Honesty of the Long Distance Runner

Courtesy Calleja (Diario de Navarra)

Courtesy Calleja (Diario de Navarra)

Sometimes winning isn’t everything. At least that’s what one elite Spanish runner thought when he had the chance to take the lead at a December race in Berlada, Spain, when the Kenyan runner leading the race mistakenly stopped short of the finish line, thinking he’d already crossed it.

Instead of passing by lead runner Abel Mutai, the second-place 24-year-old Spanish runner Fernández Anaya gestured to the Kenyan that he needed to keep going to finish and win the race. As the English version of the Spanish newspaper El Pais reports, from an interview Anaya did after the race:

“I didn’t deserve to win it,” says 24-year-old Fernández Anaya. “I did what I had to do. He was the rightful winner. He created a gap that I couldn’t have closed if he hadn’t made a mistake. As soon as I saw he was stopping, I knew I wasn’t going to pass him.”

What’s interesting is that this isn’t simply a pollyana-ish piece about good overcoming bad. As Anaya admits later in the interview, he probably would have passed by Mutai had the race been one in which the stakes were higher, like an Olympic trials race or one for a medal.

And his coach, former long distance runner Martín Fiz, openly admitted to the reporter that it was something he himself certainly wouldn’t have done:

“It was a very good gesture of honesty,” says Fiz. “A gesture of the kind that isn’t made any more. Or rather, of the kind that has never been made. A gesture that I myself wouldn’t have made. I certainly would have taken advantage of it to win.” (Emphasis added)

Honestly, as I read this I thought to myself, how many of us would make the same gesture in our own lives — and not just in a public event like this, where our actions would be seen. Would we do the same if no one would have known the difference otherwise, except ourselves?

Read the full story at El Pais.

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