I asked him whether he has ever drunk cow's urine. Mark gazed at me questioningly as though I had asked a rhetorical question, then answered, "what would one do?" I was tempted to laugh, but the seriousness on his face could not allow me do that.
"It may be hard for you to imagine, but that is the kind of life we undergo in West Pokot whenever there is drought, which happens often. We would at times go for days without food and water. Drinking cows' urine is a matter either doing it or dying," he said.
Mark had no shoe sponsor going into the race and was still going round borrowing racing shoes three days before the marathon, but still managed to finish second in 2:14:08 behind Robert Kemboi who won the race in 2:13:27. This was his second marathon ever. He had run Iten marathon earlier in the year finishing 7th in a race he felt he would have done better had he stayed patient within the leading pack. The lessons he learnt placed him six positions ahead during the Nairobi Marathon last weekend (November 4).
"It has always been my wish to become a positive role model in my area where the only people seen to be "successful" by young kids are the cattle rustlers. Going to school was not being taken seriously and learning facilities and materials were scarce, but I tried what I could. I remember we would get a chance to visit a lab about once in three months, yet we would eventually sit for the same national examinations with students from other parts of the country who had access to libraries and laboratories any time they needed them," said Mark. He feels that he comes from an area that has been marginalized for long time and needs a lot of developments in many aspects for future generations to live decently.
"I believe that the best way to fight cattle rustling and change my community is by only doing three things: Drilling water for irrigation, building schools and developing infrastructure. As at now, life there is just all about herding cattle," he said.
Earlier on, his determination to become a role model, specifically a health officer, in his area so he would contribute to change in his community saw him apply for scholarships to study in USA, but was denied visa a number of times at the US embassy in Nairobi. His relatives could not raise money to enable him study at a local college and so he decided to change his running for scholarships into running commercially.
Within three months of training in Iten, he was able to finish third at a local track and field meeting in Nakuru that opened up an opportunity for him to go out of the country and run a number of low profile road races in Europe. He was able to earn a little money. However, instead of remaining in training camp and developing his running career more, he decided to enroll himself at a university in Eldoret to study accounting with the money he had won in races.
Armed with a diploma from the university, he tried unsuccessfully to find a job and had to quickly turn to running again. This time round, he is more determined than ever to make the best out of his talent in running. He has decided to put his studies aside and focus on his career as a professional athlete.
"I like making focused and long term plans. Now that I have seen I have a great potential to do well in marathon, having just focused on this event for less than a year and managing to finish second at the Nairobi Marathon, I now want to find a good management that will support me in my training as I focus on running quality times and races in the future. I rather focus on one future marathon and run 2:05 than run multiple marathons in a year with poor times," he said.