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.
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.