2015 NIKE Discovery Kenya XC Championships in Eldoret, A View from Kenya, by Justin Lagat

Leading pack senior men: Including Asbel Kiprop (1012), Peter Emase (1147) Conseslus Kipruto (1179) -notice the missing shoe on his left foot, photo by Justin Lagat/Kenyan Athlete

2015 Nike Discovery Kenya XC Championships in Eldoret, by Justin Lagat

Asbel Kiprop (1012) at the lead, by Justin Lagat/Kenyan Athlete

In one of the most competitive competitions in Kenya, Peter Emase and Agnes Tirop emerged winners of the senior races at this year's Eldoret Nike Discovery Kenya cross country event. The elite fields of both events were, as usual in this event, packed with great international stars.

The junior men's race, photo by Justin Lagat/Kenyan Athlete

At the start of the senior men's race, 1500m Olympic champion, Asbel Kiprop took the lead. But, he soon settled back into a comfortable position behind others who took up from him and it looked like he was determined to finish the race this time round and wanted to run a bit conservatively, unlike last year when he had opened up a 50 meter gap and maintained it for about 2 km before dropping out. The going got tougher for him after about 8 km, but he made the spectators cheer wildly when he ran past some runners to regain the lead, relaxed a bit at the lead, sprinted again to open a gap before stopping abruptly next to an ambulance bending and holding his knees.

3000m steeplechase world silver medalist and Diamond League winner, Conseslus Kipruto, was also in the leading pack for the better part of the race, running with only one shoe after getting spiked early in the race and loosing the other shoe. His bare foot could not cope with the rough ground and he had to drop out dejected.

Senior women running in rhythm; Agnes Tirop, Purity Cherotic and Violah Kibiwot, photo by Justin Lagat/Kenyan Athlete

For the last stages of the race, Emase and another athlete exchanged the lead while Kenneth Kipkemoi kept overlapping other athlete from behind and slowly threatening to close their gap. With about 500m to go, Emase showed that he still had much energy left in him and started to accelerate opening a sizable gap. He even started to wave to the spectators with over 200m to go before comfortably cutting the tape.

The senior women's race was interesting to watch too, especially after Agnes Tirop had taken an early lead and three other athletes; Purity Cherotich, Violah Kibiwot and Margaret Jelimo struggled to keep up with her fast  pace. Margaret Jelimo who recently joined the senior category was the first to lose some ground on the leaders. The three athletes remaining at the lead kept a perfect rhythm in their steps; when one athlete was in the air, they were all in the air with the same legs landing simultaneously. Given that they were very senior and experienced athletes trailing Agnes, one can easily conclude that it is one way the athletes use to prevent a gap from opening.

Peter Emase, late in the race, photo by Justin Lagat/Kenyan Athlete

However, with a kilometer to go, Agnes was finally able to break away. The rest could not match her strength and she was able to open a gap of over a hundred meters before crossing the finish line. Purity Cherotich followed second while Kibiwot took third.

Earlier on, before the senior races, there were many other categories that included the junior races and even for the under 6 year old kids.

The Nike Discovery cross country race continues to grow every year. After observing the races today, I cannot help but ask myself the same question that one foreign international athlete asked me after watching the races too. 

Do athletes who win here still need to run at the trials to be named into the Kenyan team for the world cross country championships, or should they just be given wild cards?

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