Ndalat cross country (October 14, 2013) by Justin Lagat

My sincere apologies to our friend and correspondent, Justin Lagat. Due to last few weeks travel, I was behind posting his columns. Here is the first of three over the next few days. We hope that you enjoy! This first piece is about the Ndalat cross country race. What I most enjoy about Justin's writing is that he brings you onto the course with him. Justin Lagat, is, as one of my writing heroes, Kenny Moore, once wrote, a keen observer first. 

 Men in front are Cyprian Kotut, Joseph Ebuya and Hillary Kemboi ( about 9km point), photo by Justin Lagat

Women in front: Winny Chepkorir and Coreti Chepkoech -1817 ( about 3km point), photo by Justin Lagat
NDALAT GAA CROSS COUNTRY (Oct. 14, 2013), by Justin Lagat

In the past two weekends, athletes have been spoilt for choice on the many cross country and road running events to attend that have been staged here in Kenya and across the world as well. With all these races taking place, it is more of a harvesting season for athletes who have been training all year round for these events. 

This weekend, in (Oct. 14) Kenya alone, I know of three big racing events that happened: The Ndalat Gaa cross country, the Menengai half marathon and the Kimbilio marathon. I attended the Ndalat Gaa cross country event which was also attended by a large number of elite athletes who had came to spectate while others had came to participate in the senior races. Among those I saw were Wilson Kipsang, Janeth Jepkosgei, Conseslus Kipruto, Florence Kiplagat, Joseph Ebuya and Faith Chepng'etich among others.

A great weather and a nice job by the race organizers saw a very successful event that kicked off from around 9am to 2pm.There were events that preceded the junior and senior races and included different age categories for the kids, and parents too who also had their own race categories to run. It was real fun watching the old men and women not giving up even while they had nothing more left in them and were no longer even jogging, but walking up to the finish line. 

As I watched one old lady struggle to reach the finish line, I could not help but wish some of the young ones who are still actively in sports would have such strong will power too!

In the senior women's race, Florence Kiplagat who just won the Berlin marathon a few weeks ago, either found the pace earlier on a bit too high for her, or was just trying to run conservatively because she wasn't in the top ten positions coming to the second lap of the 2km course. But, she kept moving forward slowly by slowly, overtaking others in the remaining laps till she ended up in second position behind Coreti Chepkoech who had done a spectacular solo run at the front. Agnes Chebet followed her closely but had no more sprint left in her to engage in a finishing kick.

Cyprian Kotut, a younger brother to Martin Lel amazed spectators when he opened up a gap of about two hundred meters after the first 2km in the senior men's race. He looked serious and intend on going on to the end of the race. 

It was only after about 8km did some athletes that included Joseph Ebuya, the former world cross country champion, caught up with him. With a lap to go, Ebuya stopped running for awhile and stood on the course. A number of athletes ran past him before he resumed running again. 

At the front, Hillary Kemboi was continuing to open a sizeable gap from the rest. He looked strong as he continued doing so to the tape winning the race in a time of 36:54 followed by Alex Kibet in 37:17 and Cyprian Kotut in 37:22.

The junior men's and women's races were the ones that registered the highest number of competitors with over 450 runners in the men's 8km race. The first stages of the 8km race were more of a stampede and it was only after about 4km did three athletes managed to break away from the rest and began to exchange the lead. Michael Bett finally emerged the winner with a time of 24:23, followed by Emmanuel Kiprono in 24:25 and Hillary Lang'at in 24:29. Linner Cheruto won the 6km junior women's race with a big margin in 19:59. Lilian Kasait was second in 21:20 and Margaret Chelimo was third in 21:21.

The word "Gaa" means home in the Kalenjin language. Not only did the participation of parents and their children in the Ndalat Gaa cross country event made it a homey event, but the welcoming atmosphere of the residents there, some of who had erected tents to serve food and drinks to the athletes and fans. 

I still remember being given a bill after we took lunch with my friends and as I tried to pay the cashier, who told me to pay a lesser amount and keep the change to myself!

Below are the top 10 positions in the Senior and junior races:
1. Hillary KEMBOI 36:54
2. Alex KIBET 37:17
3. Cyprian KOTUT 37:22
4. Nelphat SIRMA 37:26
5. John MUTAI 37:38
6. Levy MATEBO 37:44
7. Boaz KIPRONO 37:54
8. Evans KIPLAGAT 37:55
9. Peter SOME 38:00
10. Edwin KIBET 38:05
1. Coreti CHEPKOECH 27:44
2. Florence KIPLAGAT 28:10
3. Agnes CHEBET 28:15
4. Winny JEPKORIR 28:27
5. Beatrice MUTAI 28:34
6. Priscilla LORCHIMA 28:54
7. Nancy KIMAIYO 29:05
8. Judy KIYENG 29:09
9. Alice APROT 29:17
10. Marion KIBOR 29:26
1. Michael BETT 24:23
2. Emmanuel KIPRONO 24:25
3. Hillary LANGAT 24:29
4. Nicholas TUITOEK 24:48
5. Bernard KIPKEMOI 24:58
6. Fredrick KOSGEI 24:59
7. Franklin NGELEL 25:02
8. Davis KIPLANGAT 25:05
9. Dominic CHEMUT 25:09
10. Festus KIPRONO 25:11
1. Linner CHERUTO 19:59
2. Lilian KASAIT 21:20
3. Margaret CHELIMO 21:21
4. Jackline CHEPKOECH 21:36
5. Chepkemoi YATOR 21:42
6. Evaline KEMBOI 21:51
7. Caroline CHEPKOECH 21:56
8. Vicoty CHEPNGENO 22:00
9. Mercy MUTWET 22:01
10. Joyline CHEPNGENO 22:03

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