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AK X-country meets have lost the oomph

Wednesday January 8 2014

Agnes Chebet (right) and other athletes battle it out during the 6th Athletics Kenya/KCB Cross Country meet, 6km junior women’s race held at Eldoret Polytechnic on January 05, 2014. Chebet won the race clocking 20:04:5, Sheila Jepng’etich was second timed at 20:08:0 while Daisy Jepkemei finished third clocking 20:24:0. PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA

Agnes Chebet (right) and other athletes battle it out during the 6th Athletics Kenya/KCB Cross Country meet, 6km junior women’s race held at Eldoret Polytechnic on January 05, 2014. Chebet won the race clocking 20:04:5, Sheila Jepng’etich was second timed at 20:08:0 while Daisy Jepkemei finished third clocking 20:24:0. PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA 

BARNABAS KORIR
By BARNABAS KORIR
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The AK cross country series may have concluded last weekend in Eldoret but the million dollar question is whether the event really lived up to expectations.

As far as I am concerned, I would say yes and no.  Yes, because all the six events were run as planned and no, because the series lacked the fire and oomph that has always associated with it.

It is obviously one thing hosting an event and it is another achieving the targets one has set with such  events.

For example, I am not sure the country would raise a strong team for the Africa Cross Country Championships if it was to happen today.

To call a spade a spade, the series was boring and lacked the drive that  always goes with running in the wild. Either the runners are not taking the Africa Cross Country Championship seriously or AK haven’t been strict with their rules.

I remember sometime back, AK came up with some rules requiring athletes to compete in at least three events of the series to qualify for Africa or World cross country championships.

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It is a pity that out of the six races forming the series, we have only had a handful of top runners taking part with most of them pulling out prematurely in individual races.

A case in point is the recent Eldoret race where two-time 1,500m champion, Asbel Kiprop and Chicago Marathon champion Geoffrey Mutai pulled out of the 12km race after falling off the pace.

In fact, out of the races, the only top runner who has been consistent is marathoner Florence Kiplagat, who is not even thinking of racing at the Africa show in Uganda.   I think time has come for AK to be tougher on rules and should only carry along athletes who are serious. As far as I am concerned, there are no small and big events and consistency should be the key to our selections.

It makes no sense to leave out athletes who have competed in the entire series and carry a one off athlete who performs well at the national trials.
Athletes must be made to run in at least three to four races to ensure sponsors get value for their money.

It beats logic when known cross country runners come to spectate events where they are supposed to be running as if the series is a “Talent Search Mission”.

The rules should not only apply to cross country but also to Commonwealth Games in August and subsequent events. It is time the federation got tougher on our runners who of late have operated as if they own everything and everybody.

Athletes are in the business of running and must understand sponsorship comes with their participation and good performances.

Barnabas Korir is the chairman, AK Nairobi Region

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