By James Kahongeh
The thrill of running in marathons excites Mungai quite like nothing else does. Since 2016, he has taken part in the Berlin, Boston, Chicago, London, New York and Tokyo marathons.
This year he has Tokyo and Boston marathons lined up in March and April respectively. He tells us why each marathon he participates in is important to him besides his job as CEO and business lecturer at Strathmore University.
What motivated you to start participating in major world marathons?
I have been running international marathons for the last six years. When I took an interest in running in 2012, I could barely finish a 100m sprint. In a bid to get stronger and more flexible, I soon started to run track races alongside professional athletes.
After a few months, I decided to compete on the global stage by participating in major marathons. I have since participated in more than 16 international marathons in cities such as Rome, Paris, Hamburg, Copenhagen, New York, Chicago, London, Berlin and Amsterdam. I am less stressed and healthier now. This is a personal triumph.
Why specifically do you run in these marathons?
I am passionate about empowerment through education. I run these marathons to raise money for supporting the Jim McFie Education Fund, whose goal is to finance business education for needy accounting students who qualify. This initiative also mentors and inspires young people as a way of catalysing wealth creation for social transformation. Supporting this cause, of which I am a proud beneficiary, makes the running experience more valuable to me.
What does taking part in a major marathon entail?
Ticking all six marathon majors off my bucket list has been tough. Marathon organisers usually set standards which participants must meet, one of which is to finish the race in good time. This requires intense preparation and consistency.
I am always on the road by 4.30am every day. Being able to book early for participation with sports tour companies is also essential, and this sometimes requires me to pay up to Sh300,000 to participate.
Finishing a marathon must be exhilarating…
Running other races is stimulating, but finishing a marathon is magical. Anyone who has achieved this will tell you as much. From being unable to run for more than 100 metres to now finishing 42km in less than four hours has boosted my belief that any potential can be unlocked with the right attitude and effort. I also do this to encourage young professionals to translate the matrix of their lives from dream to reality. Pushing our limits sometimes helps to reveal how much we can do.
You are a lecturer and a business leader – and an athlete too. How do all these roles fit together?
All these responsibilities call for discipline, alertness, consistency and setting clear goals. For instance, each year I run 3,000km which translates to more than 300 hours of running. This is an average 12km races for five days every week. To afford this kind of time, I have to plan around my working hours and personal time very accurately. I use these runs to nourish my relationship with God through meditation on work, family, students and even to recite the rosary.
I also get to reflect upon my work undistracted. Besides making me fitter and healthier, running is therapeutic for me. This requires a lot of commitment because apart from my profession, I am family man and a member of the society with many other responsibilities to meet.
What key insights have you gathered from your travels around the world during marathons?
My day job already involves a lot of travel, but the exposure I get when I travel for marathons are obviously a more exciting experience. Rather than arriving with maps, GPS coordinates and ambitions for myself and my company, I am able to absorb and soak in entire cities during the marathon, which is not possible by flying in and out for board meetings. I have also met and made acquaintances with people from different cultures around the world who have shaped my outlook.
Young people may not have the money to participate in marathons for charity. How else can they give back to their communities?
Your time and talent are more important than any amount of money that you may have. Visiting the old and the sick, for instance, does not require money. I support the education of tens of students through the help of friends. What matters is your attitude towards giving and helping out. As Luke 21:1-4 teaches, do not give out because you have something to spare. Instead, give out of a genuine need to help those in need.
How can organisations separate a sincere need to help the less privileged in the society from PR through their CSR programmes?
A CSR programme is only sensible to the extent that it yields measurable transformation in people’s lives. There is need to ensure that the charity programme fits the brand and that it exists comfortably in the organisation’s mission and strategy.
The top management must see to it that the cause is understood by all and that everyone, from senior managers to junior employees, participate in it. Organisations today are judged by the impact they have on the society. This is the modern definition of a successful business. It is also through this that the cause will attract support from other entities.
Any memorable experiences in 2018 for you?
I surprised myself by finally publishing my first book, titled, Impact Investing in Africa: A Guide to Sustainability for Investors, Institutions, and Entrepreneurs. I also ran in three international marathons. I also completed a total of 3,100km throughout the year. The number of children I support rose to 100. Additionally, I carried out several empowerment projects in Mathare and Kibra slums.
What four key messages would you like to share with Kenya’s youth in 2019?
Seek to stretch your capacity this year. Read more books for personal development and to expand your scope of knowledge. Set concrete goals, not merely resolutions. Get out of your comfort zone by participating in community work. Anything is achievable when you put your mind to it and by taking appropriate action.
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Publish date : 2019-01-04 10:18:53