Organisers of the Virgin London Marathon on Saturday celebrated the launch of two archs they constructed on either side of the entry in Iten town by organising two-kilometre, arch-to-arch children’s races in this athletics-mad town.
“Welcome to Iten, the home of champions” screams the red arch which the Virgin London Marathon constructed as a way of giving back to a community that has produced several champions in the United Kingdom’s flagship marathon.
This is the first time that a big city marathon is giving back to a community that has provided the world’s finest marathon runners.
And there would have been no better way to celebrate the launch than have two of Great Britain’s finest runners, women’s marathon world record holder Paula Radcliffe and world 5,000 metres world champion and 10,000m silver medallist Mo Farah, in Iten.
“I like Iten very much and for me here its train, eat, sleep. It’s a great place for training,” said Farah, who left his native Somalia for Britain as an eight-year-old.
Radcliffe was equally elated, joking with local children before venturing out for her evening run with the crème de la crème of British sports journalists in tow.
Second stint in Iten
This is Radcliffe’s second stint in Iten, having made her “debut” here last November for training that held her in good stead as days after returning to Europe, she won a 10km race in her second home of Monte Carlo, Monaco.
Radcliffe and Farah are here as part of their preparations for their home London Olympics together with Great Britain’s middle distance stars who have pitched camp at Lornah Kiplagat’s High Altitude Training Centre.
The Virgin London Marathon’s race director, David Bedford, on Friday unveiled Kenya’s stellar cast for the April 22 London Marathon that has world champions Abel Kirui and Ednah Kiplagat and world record holder Mary Keitany.
‘Wall of Fame’ in Eldoret
The opening of the Iten arches was part of Bedford’s elaborate programme here that will also see his group launch a “Wall of Fame” in Eldoret town on Sunday, a mural of paintings celebrating Kenya’s triumphs in past London Marathon races.
Kenya’s previous winners in London, including three times champion Martin Lel, defending women’s Mary Keitany and Joyce Chepchumba are among the past champions who will be at Sunday's ceremony.
At Saturday’s children’s races, Virgin London Marathon and Nakumatt supermarket chain handed prizes that included foodstuff, books and stationery to the top runners.
“If you grow a little bigger and run a little faster, one day we will invite you to the Virgin London Marathon,” Bedford told the excited children who received gift packs handed over by multiple world record holder Lornah Kiplagat and 3,000m world record holder Daniel Komen.
Covered by Britain’s leading journalists
Ten-year-old Isaac Korir from Kiptabus Primary School won the 7-11 years age-group race with schoolmate Kelvin Kiprotich second and Kamariny Primary School’s Patience Kimutai winning the girls’ race after finishing an amazing second overall behind Korir.
Organisers did not provide the times for the races with Duncan Kiprop and Alice Kimutai coming out tops in the 11-15 year-old race.
Also present at Saturday's children’s races were area MP Lucas Chepkitony, Iten Mayor Mary Ruto and members of the district administration.
The ceremonies in Iten are also being covered by a battery of Britain’s leading track and field journalists who are trailing Farah, Radcliffe and Team Great Britain on a media tour organised by the Virgin London Marathon and UK Athletics.