Kenya's First Lady says she "Must" finish London Marathon, by Justin Lagat

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Margaret Kenyatta running her first half marathon in March 2014, 
photo by PhotoRun.net

The First Lady of Kenya is focusing on running and finishing the Virgin Money London Marathon next weekend, as the way to encourage her country people to use running and walking to curb modern health issues of diabetes, heart disease, among others, that have come to Kenya. 
Kenya's First Lady Says She "Must" Finish London Marathon, by Justin Lagat

I just read it on a British newspaper that nine British MPs, most of who also participated in the past editions, will be running the 42km race in London this coming weekend. This got me a little envious as a Kenyan athlete because I expected that the Kenyan MPs would also naturally be participating in these major marathons, Kenya being the nation that is well known for marathon running. Our first lady's decision to run in London, though, offered some solace.

Her decision to use marathon running as a campaign tool for her noble cause to end avoidable pregnancy related deaths is greatly appreciated by the athletic fraternity in Kenya.

Not only will this promote the running sport in the country more as her being a public figure will definitely influence and challenge many, especially the younger generation to take up running. But, the campaign will kill two birds with one stone as many Kenyan citizens will embrace active lifestyles that will in turn help curb the current rise in chronic illnesses that are caused by lack of exercises, including hypertension, stroke, diabetes, depression and osteoporosis among many others.

"I have no time targets as my main target is to finish the race for the sake of the future of our mothers and children", Kenya's first lady, Margaret Kenyatta wrote in a column entitled: Why I Must Finish the London Marathon  that appeared in a number of Kenyan newspapers last week.

The main motivation that will push her throughout the entire 42 kilometers on the streets of London on 13th April is the plight of Kenyan women and children who lack affordable health care facilities during and after their pregnancies. In a campaign dubbed as the "Beyond Zero" campaign, Kenya's first lady is seeking to establish mobile clinics across the country where mothers and their babies will get free maternal health care services.

Given the current statistical figures of 5,500 mothers and 100,000 infants dying annually in Kenya due to pregnancy related complications that could easily be prevented, Margaret Kenyatta's cause is laudable.

The mobile clinics will provide adequately skilled birth attendants, immunization services against life threatening diseases in infants such as pneumonia and measles, distribution of insecticide-treated mosquito nets to prevent malaria, incubators and doctors to offer advice to mothers on how best to take good care of their babies through such methods as exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months among others.

While congratulating Kenyan athletes for doing very well at the recent world half marathon championships where the women in particular did splendidly by taking all the first five positions in Copenhagen, the first lady says she is getting some of her inspiration from Kenya's long distance runners and that she is going to replicate the same resilience she watches in them in the "Beyond Zero" campaign.

In recent weeks, the first lady took her training to the Kenyan high altitude training areas of Iten and Kaptagat where she trained alongside the current world record holders, Wilson Kipsang and Florence Kiplagat who will also be running in the London marathon.

So far, she says that her training has been flawless.

" I never knew I would come this far and it is unbelievable, at my age, that I am actually ready to complete my first marathon", she added.

In one of the few well organized road races I have ever participated in Kenya, Margaret Kenyatta ran her first half marathon on 9th last month in Nairobi and completed it in 3hrs and 46 minutes. It was the inaugural First Lady's Half Marathon that is going to become an annual event in Kenya. The men and women races were won by Henry Kiplagat and Leonida Mosop respectively.

The route was on a ten kilometer road stretch where runners ran on up to a turning point and headed back on the opposite side of the road to the finish almost on the same point where they had started at the Uhuru Gardens in Nairobi and despite the leading group meeting her on their way back when she had barely covered five kilometers, she showed a great resolve to finish the entire distance. Although she covered the same distance with the elite athletes, running continuously for almost four hours is not easy, and I salute her for that.

Marathon has become a perfect sport to get masses become involved and take part in supporting the many humanitarian causes across the world. As many other groups get to run the London Marathon and champion other causes, I am glad that I have already contributed to the "Beyond Zero" campaign myself. 

Just like Kenya's first lady and other marathon runners, I hope that many more people will conquer their fears of completing a marathon and participate in the upcoming major marathons to support good causes.

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