Wilfred Kimitei and Valentine Kipketer win the 3rd First Lady Half Marathon in Nairobi, A view from Kenya, by Justin Lagat


Running in Kenya is growing up.

And with that growing up, has come some of the problems faced in other parts of the world, including doping. Justin writes about the devotion that Kenya's first lady has to her half marathon, and how the races have grown in three years, to 40,000 runners!

Ezekial Kemboi was featured in the race, so read on about the First Lady Half Marathon!

Kemboi_EzkielR-KenyaOT12.jpgEzekial Kemboi, king of the steeplechase, photo by PhotoRun.net

Wilfred Kimitei and Valentine Kipketer win the 3rd First Lady Half Marathon in Nairobi
As a fan of athletics, the race that happened today on the streets of Kenya's capital city made me wonder whether, as athletes and athletic fans, we may not at times seem a little bit selfish. We often demand to see more coverage of the elite athletes in all the races; the time splits of the leading pack, the names of the leaders at various stages of the race, the projected finish times, etc. Perhaps, some races, such as the one that happened today in Nairobi should only be more about the cause and having fun, and not always about the times run and the competition.
Perhaps we, as athletic fans, should at times also let the media show us more pictures of a dad running hand in hand with his daughter, youths taking selfies as they run together with friends, spectators cheering to encourage runners and the spirit of runners picking up lost children, phones and other items and letting the race organizers help them locate the owners.
Watching the third edition of the race live from a TV set this morning, it was hard to follow the elite runners because there was so much more happening on the course. 40,000 runners descended on the streets and many of Kenya's high ranking government officials took part in the race. They were also, apparently, drawing the attention of journalists away from the elite athletes.
And, perhaps the security arrangements also made it hard for the journalists to take good pictures of the leading packs.There were plenty of aerial view pictures of the race that showed the leading athletes at a distance, but it was hard to recognize them. The close pictures that were broadcasted at times were mostly of the government officials that included the first lady, the deputy president, many of the cabinet secretaries, members of parliament and many other dignitaries who were in the race. Only the top three elite athletes got the best coverage as they entered the Nyayo Stadium and took a lap on the track before crossing the finish line.
Wilfred Kimitei was the first winner of the day as he won the men's half marathon race. Valentine Kipketer won the women's race. There was also the 10km race that James Mwangi and Jackline Chepng'eno won for men and women respectively.
But, perhaps one elite athlete who got more coverage in this race more than the others is the two times Olympic and four times world 3,000m steeplechase champion, Ezekiel Kemboi. He was setting the pace and running side by side with Kenya's deputy president throughout the race before going back again to run with the first lady after the deputy president had finished his race.
Among the foreign dignitaries who completed the 21km race included the US ambassador to Kenya, Robert F. Godec. Most other public figures, including Rwanda's first lady, participated in the lesser demanding 10km race. Allegedly, seven first ladies from other countries had expressed their desire to run in this race, but the security and race officials had decided against it as more security measures still needed to be put in place to take care of all of them.
Hassan Wario, who is Kenya's cabinet secretary for sports, culture and arts, got a chance to speak after the race. He praised the first lady for choosing the sport of running to advocate for a good cause of preventing child mortalities across the country. He also assured Kenyans that the ministry together with the new anti-doping agency in the country was going to meet the deadline given to them by WADA to make Kenya compliant with the world anti-doping policies. "Kenya won the world championships last year in Beijing and being on top of the world comes with bigger responsibilities," he said.

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