Kenya's General Election Affects Athletics, by Justin Lagat
Wesley Korir, the Boston Marathon's defending champion, has just won a parliamentary seat to represent his Cherangany constituents, as Kenyans conducted their general elections this week. It is now unclear whether he will continue being a competitive runner, or if he will retire from running to concentrate fully on his new political career. As of now, he is still on the start list for next month's Boston Marathon where he is going to face a tough competition from Moses Mosop, Gebregziabher "Gebre" Gebremariam, Ryan Hall, Levy Matepo, Micah Kogo and Lucas Rotich, among other world's best marathoners.
The cross country team that is to represent Kenya at the world championships in Bydgoszcz on the 24th of this month was also affected, in that the athletes had to break out of the camp for four days, in order for them and their coaches to vote. Some changes were made to the team as they went for the break. Geoffrey Kipsang, the RAK half marathon winner, who had made it into the team through a wild card, has now been dropped after failing to report to the national camp on time.
Our group was also affected, in that a number of athletes did not turn out at the usual starting place on Monday, and even those who turned up were in full track-suits, having been in the queue at a nearby voting center hoping to vote early before coming, only to opt to do their morning runs first, after observing that the queue was too long. Consequently, we did an easy 1hr run in which we chatted for the entire run mostly concerning the Kenya's cross country team.
The topic started on the dropping out of Geoffrey Kipsang Kamworor, whom most of us had hopes on to win the senior men's gold medal for Kenya from the national team. Whether it was Geoffrey's own plan to be left out of the team, or that he found the national training camp not ideal for his kind of training needs, we could not tell for sure. We were just left with the rhetorical question of why he was not left alone to train the way he wanted.
Questions arose also as to why other strong cross country runners opted to miss out in the Kenyan national trials and go out to run road races abroad. These include Geofrey Mutai, who went to run the RAK half marathon; Wilson Kiprop, who just won the Roma Ostia half marathon; Dennis Kimeto, who went to win the Tokyo marathon, and Isaac Korir, among others. Thomas Longosiwa, one of the Olympic medalists in my training group, observed that it may have been due to so much talent exhibited by upcoming runners, in the races that preceded the national trials, that made these big wigs decide to go for other races abroad rather than risk being defeated by the likes of unknown Philip Rono at the trials. Indeed, big names that ran in the trials including Joseph Ebuya, Leornard Komon, John Mwangangi and Bidan Karoki among others were beaten by new ones.
Looking at the Ethiopian team that consists mostly of world renowned runners that include Tariku Bekele, Imane Merga, and Feyisa Lelisa, I can hardly wait to see what the competition will be like at the world cross country championships. Will it be a race between experience on the Ethiopian versus new talent on the Kenyan team?
Well, I was talking of how the Kenya's general elections affected athletics, and that's why I will not fail to mention a politician who greeted us cheerfully when he met us as we were about to finish our run! It was the only time I saw a politician wave happily and greet runners during their morning run. After he passed by, the topic shifted to him and I could see that his gesture could have easily earned him a number of votes from my group!
May the transition of the government in Kenya be a peaceful one, and may it bring out the best environment to nurture and safeguard the welfare of runners and running in the country and beyond its boundaries too. God bless a new Kenya!