The changing face of road racing in Kenya, A view from Kenya


DSCN8357.JPGThe entertainment arena at the 2016 Kass Marathon, photo by Justin Lagat/www.kenyanathlete

DSCN8359.JPG70 year old David Sang after participating in the 2016 Kass marathon, photo by Justin Lagat/www.kenyanathlete

Justin Lagat writes for RunBlogRun on a weekly basis. He provides us a weekly column with a view from Kenya, by interviewing athletes, covering events and providing our readers a view of the sport we can find fascinating. This is a column on the changing faces of road racing.

Observing the last few races that have happened lately in Kenya, one thing is clear. The sport of running, especially road running is definitely heading the right way here.
Running is beginning to be seen more as a unique entertainment event that involves everyone rather than simply a competition among runners. Fun runs are becoming part of almost every road running event these days making it possible for all to be able to take part. Entertainment arenas with mega speakers and big screens are being erected to entertain fans that turn up at the venues. Photographers and ice-cream vendors dot venues and add a celebratory mood to the atmosphere.
Some times, blessings come in disguise. Compared to the past years, both the Kass marathon and the Family Bank half marathon in Eldoret apparently saw a reduction in the number of athletes that registered to run the elite races this year. But, what this means is that, with at times three half marathons in one weekend, athletes are now getting more choices for races to participate in the country. The more races sprouting up has led to a competition for athletes with the new races selling themselves vigorously through visiting training camps and on social media to have more athletes in their races, while the traditional races still expect the athletes to turn up on their events as usual. This healthy competition is creating more favorable incentives for athletes in the near future.
On the same note, races are now beginning to see the importance of trying to get more athletes to participate in their races. In the recent past, because of the law of supply and demand, athletes were desperate to participate in any of the few races that would come up. Organizers would even announce a race with little prizes to be won, but still the athletes would turn up in large numbers. Now that the races are increasing in number, the organizers are taking the time to advertise their races early to runners, creating good race websites, sending their representatives to camps to inform the athletes about their races, distributing leaflets in other races and advertising their events on media.
Another observation evident is that the older generations are now beginning to embrace running more than before. People are no longer seeing a road running event as a means to win money, but as a way to motivate themselves to remain fit and to share good moments with other runners during the event.
I met a 70 year old, David Sang during the 2016 Kass marathon after he had participated in the event. He had some great advice to give, especially to people younger than him.
"Most men my age are supporting themselves with staffs to walk around, but because I take time to run regularly I am staying healthy at my age," he said. The retired Kenya police officer, contributes his interest in running to the active life style he adopted while in the service. Although he never got a chance to represent the country during his younger years, he did the best thing by learning the value of running and staying fit which he continues to do.

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