My Challenge to Mo Farah While in Kenya, by Justin Lagat

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Mo Farah and fans in Eugene, Photo by 

Mo Farah is one of the most popular athletes in the world. It is not so surprising that he is admired in Kenya. Now, our Kenyan correspondent, Justin Lagat, would like to see Mo Farah race in Kenya, during his training time there. 
My Challenge to Mo Farah While in Kenya, by Justin Lagat (from January 8)

This past week, Mo Farah arrived in Kenya to intensify his training ahead of his London Marathon debut in April. His arrival was greeted with excitements among Kenyan athletes who have come to respect him, even terming him as 'lion-hearted' for the fact that he trains with Kenyans the Kenyan way. He is one of the athletes who believe in the philosophy of training hard and winning easy, which has been adopted by many Kenyan runners.

However, I would like him to take up the challenge of competing with, and trying to beat Kenyan athletes in their home ground. For the number of times that Mo Farah has come to train here, he has not been taking up the challenge to compete with Kenyans in their local competitions. If coming to train in Kenya helps him improve his performances in international competitions abroad, then racing with Kenyans in their local competitions here will definitely be good for him.

 After all, the Kenyan athletes he will be lining up against in London are currently doing a number of local cross country races as part of their preparations. Mo can as well do the same.

There are three local competitions happening in the next few weeks, two in Eldoret and one in Nairobi, which I think will be perfect for Mo Farah to participate in. The first one is the Nike Discovery Cross Country in Eldoret which will happen this weekend on the 26th of January. Many Kenyan elite marathon runners usually grace this meeting and whoever takes the podium position here will most likely win the world major marathon title later in the year. Dennis Kimetto took second position last year and went ahead to win two major city marathons and lead in the WMM points. Geoffrey Mutai also took the second position in the previous year and went ahead to win Berlin marathon and the WMM title too. It will be interesting to see who takes the 2nd place this year and what will follow for him later in the year. Now that Mo Farah will be running a major city marathon in April, it will only be proper that he tries this race as part of his training. Who knows? He could finish second and go ahead to win the WMM prize later in the year!

Also, in case Farah doesn't like cross country running because he is a tactician and cross country races do not provide enough room for tactics, there is another perfect race for him a week later. On the 2nd of February, Eldoret Nike Discovery half marathon will also take place in the same town. This event is organized by Nike International and Dr. Rosa Associates and is sure to assemble some of the best marathon runners in Kenya. Peter Some won this race last year and went ahead to win the Paris marathon two months later. If Mo Farah runs in this half marathon, it will surely point out to him how he will fair on in his Marathon Debut two months later.

The third race I would challenge Mo Farah to try is the Kenyan National Cross Country Championships that will happen on 15th February in Nairobi. Geoffrey Mutai did run and made it into the Kenyan cross country team to the world championships in 2011. He ran again at the world championships and was consequently able to run the world's fastest time of 2:03:02 in Boston Marathon a month later.

There is only so much for Mo to gain if he would dare to race in these local competitions. If he wins, he will be respected more for beating Kenyans in their own soil. He will also silence the critics who blame Kenya's selection criteria when he beats them at the Olympics and in World Championships.  

Running a competitive race here on higher altitudes will also eventually help him run easier while competing at lower altitudes in Europe. And, even if he may end up being beaten here, no one will take it seriously because it would just be part of his training. Athletes like Ezekiel Kemboi are always beaten in local races here in Kenya, but not in the big international events.

It is my hope that I will see Mo Farah take up the challenge to race against Kenyans in the local competitions while he is in Kenya. I will be running in the two races in Eldoret and it will be a great honor and privilege to race against him.

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