There are approximately 80,000 Uber & Lyft drivers in the New York City area. When you activate your app of choice to hail a ride-share driver, you never know who the person behind the wheel will be or what their story is. Despite the craziest odds ever, I experienced just how small a world it is during my recent trip to Manhattan.
At the conclusion of my weekend trip to the Big Apple, the miles of walking made my party and I unwilling to make the 15 minute walk from our hotel to the Grand Central Terminal. We had driven to Poughkeepsie and taken the Metro North into the city. We decided that we were going to call an Uber and “Worku” accepted.
Some people when they get into an Uber make it a point to never make conversation, or even eye contact. Not me. I am always fascinated at who the person is that’s taking me on my trip and how they got there, of course not in a judgemental way. I love meeting new people and learning about their life experiences. During this most recent trip the driver started the conversation. “Worku” had asked my cousin, my sister and I where we were from and we responded with Utica. He mentioned he had been there, which was not the surprising part, as the big city isn’t far from our little one. The surprising part is why he traveled to Utica.
When he told us he had been to Utica he told us it was to run the Boilermaker Road Race. He then followed up by saying he ran the iconic 9.3 mile road race in an impressive 44 minutes and 28 seconds. My sister’s response was classic, “That’s how long it took me to run the 5k,” only 3.1 miles. I asked him where he was from and when he told me Ethiopia I realized immediately I was getting a ride from one of the most elite racers in the world. His name as I learned was Worku Beyi and he had in fact run the proudly iconic 15k race a total of three times. According to the Boilermaker Historic Race Results, it shows Beyi running in and completing three Boilermakers. His best finish was 4th place in 2009. He finished 18th in 2006 and 24th in 2017. Beyi who is originally from Ethiopia now lives in the Bronx with his wife, another elite runner named Bizunesh Deba. Deba was the 2014 winner of the Boston Marathon.
Beyi now drives Uber in New York City and due to injury to his hamstring is not currently running much or competing. He told me that he is currently training and coaching other athletes. I asked him how he loved the race and he enjoyed it very much. Beyi mentioned his favorite part of the course is the wooded area through the golf course. In fact, one time he told me he complained about the heat. In Ethiopia, the highest the temperatures really ever get are in the high 70s.
Beyi is 34-years-old and has 14 career wins in several distance running events. He became a U.S. Citizen in February of 2015. It was truly one of the coolest Uber rides I have ever had. In my opinion it was humbling to sit next to a Utica and running world celebrity.