The National Mazingira Run and Food Expo, by Justin Lagat, note by Larry Eder

Justin Lagat wrote this piece about his experience with the National Mazingira Run, in anticipation of World Enviromental Day, which is June 5, 2013. Please read it and pass it along....

Emmanuel Mutai, February 2012, Kenya, photo by


The World Environmental Day will be commemorated on the 5th of June. Already many campaigns and events leading up to the occasion have been launched world-wide, and that includes the 3rd edition of a 10km race that was held this Sunday at Kenya's capital city of Nairobi: The National Mazingira Run and Food Expo. The race was sponsored and organized by NEMA (National Environmental Management Authority).

Apart from the race itself being one of the most enjoyable races I have ever participated in so far, the events that happened thereafter were also much fun. The food expo provided a good platform for exhibitors to sample out some of their food products that were in accordance with this year's environmental theme: Think. Eat. Save. In short, it is all about ensuring that, whatever we consume comes from environmental friendly sources and preferably manufactured locally to reduce carbon emissions contributed by the unnecessary transportation of food from one place to another. I can assure you that the cakes, fruit drinks and other foodstuffs I got to taste after the race left me licking my fingers! And it was not just about food. I was also able to learn about the Moringa tree, whose leaves, when crushed into powder, can be added to food and a gram of this powder equals the nutrients found in four eggs, six bananas, five oranges and four glasses of milk, among others! - Well, if you guess I bought the powder, then you are right!

The race itself did not turn out to be as low profiled enough to land me in the top ten positions as I had hoped for, but nevertheless, running a time of 30 minutes in the 10km was a good achievement for me. I had never expected to compete against  John Mwangangi, who is the reigning World Half Marathon bronze medalist, and other world's top road runners who turned up for the race. It included names that I have been reading in sports headlines, like Bernard Muriithi and Daniel Muindi,  among others. As I kept warming up and coming across them as they also did their warm up, one question kept coming to my mind: Should we at times request the international runners not to attend some of our local races so that upcoming athletes can get a chance to shine too? But this may be a hard question given the fact that the absence of these elite athletes would also lower the profile of a race.

John Mwangangi, who is also ranked at number seven in the list of world's best road runners emerged the winner in the men's category while Hellen Mugo won in the women's and both walked away with cash prizes of Kshs 70,000 each; 20,000 from NEMA and 50,000 from the governor of Nairobi County. They also won other prizes from the Safaricom Company that included a smart phone, a T-shirt and an umbrella. Other top ten finishers also were awarded various prizes.

Present at the occasion on behalf of Athletics Kenya's boss, Isaiah Kiplagat, was Paul Mutwii, who is also one of the current vice chairmen of the federation. He expressed his gratitude to NEMA for using athletics to campaign such a noble cause. Besides that, he also urged the organization to keep organizing races across the country whenever they have other awareness campaigns in order to keep chances open to new athletic talents who have never had an opportunity to go out of the country to get recognized nationally and even win prizes locally before the opportunity to go abroad presents itself.

Mrs. Betty Nzioka, the Deputy Director of Environmental Awareness and Public Participation, who was as well the chair of the event's organizing committee, was quick to reassure athletes and AK representatives that the Mazingira Run will keep getting better and better each year until it becomes an international event.

As I traveled back to Eldoret the memories of the race were still fresh on my mind: the smooth start which did not have as much jostling as is typical in the other Kenyan races; the hard hill climbs towards Nyayo Stadium and also towards Upper Hill; the crowds cheering alongside the route; a fellow athlete extending his hand to grab my water before I could even get a sip myself; John Mwangangi running past me at some point in the race and I struggling to keep up with his pace, pushing hard in the last 500m as I competed against the clock, crossing the finish line. One thing is certain, I will be back to run this race and better my time next year. Meanwhile, I am as well thinking about how to support the environment not only by what I choose to eat, but on the best farming practices to employ as a prospective farmer. 

For more on the National Mazingira Run, please go to .

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