Helen Obiri and Amos Kirui win Kenya's national cross country championships, A view from Kenya

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IMG_20190223_164827.jpgKamworor and Rodgers Kwemoi leading with about 1km to go as their manager Jos Hermens urges them on, photo by Justin Lagat

DSCN0375.JPGHelen Obiri doing a solo run, photo by Justin Lagat

DSCN0003.JPGThe crowd, Kenyan National Cross Country Champs, photo by Justin Lagat

The Kenyan National Cross Country Championships was held on Februay 23. Justin Lagat covered the event for RunBlogRun, as he has for nearly six years, giving us a View from Kenya each and every week.

The road to the venue was crowded. But, it was expected. The love of athletics is so much around this part of Kenya. The Eldoret Sports Club has been hosting mega events in the past and still, there was still enough room to reserve as a parking space for cars. Today, vehicles had no space in the venue, except those belonging to the VIPs and other emergency services.

There is no way to tell the number of fans that turned up, but my guess is that it was the largest number that ever attended a cross country event anywhere else in the world. There was nowhere for me to take a bird's eye view picture of the fans as all the trees, fire engines, lorries and any high points around were already full to capacity. But, there was enough room to move around the course and enjoy the event.

As expected, there were many surprises and upsets in almost all the events. Agnes Tirop, the 2015 world champion and Ruth Chepngetich, the Dubai Marathon champion could only cover about 3km before stepping out of the course. Stacy Ndiwa, 10,000m African Champion and Margaret Chelimo would follow, seeming to have developed some problems in the race.

Helen Obiri was the only athlete who seemed not to have been affected by the warm weather and high altitude as she easily shook off the rest of her competitors to run a solo run at the front before finally emerging as the winner with a clear margin. Lilian Kasait and Beatrice Mutai had momentarily tried to stick to her, but it did not take long before the gap started growing up. Mutai held on to a distant second position, but Kasait faded to sixth position in the end. Beatrice Chepkoech, the 3000m steeplechase world record holder finished strongly to seal the first three positions.

Amos Kirui caused a major upset in the senior men's race. Even with about a kilometer to go, no one could tell the potential winner with Geoffrey Kamworor still holding on to the lead slightly ahead of Rodgers Kwemoi, his training partner. He appeared to be struggling like everyone else behind him. With about 500m to go, Kirui surprised everyone with a fast finishing kick that left the others trailing him in a single file as he went ahead to win the race. Evans Keitany followed to take second ahead of Kwemoi in third. Kamworor and the other pre-race favorite, Rhonex Kipruto came in fifth and sixth respectively.

The top six athletes in all the race categories were named in the team. Agnes Tirop and Conseslus Kipruto despite not making the team in their respective races were lucky to be named into the mixed relay team.

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