Faith and Karoki Win the IAAF Kenyan XC Trials, by Justin Lagat
On 15th, in a favorable weather at the Uhuru Gardens in Nairobi, Kenya, two athletes representing the Central Rift Region ensured that the start of the men's 12km senior race was a fast one. Within the first kilometer, the rest of the athletes were already following them in a single file.
Spectators were watching the pace in awe. I myself was wondering what was going on in the minds of the two leaders wearing pink running kits, and what they had planned before this race. Were they going to finish it?
However, after about 4km the rest of the athletes began to close in on them and soon a crowd started to form in the leading pack. Bedan Karoki started to control the pace at the front. He seemed relaxed and often glanced back as if looking for his fellow training mate in the group and waiting for him to reach the front so that they could run together.
Sure enough, Karoki's Tokyo-based training mate, Leornard Barsoton got to the front of the pack and started to lead. Karoki left him and went back inside this pack of about ten athletes that comprised a number of other Kenya's long and middle distance stars including Hosea Nailel, Philip Lang'at, Joseph Ebuya, Joseph Kitur and John Mwangangi among others.
Coming to the last 2km lap, Barsoton had already opened up a ten meter gap, but although Karoki was still with the chasing pack, he still looked relaxed and comfortable. Perhaps he knew his training mate very well and wanted him to continue fleeing from the other competitors so that they would not have a problem taking the 1-2 positions in the final sprint.
Karoki finally left the chasing pack and caught up with Barsoton, the world junior silver medalist, with about a kilometer to go. He took the lead and continued to open a gap between him Barsoton who could not match his strength, but lucky enough to have been able to open an early lead such that he was now safely ahead of the rest of the competitors and very assured of a second place finish. Bedan Karoki refused a bottle of water being offered to him by a fan and went ahead to comfortably win ahead of his training mate to a 1-2 finish by the Japan-based athletes, prompting a tweet from their fans in Japan that Tokyo's Yoyogi Park was "the training ground of champions!". Philip Lang'at came in third to complete the podium positions.
Peris Chepchirchir who is a new and upcoming athlete stunned the spectators when he took an early lead in the 8km senior women's race and continued to open a big gap ending in a solo run for the better part of the race. That is exactly the manner in which she had ran a couple of weeks ago to win the Nike Discovery Kenya 10km event in Eldoret town. The unfolding of this race was not the usual national trials where the Kenya Police would always dominate the leading pack with their navy blue running kits. This time round, green, representing the prisons, was the color that was running alone ahead of the other colors.
Faith Chepng'etich and Emily Chebet were in hot pursuit of the leader with a 2km lap to go. Then, suddenly the leader stopped. She took off her running shoes and gave them to a fan beside the route. This gave room for the two chasers to close in on her. The three athletes began to run together and it was getting interesting and hard to guess who the winner would be. For me, It would just have been interesting to watch a barefooted runner winning in an IAAF permit cross country meeting!
But, taking advantage of her 1500m speed, Faith Chepng'etich was able to shake off her competitors in the home stretch to win the competition. Bare-footed Peris Chepchirchir came in second while Emily Chebet came in third.
The winners in the junior races were: Moses Mukono, Emmanuel Bett and Andrew Loret for the boys' event and Agness Chebet, Lilian Kasait and Nancy Nzisa for the girls.
With these athletes who just made the Kenyan team to the African championships slated for 16th of next month in Kampala, Uganda promising to win gold medals, the event there will definitely be interesting. I look forward to watching them on that day racing against other top stars from the rest of the continent.