Kass International Marathon this weekend in Eldoret: the View from Kenya, by Justin Lagat

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This is Justin Lagat's piece about the upcoming Kass International Marathon, which is happening in Eldoret this coming weekend. 

Kirui_AbelGroup-Kenya12.jpg
Asbel Kirui training group, February 2012, photo by PhotoRun.net
Kass International Marathon happens this weekend in Eldoret

Excitement is already mounting here in and around Eldoret ahead of the annual marathon that draws many spectators along its route from the start up to the finish line. The event is now almost the next word that comes up after greetings whenever anyone meets an athlete across the Rift Valley regions of Kenya.

"Are you running Kass marathon this weekend?" is one sentence I have had to answer to, so many times, this week and I am sure it is the same case for all the athletes around here. In fact, I remember some athletes deciding to stay in the camp most of the time last year to avoid such questioning from the locals who lived near to our training camp.

It is all about the 8th edition of one of the toughest marathons in the world, the Kass International Marathon that will take place on Sunday the 16th of November between Kapsabet and Eldoret towns.

This marathon keeps getting bigger and better each year. I remember recommending in one past article that , because of the surging crowds close to the finish line that make it hard for fans to watch the athletes approaching the finish line, it would be best if the finish area was moved to a more open ground. I do not know if any of the organizers read that article, but this year's marathon will have the finish line out of town, at Eldoret Sports Club, the same venue used for the annual Nike Discovery Kenya Cross Country event. I am sure it will make a great experience for spectators who will turn up.

A 10km event has also been added to other events of the day and this will help in decongesting the 12km race that had been swelling with a bigger number of participants and making the start of it quite hectic for the officials.

However, the main focus will be on the 42km event. Kass FM, a local radio station, and KTN, a Kenyan TV station, will be covering the event live. The locals who will most likely be listening to the radio station that broadcasts in their local language will know when the athletes are approaching to pass by their villages and will turn up beside the route to cheer and to check if any from their village is among the leaders.

The fact that most athletes run past their homes in this race could be one reason why it is so competitive. They have to be leading or appearing at the leading pack as they do so. The faces of the athletes who manage to reach the finish line in Eldoret always tell of the grueling competition on this tough course that has many hills to be tackled.

Memories of one runner who was about to finish in the top ten positions, but fainted with less than 200 meters to the finish line in 2012 are still fresh in my mind. I remember him staggering off course where some good Samaritans gave him some water. He tried again to jog towards the finish line, but something seemed to be pushing him to the other side of the road where he almost fell down, but luckily held onto one of the lead cars that had already been parked by the route. He rested for a few seconds, looked at the finish line and then started to take one step at a time towards it. By then, some medical staff and officials were already beside him and after he took not more than four steps, he collapsed into the hands that were already waiting to take him into an ambulance.

As we all wait in excitement to know who the next Kass marathon champion will be this weekend and to expectantly hear another great story of someone finally getting a break-through in his or her running career, I will also be there to test how tough this course really is and will be glad to share the experience with you.

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