The night after the 2000 Carlsbad 5000 a number of athletes, Elite Racing staffers and friends had gathered at the Red Sea Ethiopian Restaurant in San Diego’s City Heights neighborhood for a post-race celebration and send-off dinner.
The day before, America’s Deena Drossin had set a new American road 5Km record off her 15:08 win in the women’s race. But the headline of the day belonged to Kenya’s Sammy Kipketer, who had destroyed the men’s field — and the eight year-old world record — with his sub-4:00 first mile, 13:00 torching of the famed, seaside course.
C’BAD 2000 comes to mind today because Kenya’s Felix Limo, who finished fifth in that year’s Carlsbad race, has announced his retirement from competitive racing at age 32. After a marvelous career that peaked in 2004 with his pair of 2:06 wins at the Rotterdam and Berlin Marathons, Felix is now headed for stage two of his life.
Limo’s comet-like career was cut from classic Kenyan cloth, at once the fastest marathoner of 2004 (2:06:14, Rotterdam) and a subsequent winner in Chicago 2005 and London 2006, he then fell quickly back to earth when a chronic back problem began to limit his training in subsequent years. And now, rather than continuing to compete at a level below that which he once knew, the Kalenjin tribesman has decided to unlace his racing flats once and for all.
But back in the spring of 2000 at that Red Sea dinner party, I was sitting next to a budding 20 year-old Felix Limo who was the lone Kenyan athlete at the party, and I fixed him with this question.
“Felix, why is it that in almost every city you go to around the world you will find an Ethiopian restaurant, but never, ever a Kenyan restaurant? Don’t you find that odd?”
Of course, Ethiopian fare is world renowned for its spicy kick, while the basic Kenyan staple, Ugali — which is white corn meal — is particularly bland by comparison. Felix took my question with a faux thoughtfulness, as he easily read through the kidding nature of the query. Then, with a sweep of his hand as if to showcase the large neon sign he would erect, he replied.
“When I retire, I will open Felix Limo’s House of Ugali.”
Myself, and those sitting close by laughed heartily, while Felix smiled in his impish sort of way.
“Yeah, and you will promptly go broke,” I retorted, saluting him with a lift of my glass.
Well, I’m sure Felix doesn’t recall that particular dinner or exchange. In any case, he was a great runner, and delightful dinner companion. He made a name for himself, invested wisely, and we wish him well in his future exploits. But, Felix, I will anxiously await for any franchise opportunities in the Felix Limo House of Ugali chain. All the best.