David Tarus, Mumbai, 2010,
Justin Lagat writes about a race in Eldoret that was announced two days before it happened, and guess what? A tough crowd of elite athletes showed up to do battle over 10k. Here is how Justin viewed the race!
(Updated May 3: GoTV sponsored the race, and is involved with digital TV in Kenya).
This past weekend here in Eldoret; the city of champions, Supersport; world of champions, with Gotv sponsored a very successful 10km racing event. The announcement of the event happened in a record duration of just two days before the race. But surprisingly, a good number of athletes turned up to participate, some of them being world renowned. Perhaps, there is nowhere else in the world where athletes would turn out in such large numbers for a race with such a very short notice. Many athletes actually do their long runs on Saturdays and most of them failed to participate in the event because they just learned about it when they were too exhausted from their workouts.
The registration for the Sunday 28th event began on Friday 26th both at Grand Prix Hotel, owned by Moses Tanui, who was one of the race organizers, and also at Pana Music stores that sells Gotv's decoders in Eldoret town. Word that Ezekiel Kemboi was to feature in the first 5km of the race helped carry the advertisement around fast and an impressive number of over 210 athletes managed to turn up at the start line.
The ladies were the first to hit the road where Pascalia Chepkorir, the World Half Marathon champion, maintained a lead of about a 100m gap ahead of her competitors after hitting the 2km mark all the way to the finish. It appeared she was running in a different class from the rest crossing the tape in an impressive time of 32 minutes.Gladys Kwambai was second while Viola Togom came in third.
Ezekiel Kemboi lived true to his word by featuring not only in the first 5km in the men's race, but by being able to stay with the leaders to almost 7km of the race as well before beginning to falter as he held his stomach with his right hand, appearing to be in pain as he ran the rest of the distance to finish in the 30th position.
After failing to make headlines in a while, David Tarus finally used this event to stage his comeback. With about 600m to the finish line and running slightly ahead of two other athletes, he raised his hand in the air. It reminded me of a pupil in a classroom trying to get the attention of his teacher! Here though, he was simply passing a message to his competitors that the first position was already as good as taken and that they should begin struggling for the second and third positions instead. He maintained a long strong sprint to the finish in a time of 28:57.
David Tarus is famously referred to as "Big Engine" in the Kenyan athletics fraternity, a name he got after a great performance he exhibited at the Sotokoto Half Marathon in Nairobi in 2009. I happened to have trained with his group in 2011 at the Gianni Demadonna's camp in Iten and still remember some incidences when he made running fun. One was while he was seemingly typing a text message on his phone while we were in the middle of a tempo run with most of the athletes asking him how he could manage to do that in such a hard run. It was not until his phone began playing some music did we realize he had not actually been composing a message, but had all along been just trying to hit the right key to get the music playing! Another incident was when we had travelled to a place to begin a long run at around 5am in the morning. We were beginning to shiver in the cold waiting for some other athletes to arrive in another vehicle when he suddenly cranked up the volume of the truck's music system, moved to the front of the car's headlamps and started dancing in a very funny way as the rest of us formed a circle around him to get amused.
The second place went to a new athlete, Stephen Kipchirchir, who has been training alongside the 10km and 15km world record holder; Leornard Komon in Kaptagat. Hopefully, this race will become a breakthrough in his career. Bernard Kipyego, an internationally renowned marathoner, was third.
The Uasin Gishu governor, Jackson Mandago, who flagged off the event, promised residents that he will work with more sponsors to ensure that more races are staged in Eldoret town in order to harness the talents around the region. One lady who sat next to me asked rhetorically, why should such events not take place every weekend in Eldoret since we have so many runners around? I shrugged my shoulders!