Meeting with Tegla Loroupe in one of the most humbling situations at the Kip Keino Classic


There are many who think that the world of sports journalism is quite glamorous. And there are times that it is. But, in this day and age, espcially in the time of a pandemic, all are more or less equal.

Justin Lagat wrote this piece on the challenges of getting through to be credentialed at the Kip Keino Classic, as the pandemic is challenging and slowing down all operations. Throw in the biggest icon in Kenyan athletics, and note that she was neither feted nor recognized. It would be as if Michael Johnson was in line in a media event in US and did not get recognized.

tegla laroupe laureus .jpegTegla Laroupe, photo by Laureus

After spending, or rather wasting, almost two hours being frustratingly moved from one gate to the other as I tried to enter the stadium to cover the Kip Keino Classic Continental Tour Gold meeting in Kasarani; then being asked to wait for some forms to fill that never arrived, then being asked to look for a paper to write my details and follow the line to the end before being turned back again to find a larger paper to write the same details; then being told to forget about the paper and just give out my details once I finally made it to the front of the line for the third time; I almost lost hope and decided to go back home, but then saw the great and legendary Tegla Loroupe was as well in a queue parallel to mine!

Loroupe is one of the most decorated icons of the sport in the whole world. She was named the United Nations Ambassador of Sport in 2006. Through her foundation, the Tegla Loroupe Peace Foundation, she has established the "Peace through Sports" marathon series in three different countries where presidents, prime ministers, ambassadors, and government officials run with warriors and nomadic groups in Kenya, in Uganda, and in Sudan in an effort to foster peace among the warring communities. She was inducted into the Olympians for life project for her work in promoting peace at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games where she had attended as the Chef de Mission for the Refugee Team.

In her career as a runner, Loroupe won many of the world's major marathons including the New york city Marathon, the London Marathon, and the Berlin marathon, just to name a few of them.

However, as some people who were unknown to me, cut the line ahead of her wearing "VIP" tags to be served first, Tegla Loroupe remained calm behind everyone else in the queue. Being in a line parallel to mine, I got to chat with her briefly. She had her tag facing the other way round, and with the sun getting hotter I got concerned and told her that she should move to the front to be attended first like the other VIPs, but she turned her tag to me and it was written "AK Family." So, she had to wait in line.

However, after she gave out her name when she finally reached the end of the line, someone finally recognized her and immediately wanted to take her away to get her a "VIP" tag, but she said there was no need since she had already made it to the end of the line. Anyway, from there, she started getting more attention as her COVID-19 results even came out relatively faster than for the rest of us. Someone from the organization of the event took her to get her a VIP tag.

The event organizer, Barnaba Korir after I briefed him about the incident replied that "We have been limited with the Covid-19 and restrictions pertaining to that. We appreciate all efforts by everyone who loves sports. However, we are open to suggestions that will make our event successful in the future," he wrote in an SMS.

My suggestion would be to inform all parties attending the event, through email or phone calls, way before they arrive at the stadium on which gate to use, where to get their tags, and other procedures to follow at the event venue.

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