I told him I would, and I would be, and I could use some help myself. How was he at writing mash notes to Kipchoge? The next morning Jeneby wrote the note. He delayed long enough to check it through with another member of the AAA, but he wrote it.
Keino's quarters at the police training college at Kiganjo are down a red dirt road lined with poinsettias. The house is pleasantly seated among euphorbia trees and banana plants, and alongside there is a shelter for a car. Once, Keino said, he had owned a Peugeot, but he found that having it made him use it and he would stay out too late for a man who was supposed to be training. He sold the Peugeot.
It was after 10 a.m. when I arrived. Keino was just finishing breakfast. There was a large box of American cornflakes on the table. Keino got up and came outside, wearing over his Western clothes a colorful West African serapelike garment he bought in his travels. Whenever I have seen him he has always been handsomely groomed. He looked smaller in street clothes than he did on the track. He is no more than 5'10", 145 pounds. I remembered that in Jamaica Velzian had been told by a foreign colleague that Keino would never cut it "because his legs are too skinny." "You must come to Kenya," said Velzian, "and see our Grant's gazelles. They also have thin legs."
I never quite got the feeling of being swept off my feet with hospitality, but Keino was a good host. He read Jeneby's note and invited me in and soon was at ease. He has a practiced charm; he arches his eyebrows and smiles, and when he smiles his dimples sink and the gap shows where there is a tooth missing in the middle of his lower jaw. "It is an old tribal custom," he explained. "When you are sick they can put milk through, or medicine. It was taken out when I was very young."
Keino had houseguests, a young schoolteacher and his wife. The young man had grown up near Keino's home village of Kaptagunyo in the Rift Valley, 200 miles from Kiganjo. It is at Kaptagunyo that Keino's wife lives with their 4-year-old daughter and runs the family farm and sees that the cattle are tended. Keino tries to get home at least once a month. He showed pictures of his daughter. I asked if more children were in the plans. "That is not my will," said Keino. "That is God's will."
His houseboy brought coffee. Around the living room were the evidences of Keino's high station: a picture of him and Jomo Kenyatta, smiling at one another and holding the stuffed-lion mascot of Kenya's team. Both wore uhuhru hats. There was a large and crowded trophy case; pennants from Brazil and Zambia and other places he has run; a large stuffed panda. The only picture of him in action shows him in a race with Ron Clarke. Clarke is ahead in the picture. Keino sat down and passed around the cream and sugar. He said he was tired from a 10-mile morning walk he had taken with his police recruits. "It is easier to run than to walk," he said.
We talked freely, if somewhat perfunctorily, and what he did not care to discuss he simply did not discuss, as though the question, no matter how inoffensive, had not been asked. I had heard that Kipchoge meant "son of milkman," or a reasonable facsimile. I asked him about it. He looked away and said nothing. He grew up on a farm, he said, with three sisters, and sometimes they helped him watch the cattle, but it was his job. "My father did not like it when I went to school," he said, "because then I could not watch the cattle."
Keino said he played football (soccer) as a child, using a tennis ball or a ball made of rope. "I was usually a good footballer," he said, "but when I started athletics it was not good to concentrate on two sports, so I gave up the football." He said he had pleasant memories of his first trip abroad, all the way to Perth, Australia on a big airliner. It was in 1962 for the Commonwealth Games. "We made stops in other countries. It was very good. I saw the differences of people, how they looked and acted. The Australians were different, and then I saw the Malaysians and they were different, and the Orientals. In each place they were different. It is good to travel and be able to return and tell of your experiences to young sportsmen."
He reenacted that first competition in Perth. He was 22 and just coming into his own as a runner. "I got to be way ahead in the race. I think Ron Clarke was in it. I was half a lap ahead, and then I was 200 yards ahead and we came to the last lap. We came to the stretch, and then, shhhh, one is by me. Shhhh, two is by me. Shhhh, three comes. I am thinking they are all coming by me. Four, five, six. Shh, shhhh. They are all sprinting. I was annoyed. I could do nothing."
He said he began working right away to get himself a finishing kick, and to do that he shortened his stride. "I was running the same speed all the time. I had a long, long stride. I had to learn to accelerate. I thought for myself that I must cut my stride in order to accelerate. It was about eight feet. I cut it to six feet." He said he had learned by watching others. He did not say whether John Velzian had taught him anything at all. "I learned more of tactical running in the two times I have raced against Jim Ryun than any other way. Ryun," he said reverently, "is very strong."