Young and Old, a Community that Just Loves Running

Local News - July 14 2015

Media Archive

The main races were won by Barnabas Kosgei and Hellen Kiprop, writes a correspondent

From early morning, the buses arrive from all the schools in the region, the eager faces of the young hopefuls pressed against the windows.

They get off and go through their stretching exercises under the watchful gaze of a large crowd, which includes some of the biggest names in Kenyan athletics. Among them are running legends Mike Boit Patrick Sang and Cohn O’Connell, former headmaster of St. Patrick’s, Iten, the unrivalled nursery of Kenyan running talent.

This is the scene at the start of the annual Kenya Pluorspar Road Race lu the ‘Kerb Valley, which this year attracted over 700 runners for the two main events – separate 10-kilometre races for men and women over a tough circuit which winds through the picturesque terrain of the valley.

The races get underway and the casual observer cannot fail to be impressed by the sight of hundreds of young Kenyan athletes racing past the cheering crowds, looking every inch the champions they aspire to be.

John Manners, an American athletics official who lived in Kenya as a boy, flew in from his home in New Jersey partly to see the race. “Just look at the talent here,” he said, “This is a small, local road race, and yet there are literally scores of runners performing at a level that would be a national class in almost any other country. You know, there are lots of people in the West who follow athletics but don’t know Kenya. Some of them speculate that Kenyans must be doping to achieve the results they do. Those skeptics should come to a race like this. It would make them believe.

But there is more to the event than the showcasing of young talent. As the five:- kilometre “Fun Run” that preceded the main events shows (and as the T-shirt made for the event proudly stated) this is a community that simply “loves to run.”

Young and old, fit and not-so-fit, it doesn’t matter. They race round the course to the cheers – and a few giggles – of the appreciative crowd.

They include Lino Chepsaigut, mother of 10, grandmother of 17, who sells vegetables at Kinxwarer Market, who comes near the end of the field, but still finishes strongly. Afterwards, barly out of breath, she says she decided to join in on the spur of the moment “for the fun of it.”

For the record, the main races were won by former world cross-country junior medallist Barnabas Kosgei and Berlin marathon bronze medallist Hellen Kiprop.

There is also an international flavour, with a team from Uganda, one runner from Tanzania and a couple of runners from Europe.