Gert Briene, after Nairobi Half Marathon, photo by PhotoRun.net
I met Gert Briene at the Bank of America Chicago Marathon. He came up to me and said, ” I know your writer, Justin Lagat.” And from then, we shared our thoughts about running in general and his experiences running around the world.
This piece is written by Justin Lagat about his friend, Gert Briene.
Flying Runner runs his personal best time in Chicago Marathon at the age of 48, by Justin Lagat
“I am getting older, also hopefully a little bit wiser and maybe a little bit faster,” the 48 year old, Gert Briene had told RunBlogRun last year regarding his chances of bettering his PB in future.
It sounded like a sarcastic statement given his age and the fact that he could only keep growing older, but he just did that at the recent Chicago marathon where he ran 2:47 and improved his personal best time by two minutes. That was an amazing achievement given the nature of his work.
Gert Briene and Larry Eder, Bank of America Chicago Marathon, October 2016
On his line of duty as a pilot then with Martinair and now with KLM, he usually gets between 24 hours to 48 hours of rest at different destinations across the world before proceeding with his flight schedules to other destinations. He uses this free time to interact with runners from the countries he lands on. If luck happens and his flight coincides with a marathon event there, he runs it. He has so far run marathons in each and every continent.
This weekend, he will be in Kenya to run the Nairobi marathon (October 30), but he will be doing the half marathon distance. His flights to Kenya have been particularly exciting for him, especially after he has gotten to know most of the great Kenyan runners in person.
Because it depends on his flight schedules and where he lands, his training program at any given week is not as fixed as that of any other regular athlete. “I have been to most places a number of times and I do know where to go for my training, but in some places I have to train on a treadmill. In the US there are a lot of people running, also in South America where I normally fly to, and obviously in Kenya I can train in Nairobi or come here to Eldoret. Once you know a place and have been there many times, it is not difficult to get into some training,” he said.
“I have been flying to Kenya since 1995 and over time, I have gotten to meet and train with most of the athletes here. But, I do it whenever it fits their schedules; I am only an amateur and they are experts and I would not want to disturb them,” says the Pilot.
The 48 year old, Gert Brienne, received his “calling” to run marathons in 2003 after watching other runners run the New York City Marathon. He promised himself then that he was going to run it the following year and almost straight away started training for it. The awaited special day for his first marathon finally came in 2004 and despite having trained only for less than a year, having had no substantial advice from anyone on how to run it, and starting out too fast on the race, he managed to run three hours and fifty minutes. He felt terrible, but was hopeful that he was going to do better next time.
Sure enough, he improved his personal best time to 2hrs and 55 minutes within a year after running three other marathons. This was very encouraging for him as he learned that there is always room for improvement in marathon.
Gert spoke to RunBlogRun in Kenya as he awaited a chance to run an evening run with the world and Olympic champion, Ezekiel Kemboi. Gert then removed a jersey in which other Kenyan elite runners who he had had a chance to run with that morning and in the previous day and admired it. Abel Kirui, Asbel Kiprop, Dennis Kimetto, Sammy Kitwara, Eliud Kipchoge and Brimin Kipruto, among others had already signed on it. It had been a successful adventure so far for him. If only he could get Kemboi’s signature added there, then it would become the best of his short visits to Kenya on his duty.
Having run next to most of the Kenyan runners in their training, he has gotten to appreciate their talents, learn a lot about them and their societies. What strikes him most about Kenyan runners, and all runners in general, is that they are very friendly. He could only imagine what he would go through in trying to get a chance to train with a sports star in a different sport. Not only to Kenyan athletes allow him to have time with him, but they even arrange for his accommodation when he visits camps that are away from the town.
“But, walking around with Eliud Kipchoge today in Eldoret town, I could observe that Kenyan athletes are not getting the recognition they deserve here in their home. In one way, it is nice for them to walk around freely, but in the other way, it shows that they are not being given the respect they deserve,” said Gert.
His cell phone rang. It was Ezekiel Kemboi inquiring whether he was ready for the evening run! Kemboi then arrived in no time, saw a picture of himself on the table and signed on it before they all quickly changed into their running gear, drove to a route on the Eastern suburbs of Eldoret town where they disembarked and started their evening run. His dream had been fulfilled.