SafariCom's Athletic Series of Events in Kenya, by Justin Lagat, notes by Larry Eder


Justin Lagat, our Kenyan correspondent

Justin Lagat wrote this column on the support that Safaricom, Kenya's major mobile phone provider, has given the sport of athletics in Kenya. Justin will be providing us columns during the World Championships from his view in Kenya. Justin has told us that he will be watching the Championships live and will provide columns with a Kenyan perspective. Justin Lagat has become one of our most popular writers, so thanks for your kind support, dear readers!
This weekend, Iten, a town that has been dubbed as "home of champions," played host to one of the athletic events being sponsored by Safaricom - a mobile phone service provider in Kenya - across the country. The event was the annual Iten Safaricom 10km Run. Aside from their main marathon, The Lewa Safaricom Marathon that already took place earlier this year, the company has undertaken more initiatives to partner with other smaller races that will now benefit with more publicity, funds to organize their events better, and more prizes and kitties for the top finishers from them.
As always, it was a great time for athletes to catch up with long time colleagues whom they once trained together with in other camps before changing their training bases, and an opportunity for others to test how their training has so far been going on, with a rare speed workout for the marathon runners who were there in plenty. And for the foreign runners training in the country, it was a memorable experience of participating in a race in Kenya; which may not be like running anywhere else in the world.
The number of local athletes who turned up for the event was as impressive as expected being conducted in an area where, probably, the largest number of athletes in the world train. The women's race started some minutes earlier than the men's. It wasn't easy trying to control the men at the starting point with so much pushing and jostling. There were concerns that other athletes were already hiding at some points along the route waiting to join the race when the rest were already exhausted and a red marker was used to mark the chest numbers of the athletes at the starting, but time seemed to have been running out before all the athletes could be marked and the race was started, first with a false start that saw almost half of the athletes running for about 500m before being turned back to the starting point again. I remember walking back to the rear after so much pushing and meeting David Tarus, the winner of a number of local races in Kenya, who assured me that it was alright to relax behind the group to avoid being tripped and getting injured. I relaxed with him, but it was very hard trying to run past so many athletes after the race began.
The course was a very hard one starting from a steady climb that rose all the way almost to Iten, with only the degree of the climb varying at some points. Of all the 10km, perhaps it was just but one kilometer towards the end of the race that comprised a section that sloped downwards near Iten town.
After a few years of not appearing in the sports headlines, Alice Timbilil finally came back in style by winning the women's race in 35:05 minutes, followed by Pascalia Jepkorir and Valentine Kibet. Philip Kiplimo Mitei won the hotly contested men's race in 29:39 minutes, followed by Nicholas Togom in 29:46 and David Maru in 29:58.
With the athletic events now increasing in number across the country, the future of the sport definitely keeps looking better and brighter. The more the sport gets popular countrywide, the more the talents get to be discovered and developed.
Below is a list of some of the athletic events that Safaricom has undertaken to sponsor this year:
Safaricom Athletic Series:
  1. DAAK Deaf Track & Field National Championships   -   taking place at Nyayo National Stadium on 5th and 6th June
  2. Henry Wanyoike Hope for the Future Run - taking place on8th June in Kikuyu
  3. Iten Run - taking place in Iten on 3rd August
  4. Kisii Half Marathon - taking place in Kisii on 16th August
  5. Mombasa International Marathon - taking place in Mombasa Treasury Square on 25th August
  6. Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Memorial 10km road race - taking place at the Jaramogi Oginga Odinga University in Bondo on7th September
  7. Kericho Great Run - taking place in Kericho on 28th September
  8. Kebirigo (Gusii series) - taking place in Kisii on 4th October
  9. Ndalat Gaa Cross Country - taking place in Ndalat on 12th October
  10. Madoka Half Marathon - taking place in Wundanyi Taita Taveta on 19th October
  11. Tegla Loroupe Peace Race - taking place in Kapenguria on10th November
  12. KASS Marathon - taking place in Eldoret on 17th November
  13. Imenti South 15km road race - taking place in Nkubu Imenti South on 7th December
  14. Kisumu City National Marathon - taking place in Kisumu City.

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