American athletics manager who spearheaded Patrick Makau's meteoric rise was laid to rest on Saturday in a unique burial in Iten.
Mr Zane Branson, who saw Makau break a world marathon record run in 2011, was buried at Kerio Valley Hotel.
Hundreds of top athletes and Elgeyo Marakwet Governor Alex Tolgos attended the burial ceremony.
Mr Branson, 58, died on July 25 after collapsing in Iten with what was later diagnosed as a heart attack and his family agreed that his remains be interred at the hotel where he loved to spend most of his time while visiting his elite Kenyan athletes.
Branson's family donated heart equipment to the Iten County Referral Hospital saying if local hospitals had such facilities, the agent's life would have been saved and were all present at the ceremony.
Makau shattered the world marathon record at the 2011 Berlin Marathon under the watchful eye of Branson, himself a former athlete.
Branson also managed multiple Amsterdam Marathon champion Wilson Chebet and top Kenyan woman runner Joyce Chepkirui, among many other star runners.
At one point, Makau broke down during the funeral service with fellow athletes helping him pull himself together.
“Branson loved all athletes, even those who were not in his stable. We have lost a mentor and a very good man,” Chebet said at the service that was attended by Branson’s parents Chuck and Joyce, his brother Mark, sisters Bette and Lea and his partner Evgeniia.
“He died suddenly at the place he loved. He died doing what he loved. He died being loved and appreciated,” said Edward Yego, Branson’s friend and colleague.
Branson was born in Painsville, Ohio, on September 23, 1957, and started competitive running while at Staunton River High School.
Governor Tolgos, while speaking at the funeral service led by Orthodox Archbishop Makarios at Iten's Kamariny Stadium, affirmed his administration’s commitment to improving sports facilities at the world-famous high altitude training zone around Iten town that is home to scores of foreign sportsmen who enjoy the conducive high-performance training conditions there.
“This county and athletics is one and the same thing and we have to do everything possible to ensure those training are comfortable. Deliberations
between the County and the National Governments are at an advanced
stage to put up a state of art sports facilities here in Iten,” said Governor Tolgos who eulogised Branson as a man of the people.
Cherangani MP Wisely Korir, who is himself a renowned marathoner and former Boston Marathon champion, described the deceased as a personal friend who greatly helped him make his debut in global marathon running.
“He was always a gentleman. I remember when I was going to the Czech
Republic, though Zane was not my agent at that time, he helped me with the logistics,” said Korir.
“As we grief with his relatives, I want to thank his family and America for the honour that you saw it fit to let this man be buried here in Kenya in particularly in this place where he loved,” the MP added.
Branson was also a music promoter.