We die of the water. Two thirds of the earth’s surface is ocean, river or lake. Water often beats us, you better be friends with it. A French runner saw a long row of water bottles on a table halfway through the Olympic marathon. With a flick of his hand he knocked them all over and snatched the last one for himself.
Selfishness at its best and waste of the purest kind.
There was a heat wave in Japan. In the streets of Sapporo the temperature rose to thirty degrees. A normal person stays indoors and keeps calm. Abdi Nageeye was prepared for the extreme conditions. During his training period, he built a heat chamber and regularly spent half an hour in a sweltering bath.
Cooling down and drinking plenty of water should take him far. For over forty kilometers he picked up every bottle of water and all the plastic bags with ice cubes to keep life and limb going.
The day before, Sifan Hassan had crossed the finish line after ten kilometers. She immediately lay on her back. I only just managed to make a drinking movement with one hand: water, water.
While my ice cubes were neatly arranged in rows of eight in the freezer, Nageeye tucked them under his special cap as he walked to cool his head.
Never say again that you are stuffy behind your mouth cap, I thought.
Globally, the water is adrift. In African countries there is too little, in Europe rivers overflow their banks due to extreme rainfall. It is unevenly distributed in the world. Nageeye fled his native Somalia as a boy because of the war. You don’t have to teach him anything about the extremes of existence.
While many marathoners dropped out, Nageeye kept his place in the leading group. Beside him walked his Belgian friend Bashir Abdi; they had trained together for weeks in Ethiopia. Now they were watching each other. Marathon runners are generally peaceful people. They pass each other a bottle of water along the way, if possible.
Sharing is the new having.
Cool and well, Nageeye thundered towards the finish. Winner Eliud Kipchoge had already crossed the line for a while. There were still two medals to be awarded, for three front runners. Nageeye looked to follow Bashir and gestured. He showed his friend the way to a medal. With the last bit of spit around his vocal cords, Nageeye yelled to his buddy, “Stay with me, we’re going to make history!”
Together they fought through pain and heat to silver and bronze. The two men flew into each other’s arms. Withstanding the heat, walking on water. Together they made the marathon an emotional party. Their friendship went hand in hand with top sport. It was time for moisture, for gallons of water.
And the two men drank happily ever after.
Wilfried de Jong is a writer and program maker.