© Copyright – 2023 – Athletics Illustrated

Title: We Share the Sun

Author: Sarah Gearhart

Pages: 216

Publisher: Pegasus Books Ltd

Release date: April 2023

ISBN: 978-1-63936-355-1


In 1837, Charles Dickens wrote in the melodramatic novel Oliver Twist, “The Sun. The bright Sun, that brings back, not light alone, but new life, and hope, and freshness to man-burst upon the crowded city in clear and radiant glory.

Shades of a spring marathon, perchance? But of course Dickens was British. The British are always yearning for the sun. From Daniel Defoe’s 1719 narrative Robinson Crusoe and William Shakespeare’s Sonnet 33 to the Beatles in Here Comes the Sun; it is a metaphor and their prescription to cure their winters of discontent, if it is not a sort of deity.

Author Sarah Gearhart is a producer, journalist and athlete. In her first go with a biography of supercoach — if such a thing exists — Patrick Sang, she provides a moving account of the inner workings of the world’s greatest distance runners.

Sang. Beloved enough — perhaps his athletes will take up, “We Share the Sang” — is the protagonist. There are no human antagonists in the story, however, as any endurance athlete is familiar, an implied foe may just be the human body and mind as it works against the trial of the miles and the gamble of elite training toward the big payoff.

But for Kenyans and other East Africans, perhaps poverty is the antagonist. It is certainly motivation to escape by way of big city marathons and international competitions on the tracks, roads and cross-country meets that take place throughout Europe, North America, Oceania and Asia. Sang’s group mostly wins, rising up from the ashes of deprivation. It is fascinating to follow Gearhart’s writing as an embedded journalist-cum-biographer.

Somehow, Eliud Kipchoge, Sang’s greatest coaching achievement and a secondary biographical account in We Share the Sun, remains humble and Buddha-like. Kipchoge, the first man to run the marathon distance under two hours and is the official world record holder at 2:01:09 is wealthy by Kenyan standards. However, he stays at a rustic training camp carrying out humble duties as a member of the most elite marathon training group in the world. Global Sports Communications and NN Running, created by former elite Dutch athlete Jos Hermens, fund the facility, the training, the gear, and the travel.

Equally effortless is Sang’s thoughtful, pragmatic and philosophical approach to living and training. Sang and Kipchoge indeed share the sun.

Gearhart also shares the account of a few other great athletes including Faith Kipyegon, Geoffrey Kamworor, and Jackline Chepkoech.

Gearhart’s writing is very journalistic in nature. She pocesses a very clear and concise way of communicating and does not venture deep into metaphor or creative prose. Perhaps she took a page both from her career as a senior writer and producer for the New York Times and on ESPN respectively. And, perhaps both Sang and Kipchoge rubbed off on her with their Buddhist-like approach.

If one was to nitpick — and most readers will never notice — We Share the Sun, bounces between metric and imperial and Celsius and Fahrenheit measures. There is an instance of “42.1 kilometers” and another “42.2 kilometers” to describe the length of the marathon. There is also a “26.2 miles.” Technically, the marathon is 42.195 kms, plus 1m per km added on for good measure (or 26 miles and 385 yards). To really stretch the critique, twice, once each in two different chapters, Gearhart describes Kipyegon as “5′ 2″ and 100 pounds.” Big deal, am I right?

The purpose is to describe the athlete and her diminutive frame in an illustrative contrast as an unlikely powerhouse. Kipyegon is a two-time Olympic and World Championships gold medallist; “pound-for-pound” as the boxing community will say. However, you know someone will take offence. And if the offended really care, Kipchoge weighs just 125 pounds and likely 115 at the finish line of a marathon.

We Share the Sun is a page-turner. Gearhart’s storytelling is fascinating, elegant, entertaining, and insightful. We Share the Sun will prove to be one of the most interesting books about a running stable right along with the culturally required reading of Running with the Buffaloes, Once a Runner, and Born to Run.

We Share the Sun is a recommended read.

Through dusks and dawns, the rise and set of the daily sun is predictable, yet inspiring. So shall be the daily human journey; and it’s art.

About the Author

Sarah Gearhart is a sportswriter based in New York City. Formerly a senior producer at USA TODAY Sports Media, her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, ESPN, Runner’s World, Vice Sports and Victory Journal. An avid runner for twenty-one years (and counting), she has qualified for the Boston Marathon five times and has completed fourteen marathons.