The story of legendary Kenyan athlete Henry Rono is one of grace to grass as he went from dominating the tracks to finding himself in rehabilitation centers, battling stupefying alcoholism. His instant rise to global attention and then fall to squalor is a reminder of just how fickle money and fame could be.
Rono was born in Kiptaragon, Nandi county and was largely brought up by a single mother. The father was a tractor operator working for a white settler and lost his life when he leaped off the tractor after he saw a snake on the farm. He got crushed by the rotating three disc plough.
However, all was not lost for Rono as his mother took up the role of ensuring he got educated. In his early 20’s, Rono was working for the Kenya Army and went on to settle in USA as a student at Washington State University in mid 70’s.
Set 4 World Records in 81 Days
As an athlete, Rono was simply unbeatable on the tracks. In 1978, he broke four world records in a span of only 81 days in 10000m, 5000m, 3000m steeplechase and 3000m flat. It was his heyday and Kenyan fans worshiped the ground upon which he walked.
Unknown to many, at one time Rono took to the tracks after a night of drinking but still managed to emerge victorious. As quoted by Washington Post in 1989, Rono says: “I used to run half-drunk and half-awake.” The matter drowned him deeper into an alcoholic problem driven by the delusion that he was still unmatched.
“It was my nature that I could train to a certain level that nobody else could get, so for me breaking the world record was not a problem,” he said in a recent interview.
Sadly, Rono’s glory days were shortlived as he went from chasing the clock to chasing the bottle. By 1982, the athlete went from taking beers to hard liquor and his performance declined as he began adding weight.
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Rehabilitation and drinking problems
In the mid 80’s alcoholism had taken control of the athlete’s life. However, it was not his wish to be taken to a rehabilitation center. According to him, the matter led to his infamous arrest on false allegations of robbing a bank as his then agent conspired to have him taken to a rehabilitation center.
“The agent gave me my money and then I went to the bank. They accused me that I had robbed the bank. That was the only way they could force me to a rehab,” he recalls.
Rono’s life took a twist as he spent his time in numerous rehabilitation centers. The loud applause he received was long gone leaving him stripped bare of the infamous majestic flamboyance. The athlete found himself doing menial jobs such as cargo loading and washing cars.
Appeal To Get Home
Henry Rono’s battle with alcoholism paid off as he finally left the rehabilitation center in 2015.
According to legendary athlete Kipchoge Keino, Rono did not spare part of his great windfall for a rainy day. In 2019, 66 year old Henry Rono was featured on the Daily Nation, pleading with the government to help him relocate to Kenya as his predicament led to outpouring of emotions on the blogosphere.Finally he silently returned home in 21st November, 2019 and currently lives in his Nandi Home.