Sotokoto: Runners’ New Dawn

Published on 27/05/2009

By Mutwiri Mutuota

The inaugural Sotokoto Safari Marathon survived murky politics that characterised its planning to receive a ringing endorsement from the public.

David Tarus wins the men’s category of the Sotokoto Safari Marathon at the Nairobi National Park on Sunday. [PHOTO: STAFFORD ONDEGO]

Elite athletes and fun runners were taken through a route that started and ended inside the Nairobi National Park, through Lang’ata and Mombasa roads before turning back at the South C Total Service Station for the finish.

“The up and down course was ideal for road running and to finish inside a game park knowing that wild animals could come out any time was exciting,” Philes Ongori, who ran 71.11 to win the women’s 21km main race, told reporters.

“Being a hill runner, I found the second part of the route easy but the national park bit was too slow,” offered David Tarus, who ran 62.29 for victory in the men’s race.

Both runners, seasoned road racers in their own right, pocketed Sh1.2m and with a total prize pool of Sh10m handed out to various top finishers, the event earned its place as a highlight in Kenya’s athletics calendar.

Few buses

Sizeable crowds along the route and inside the park where supporters jostled for few buses ferrying them from the main gate added the colour.

Along the course, worshippers heading to church, passengers in matatus, construction workers and city residents living in Lang’ata, Nairobi West and South C stopped to cheer the athletes.

As runners filed past, many were chanting, “Wanjiru yuko wapi, tunataka kumuona Wanjiru? (Where is Olympic and London marathon champion, Samuel Wanjiru, we want to see him).

Wanjiru, the country’s distance sensation, was indeed at the finish but not in the competing gear crowds desired.

“Having such races in Kenya where our runners can earn good money for their effort is a welcome idea. Often our best talent goes abroad although we like competing before our own people,” Wanjiru, who is training for an attempt to break the 2:03:59 world marathon record, said.

Media liaison

However, improvement, on media liaison in subsequent editions needs to be made. Relevant information on participants and other details was scanty before the event — a worrying outcome since the secretariat had two months to register runners.

For a race of its calibre, absence of an official start list was embarrassing. Decorated athletes like Leah Malot (1987 women’s 10,000m All Africa Games champion) and Irene Lemika (selected in Kenya’s marathon team for Berlin Worlds) competed without the knowledge of most fans.

It is easy to forget that the race, organised by former world champion and Olympic silver medallist, Douglas Wakiihuri, and title sponsored by Japanese publication, Sotokoto Magazine, tore Athletics Kenya Nairobi Branch in the middle.



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