Why the IAAF World Cross Country should stay permanently in Eastern Africa, A view from Kenya


RunBlogRun opines: Justin Lagat continues to provide RunBlogRun wonderful pieces from the view of a runner and journalist in Kenya. His view, in this column, about the World Cross Country having a permanent home in East Africa, is fascinating. The success of the meet in Kampala can not be underestimated. I believe it shows the continued potential of the oldest and most primal part of our sport, cross country.

Jacob Kiplimo u 20 .jpgJacob KIplimo, photo by PhotoRun.net

My issues are with nationality issues, which was major reason why only two European countries featured full senior men and women's teams, considering that over 49 countries just participated in European Indoor Championships and the same number at the European Cross Country Championships.

Lord Coe made some suggestions in Doha last year on where cross country is going, and where it should be. I also support Lord Coe and the IAAF in building athletics in Africa, it is very important as many of our finest athletes are from the continent. I also see women's athletics in Africa as being important in providing women across Africa with more opportunities to challenge themselves and how their communities view women. This is where sport can affect great and important change.

None the less, cross country deserves more respect in our sport and rules that gives confidence to Federations that their teams, while not medal worthy, will be able to compete in a respectable manner.

Thanks to Justin Lagat for this fine column.

In Kampala, there were passionate moments that moved fans watching the event almost to tears as crowds ran helter-skelter across the Kololo grounds shouting hoarsely in support of their favorite athletes, especially the home ground fans when Jacob Kiplimo approached the finish line in the junior men's race. Such is the atmosphere that makes a sporting event interesting to watch. After what happened to Uganda, perhaps it should be time that the IAAF body considers making the event revolve permanently around the Eastern African countries of Uganda, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Kenya.

As the athletes from the Eastern Africa countries flew to the Endebe international airport; their fans traveled by road in cars, trucks and buses to meet them at the international event. And, as the races went on, coaches, cheering squads and fans from these countries could be seen running parallel to the athletes alongside the course waving their national flags passionately. They were moments to behold and cherish. That level of passion for the world cross country event can only be found in East Africa.

In as much as we like our national athletes, it is not necessarily true that when events happen close to home, they inspire the nationals more. Here in Kenya, the athletes that are held in high regard are those who win major marathons far away from home. Because of the nature of a big city marathon, the organization and good media coverage; Wilson Kipsang, for example, will appeal more as a hero to Kenyans when he wins the Tokyo Marathon in Japan than Robert Kipkemboi who won the Nairobi Marathon, the biggest road running event here in Kenya.
In fact, the same can be said of other sporting events. Kenyan football (soccer) players who get admired by many Kenyans are those who play in the English football premier leagues; like Victor Wanyama and McDonald Mariga.

Likewise, if cross country event remains in East Africa and receives the enthusiasm and following that the football premier leagues enjoy in Europe, then perhaps, it will reach a time that everyone across the world will be interested in competing to the world cross country event in Eastern Africa as the ultimate achievement in one's career in running.

There will be no day that the Winter Olympics will happen in East Africa because we lack the snow here. In the same way, letting the world cross country take place in countries that lack enthusiasm and passion for the event is not so different from having the Winter Olympics in Eastern Africa.

Leave a comment

Wake up to RunBlogRun's news in your inbox. Sign up for our newsletter and we'll keep you informed about the Sport you love.

Subscribe to RunBlogRun's Global News Feed

* indicates required