Kenyan Elite Runners Should Not Participate In Local Marathons And Races

Running is a Kenyan trade, one that has put the country on an international grid not only in sports but also in popularity. If you happen to mingle with foreigners, it will be hard to convince them not every Kenyan can sprint their way to a medal. Even with all the sarcasm and venting by Kenyans On Twitter and other social media platforms over unruly leadership and corruption, nothing beats the sound of our national anthem and a line up of all medals on foreign soils.

Away from all the glam and glory, back home we need to take this trade seriously as though we plan on making it part of our heritage and an everlasting one at that. This could start with local marathons. Corporates in Kenya sponsor full and half marathons each year with most of them aiming to achieve a course in health, conservation, education amongst others. Holding the local marathons is not only a great course but this is a chance to realise more athletes and in this case our future treasure.

If you have attended marathons like Lewa or even Ndakaini you know the open spaces and expansive courses set runners on a challenge with only their will and a good pair of shoes. There is one thing I fault local marathon organisers and sponsors for; allowing elite runners to compete with amateur or inexperienced runners if you like. It beats sense to crown a Beijing marathon winner and a record-breaker for a 10Km race. Over the years, I have observed that granting price money or medals does not have any restrictions as long as you have registered and contributed to whatever course it is the corporate wants you to.

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One time I remember attending three marathons in a duration of four months only to meet the same faces on those crowning stands. If you look closely, winning margins are quite prominent between these elite runners and marathon runners who have not had an opportunity to participate beyond our borders. Some would argue that having professional runners participate improves their skill and they become better by each marathon. So, what happens once they drop out of these marathons prematurely?

Samuel Wanjiru, Catherine Ndereba, Pamela Jelimo, and Ezekiel Kemboi are good examples of marathoners who either dropped out as a result of death, criminal conviction, old age and even the simple decision of starting a family. We are left scampering for any younglings with blunt skills just to have Kenya represented.

The upcoming Iten Road race is set to take place Sunday, 18th August 2019 in Elgeyo Marakwet County. In a race meant to draw 400 participants, Valary Aiyabei former Barcelona marathon winner and Prague half marathon champion Joan Chelimo will be participating in the race. Both these ladies were discovered in this very race and its unfortunate they still continue to participate in what would be child’s play to an international marathoner.

I say for both of these ladies and other champions to participate as runners make the whole nurturing idea redundant. At the moment, Aiyabei is the current Eldoret City Marathon champion. Again, taking the opportunity from another potential marathoner who has the might to run but no money to grow their ability.

Lastly, accommodating champions in our local marathons as runners and not nurturers or even trainers has immensely contributed to the poaching of marathoners from our country. As you watch a race from the comfort of your coach, you will notice a Kemboi or Kiplagat waving an Australian flag; not because they are disloyal to their country, it is because opportunities for these marathoners have been suffocated locally by marathoners who hold records in international races.

Gathoni Kuria

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