Kenya Fails to Get a Medal in the Men’s Marathon!
by Justin Lagat
It is always normal for a blackout to happen here in Kenya at any time, that’s why there are always standby generators set up in most of the premises across the country. There have been a couple of these blackouts since the start of the world championships on the 10th, but I and a group of athletes I have been watching the events together with at our training camp have been lucky so far not to miss any of the action in Moscow, at least not until today.
A few minutes to the start of the race, the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC) took us live to the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow just as the athletes were beginning to line up at the starting line. Four nations; Kenya, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Japan had five athletes each while the rest of the nations had numbers ranging from one to three, depending on the way they met the IAAF qualifying standards. The race was started in the track before the athletes moved out of the stadium onto the road. The weather conditions looked more favorable than during the women’s marathon.
Samuel Tsegay of Eritrea took the lead shortly after the start, but the rest of the pack kept a distance in between him and them. A fellow athlete who sat next to me told me that he could recognize him as an athlete who had been training in Kenya, at Iten, sometime last year. Samuel soon retreated to the group and Da Silva of Brazil came out to take his place.
Three Ethiopians; Tola, Desisa, and Tsegaye were the next to make a move towards the 5km mark which was crossed in 16:05, as they passed Da Silva who was running on the other side of the road as though to avoid the group. No Kenyan could be seen at the front, which was unusual, but it was not yet anything of concern to us because the race was still in its early stages. Perhaps they had a strategy to run from behind, we thought.
Suddenly, there was a blackout and all we could see at the screen was our images staring back at us. What a bad time for that to happen! We only hoped it would come back soon, and were glad that it was not the men’s 1500m event we were watching. All we could do then was to follow live tweets from IAAF’s twitter account which updated the event every two minutes. Only that they would mention the number of athletes still at the leading pack and we would not know whether there were still any Kenyans there. The blackout took almost an hour.
Bernard Kipyego was the first athlete we saw when the electric power supply was restored, and for a moment we thought he was at the lead, but then the camera shifted focus and we noticed he had only been highlighted because he was beginning to drop from the group. Tola of Ethiopia was the one pushing the pace at the front with 14 athletes still there and holding on.
At 30km, two Ugandans suddenly moved to the front and tried to break away from the group. A single file was formed as the rest tried to hold on. One of them soon dropped and Stephen Kiprotich remained at the lead with Peter Some, of Kenya, and Tadese Tola, of Ethiopia. The rest began to fade away. But, it appeared like Stephen Kiprotich was doing a fartlek because he slowed the pace again and another Ethiopian was able to close the gap. Nakamoto, of Japan, was able to close the gap too, just after they crossed the 35km in 1:48.
Kiprotich pushed the pace again and only Tola and Desisa could manage to still go with him for a while before Tola dropped off. The Ugandan desperately tried to pull away from Desisa, who was just stuck behind him with 2km to go, the trick including moving from one side of the road to the other. It seemed to work. At almost the exact point where Kenya’s Edna Kiplagat had moved away from Straneo of Italy in the women’s event, Kiprotich began to open a considerable gap too. He began to wave to the crowds as he entered the stadium amid cheers, crossed the finish line and bowed to the spectators. He could not hide his joy as he danced a little. He had delivered another glory for his country after the one he delivered in London last year. Ethiopia’s Lelisa Desisa, Tadese Tola and Tsegay Kebede followed in that order. The first Kenyan to finish was Peter Some in 9th position.
It was one of the worst performances by Kenyans in any major marathon event in the world and Athletics Kenya definitely ought to rectify something in the way they handle the marathon runners in the country.