Marathons and the general elections

August 26, 2022

[caption id="attachment_17104" align="alignnone" width="584"]

Justin Lagat participating in the 2017 Ottawa Marathon[/caption]

Earlier this month (August 2022), Kenyans participated in a general election exercise to elect their leaders into various seats across the country.

Being a marathon runner and a longtime fan of long distance running, I could not help but notice the many similarities between the general elections and the marathon event as I partook in the exercise. Perhaps, the only difference is that in the political elections, the loser may prove that despite the fact they lost, they cheated and therefore the winner who won rightfully should be disqualified alongside them because the process was “compromised.” In a marathon event, only the results of the affected individual runner can be nullified.

One can imagine a runner coming in across the finish line at the Boston Marathon some two hours later after the winner, and after the victory ceremony is over, shows proof of himself cutting a shortcut somewhere in the race and demanding that the results of all the other 30,000, or so, runners in the race to be declared null and void because a runner (he) cheated in the race and the integrity of the race is therefore compromised.

Besides that, here are the similarities: 

Participants in both events “run”

Participants in a marathon event run for different reasons; from fitness goals to better their personal best times, and to winning prize money, among others. Politicians on the other hand “run” for different offices. In Kenya, the offices being contested for in a general election include the MCA (Member of County Assembly), the MNA (Member of National Assembly), the Senator, the Governor, and the President.

The leading margin becomes more significant towards the end of the process

No one cares a lot when the tallying of votes in an election begins to trickle in, same to the early stages of a marathon race; no one cares much about who may be leading at the moment. But, at some point past the halfway point, be it in the tallying of the votes or running, whoever is leading appears to be having a real chance of winning and people start to focus more on the margin, and whether the next competitor could close the gap.

Mileage is important before race day

For the runner, it is the number of runs done and the miles covered in a week during their training that will matter during the race. For the politician running for an office, it is the number of rallies they do and the miles they cover weekly traversing the territories they hope to find the votes.

Miracles hardly happen on race day itself. Winners usually reap the fruits of their hard work well ahead of the day of the race.

The results could be captured both electronically and manually

Just like with the marathon event, there is a gradual advancement from the manual systems to the electronic systems in the way the results are being captured.

Organizers of the event reserve the right to announce the winners

In Kenya, we have the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) conducting the elections, declaring the winners, and awarding them certificates. Similarly, organizers of different marathons across the world are the ones who determine the winners, be it manually or electronically, at the end of the race, declare the winners and award them the medals.

If it were left for the runners to declare themselves winners, perhaps every participant would come up with their own results and reasons as to why they think they won the race.

The past winners and the defending champions

Just like there are past winners from previous editions of the same marathon coming back to defend their titles, there are political incumbents who will also be hoping to retain their seats after the elections.

The past winners are often seen as front runners or pre-race favorites with some advantages that come with their being the reigning champions. For runners, they could get free entry and some other complimentary into the race. Politicians benefit from using public resources to persuade voters to vote them in for another term.

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