Intro to Eliud: Pro Runner + Inspiration
This post is an introduction to an incredible person: Eliud Ngetich or "Heldy". On June 4th you can run with Eliud at our National Running Day: Run with a Pro event sponsored by Tent & Trails and Bliz Eyewear.
Intro by Eliud Ngetich
My name is Eliud Kipketer Ngetich but mostly i go by "Heldy". Most people are confused by this nickname. The way I became Heldy was when, back at elementary school (in Kenya we call it primary school), I was the youngest and fastest kid in 10,000 meters at the district and provincial level championships. The city I was in was called Eldoret, but the city goes by the abbreviation "Eldy" and that's where my nickname came from because they believed that I was the champion of that city.
In Kenya, we have 49 different tribes, with Kalenjin group having 7 sub tribes, and luckily I come from the Kalenjin. Kalenjin is well-known all over the world for producing the world's best mid to long distance pro runners. As an African tribe, traditional Kalenjins practice one polygamy. I grew up in a polygamist family having 17 siblings among them 11 sisters and 6 brothers. I have two sisters born after me, but in my community daughters don't count. For that reason I am regarded as their last born. I was born on November 12th 1993 regarded as the youngest in the family. My family's livelihood was and still is based on hunting and keeping livestock.
We also have fields in which we grow crops. So I grew up all the time running up and down the mountains looking after the cattle beginning at three years of age. Beside that I was fetching water miles away from the river by doing as many trips as possible at a time and making sure that the tank was full every morning for the livestock and irrigation during the dry seasons.
Running, for me then, was a means of survival, it saved my family from starving.
Sometimes we were given schedules on when we were suppose to hunt in the forest by chasing down the antelopes among other animals and for you to kill one you would have to chase it for at least 40 minutes running up and down the hills. At times we had assistance from trained dogs but I still was making sure that I would run smart and fast in order to hunt-down the animal that I was chasing. Running, for me then, was a means of survival, it saved my family from starving especially during dry season where there was not any vegetables.
At the age of 5 to 14 I was my dad's messenger, and he would sporadically send me on missions. Sometimes he would send me to visit or carry a message to my relatives, which sometimes would take me the whole day either by running or walking. The long trips were the worst for me. Sometimes my dad sent me to a relative who lived 150 miles away and in that situation I was traveling for three or four days. On my way I would spend just a night at other relatives who happen to be living on my way to the destination. On those days I hated the relatives who choose to live way far away from us.
I was running and trying to be as fast as I could to save myself from the painful punishment.
Back at home, my dad was also a tobacco drug addict, and being his only youngest son, he kept sending me to the shopping canteens all the time and the nearest one was about three and half miles away and of course I would run there and back. My family lives up at the top of the giant hills of Eldoret county and all the shopping stores were way down the valley, so it was easy running down the hill but I promise you that it was hell running back up the hill!
My dad who always timed whenever he sent me especially when it was about tobacco, would punish me if i come back later than he expected me to. When I talk about punishment here it's not how Americans punish, my dad would hit me with uncountable number of hard strokes while I was on the ground, lying flat and making sure that my nose touched the ground. If not, I was in big trouble. Because of this, I was running and trying to be as fast as I could to save myself from the painful punishment. Of course, I didn't know that I could be a professional runner in the future and I didn't appreciate the hardships at the time.
I grew up running, competing as an amateur in elementary school and I became the school's little champion. I was the youngest and the best one on the team for the 10,000m distance, and nothing would make me happier those days than leaving fellow competitors behind in the dust, especially if those competitors were older than me. I won a lot of trophies for my school and that was the moment the name "Heldy" came to be well-known by almost everyone in the district. I graduated after eight years in elementary.
The same year, it was my time to be circumcised/initiated in order to be transformed from a child to an adult. This is a mandatory stage and only through that will you be accepted in the community as one of the Kalenjin warrior (if at all you are lucky to make it through). Gladly I made it through with my group after living in the mountains, deep in the forest for two months, not keeping in touch with my family, I was in touch occasionally with my dad and brothers. I underwent all that it takes to be a complete Kalenjin warrior after going through the toughest times in my life, and believe me, only ones with the toughest heart survive. I wish I could give more details about initiation but it's a taboo to speak of it to an outsider in my community.
I made it to high school at the age of twelve after I was selected through athletics. I did well in the first year and the remaining three years before my graduation. I was good in math and I loved studying. I wasn't quite serious anymore about running and instead I dedicated my time to soccer and I loved it.
In 2010, at the age of sixteen, life became so hard because my parents couldn't afford to pay my school fees for the college. During all that time in school I saw how hard they were struggling in order to pay my fees, so I decided to give a chance to my two youngest sisters for them to acquire a basic education. By this time my life became almost impossible and I didn't know what to do next. I had no funds to continue studying and I didn't have enough papers to apply for jobs.
By this time my life became almost impossible and I didn't know what to do next. I had no funds to continue studying and I didn't have enough papers to apply for jobs.
After some months, I realized I might be able to get a scholarship through sports. Without wasting much time, I joined a training camp. I had no dreams of becoming a professional athlete but rather to get scholarship to go or university in the United States. Everything failed and I left the camp because there was poor management. I also learned that you needed a lot of funds just to go through the process before you were successfully assured that you got a scholarship. The only thing that I could smile for was my fitness because i had improved a lot from the camp.
Year 2011, I was training in a second camp and this time around I wanted to be a professional. After a long time training, my fitness was developing fast and the same year, I got half sponsorship to travel to South Africa for road races. I sold my one and only Bull which I had bought using my years of childhood savings.
I arrived in South Africa and i promised myself that I was gonna do well no matter what. I did well in all of the races but unfortunately on the last race I got injured. That was April 17th. I came back to Kenya with my worst ever injury that required 8 months in treatment and all the prize money for bills.
In January 2012, I resumed the training program again after a long recovery from injury. This time I was on my own. I had an apartment for $17 a month but believe me, I couldn't raise that amount of money because I had no income and at the same time I was training three times a day. I slept many times with no food and wouldn't even talk about breakfast.
My landlord saw how determined I was with no support at all and decided to allow me to stay but to pay him back when I successfully met my goals.
The only thing that kept me surviving was my fitness because I was leading the top guys always on the training and at the end they would support me sometimes with the shopping. My landlord saw how determined I was with no support at all and decided to allow me to stay but to pay him back when I successfully met my goals. He trusted what I was doing and knew that I was capable of achieving my goals.
The same year i was doing well in the part of Eastern Africa, that is ; Tanzania, Rwanda and Uganda. Following on that performance, I was officially invited to participate in the Rock 'n Roll Chicago Half Marathon. Additionally, I was able to get a manager. Since I was so lucky to have that golden chance I put a lot of effort into my training because I needed a great results. Unfortunately i got another injury and I had to withdraw from it. That was the worst nightmare ever and I couldn't imagine myself going through the same life again.
In 2013, six months after the injury i found myself in the same place. My life was all about training training training. After a long time of patience I got a chance to move to the states where I expected to make an impact in my life. All the races i have done in the United States so far has been good and I am glad I have made step on my goals.
My next goal is to be in Olympics because last year I did the required time for qualification but since my country has a very competitive number of athletes I need to pull up my socks more and always show good progress on my performance. My first target is to compete in 2017 World Championship and try my best to be in the podium.
So far I have no doubts about making it to the Olympics. Growing up poor taught me:
Hard work and thrift are sometimes the only things a person can afford.
Below are Hefty's most recent race results:
March 2011: Alberton City 15 KM, South Africa. Time: 46:xx.
April 2011: Slow Mag Half, South Africa. 1:06:44.
February 2012: Mt. Kilimanjaro Half, Tanzania. 1:05:44.
May 2012: Kigali International Peace Half, Rwanda. Time: 1:05:13.
December 2012: IEBC 10K, Mombasa, Kenya. Time: 30:xx.
May 2013: NYRR United Arab Emirates Healthy Kidney 10K, New York City. Time: 29:16.
May 2013: Cellcom Green Bay Marathon. Time: 2:18:26.
May 2013: Ridgewood 5K, New Jersey. Time: 14:28.
June 2013: Classic 10K, Middletown, NY. Time: 29:55.
June 2013: Litchfield Hills Road Race, Litchfield, CT (7.1 miles). Time: 33:54.
June 2013: Grandma's Marathon, Duluth, MN. Time: 2:11:59.
July 2013: Boilermaker 15k, Utica, New York. Time: 45:15
August 2013: Parkersburg West Virginia Half. Time: 1:04:15.
September 2013: Philadelphia Rock n Roll Half Marathon. Time 1:03:55
September 2013: Miles for Meso 5K. Time 13:54.
April 2014: Cherry Blossom 10 Miler. Time 47:18
Meet Heldy (and run with him) on June 4th at National Running Day: Run with a Pro.