night. What a sad turnout of events. Not so much because he died, as all of us will eventually, but more due to the circumstances. Sammy had a lot of qualities I admire. He was not afraid to bust out several sub-4:30 miles in the middle of a marathon. I love this style - go out hard, then hold on. Have the faith, have the guts, and back it up with fitness. Then just go. He won the 2008 Olympics by running near world-record pace from the gun on a day with temperatures reaching 80F. I remember Ed Eyestone commenting in disbelief on the splits and predicting that there will be severe casualties and the pace will slow down. There were a lot of casualties, but Sammy did not slow down. Then when he finished, before he began to celebrate, he knelt down and offered a prayer. You would hope that a man that would remember to pray after winning an Olympic marathon would know better than to visit bars and cheat on his wife. Unfortunately, Sammy felt into this trap of the devil. And as if to symbolize that, his death came from a physical fall from the balcony of a tall building. The circumstances are still not quite clear as far as I know, but a few facts have been established with certainty - there was a visit to a bar, there was drinking, and there was a woman involved that was not his wife.
In chess there is a concept of a loose piece. It is when you put a piece, usually a knight or a bishop, but it can be a rook, and even a queen sometimes on a square that your opponent cannot yet strike but it has no protection from your end either. This may appear innocent to a less experienced player, but good players know to avoid it. A loose piece is an invitation for your opponent to find a tactical combination to capture it and gain a game-winning material advantage. Shortly after Sammy's win, I discovered an article with a picture of him and his coaches drinking beer. I had an uneasy "loose piece" feeling. Here was the man capable of sub-2:00 drinking his chance away. Just like it is difficult to foresee exactly how you will be punished for leaving a loose piece, I did not foresee how Sammy's quest for sub-2:00 marathon would be stopped. I thought that over the years he would just gradually and prematurely lose fitness, which did happen, but I did not expect such a tragic end.
As I contemplated those events, I recalled talking to one runner who I will not name, but who some may recognize (it is hard to hide your identity when you are fast). He said - I would join your church (meaning the LDS church) if it helped me break 2:30 in the marathon. I told him it very well could, but he still remained unconvinced. Then, through an interesting sequence of events he ended up entering the marathon in which I broke 2:30 for the first time with the intention of using it as a training run for the Chicago marathon running the first 10 miles or so. I started aggressively opening with a 5:07 mile. He was with me and asked - are you going to do this all the way? I knew that my training was not going to support 5:07 pace for the whole thing quite yet, especially since the downhill grade was going to reduce and eventually disappear, but I did appreciate the question. He offered to pace me, which I appreciated very much, and had kept me company for the first 9 miles before pulling out. He still did not quite get the message, and as far as I know to this day is still not a member of our church. However, thinking about that experience gives me the faith to say that the LDS church could have helped Sammy Wanjiru break 2:00 marathon. It does take some faith to take it that far. But even without it, it is fairly certain that had he kept the Word of Wisdom and the law of chastity, he would have stayed alive for long enough to give it a serious shot.