After a strong performance in Europe, elite runners head back home for the institutional and provincial athletics meetings staring with this Saturday’s Armed Forces Cross Country race at the Kahawa Garrisson.
There will also be a 30km race open for the public. Barnabas Koskei, who was third at the Eldoret meeting over the weekend, will be the man to beat as he put his title to the line against a strong field that has 2007 winner William Chebon, world military games 10,000m champion Mark Kiptoo, and veteran John Korir.
In the women race, 26 year old Linet Chepkirui, who won the Lagos Half-Marathon in 2007, is the favourite. Head coach Julius Kirwa said all the top military runners must honour the meeting to be considered for the national trials on February 21 at Ngong Race Course grounds.
Chepkirui, who will be representing Embakasi, launched her cross country season in Nyahururu where she triumphed over the 8km distance at the KCB weekend meeting on December 27. She however, must brace for a repeat showdown with Irene Limika who has won in Nairobi.
Chepkurui is making a return from a nagging leg injury that ruled her out of action the entire season last year.
Her first stop on return was in Eldoret in December when she competed in the Wareng Tuskys cross country meeting where she finished second. She followed it up with a win in Nyahururu which held her campaign to clinch the Armed Forces and National titles in good stead.
“Beating top runners like Innes Chenonges and Irene Limika made me feel that my recovery was on the right track. I will definitely go for a place in the national team for the World Cross Country Championships in Amman,” she said.
There will also be Doris Chengeiywo, Irene Kwambai, Gladys Cherono and Monica Otwori.
But there may be a surprise in the men’s race which will see defending champion Barnabas Kosgei make another attempt to retain the title. Kosgei, who was dropped from the 2008 World Cross Country Championship team last year, has another chance to prove the national coach wrong.
He was third in Eldoret in a race that several top runners opted to skip. But he has to contend with tough opposition from among others, Kiptoo, who has been in top form in Europe.
Others are Abraham Cherono, Korir, Sammy Kipketer, Kimutai Kiplimo, William Chebon, Vincent Kiprop, Linus Chumba, Shadrack Koskei, Patrick Nthiwa and Gideon Gathimba.
Kirwa said the open KCB weekend series has not been a disappointment and cautioned the armed forces runners to be at their best form.