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Inspiring courage and vulnerability

2 May 2023

On April 23, 2023, Dutch runner Sifan Hassan made history by immediately winning the first marathon of her life in London. While she became Olympic champion in the 5,000 and 10,000 meters in 2021, the 42 kilometers and 195 meters is a distance of a totally different order. What lies behind this world achievement, which proves that even the impossible is possible?

Obviously, Sifan has a talent for running. In addition to her marathon title in London and Olympic titles in 2021, the Ethiopian native has won numerous European and world titles in middle and long distances.

But in addition to this talent, several things stand out. To begin with, her vulnerability and modesty. Beforehand, she had indicated that she did not know at all what to expect from the magical distance. She came primarily to learn. She wondered in the morning before the start what on earth she had gotten herself into, and felt tension; something she does not normally suffer from. She had even had to vomit. In the consternation, she had forgotten to tape up her leg. For Sifan, this was all there could be; she didn’t need to disguise it.

During the race, a major setback followed after 19 kilometers. The cramp in her left leg was so severe that she had to stop temporarily to stretch, leaving her behind the leaders. She only gives up when there is no other option, as the Olympics showed: During the 1,500 meters she crashed, but she got back up and won the race after all. In London, her perseverance allowed her to rejoin the leading group after 35 kilometers and eventually win with a famous final sprint.

What is most inspiring is that Sifan immediately signed up for a marathon among the world’s top runners. This huge display of daring once again shows her vulnerability. She did not come to win, but simply wanted to compete with the best and, above all, to gain experience and learn. That Ramadan complicated her entire preparation she took at face value.