Athletics Kenya officials are discouraging individual runners from competing at Saturday’s National Cross Country Championships, rather focusing on athletes in regional teams and the disciplined forces.
But there is one exception. Dutchman Gert Brienne, a long-serving KLM cargo pilot, will be allowed to run alongside the teams at the Eldoret Sports Club, largely thanks to his love for Kenyan athletics. Of course, he will be very easy to spot, but Brienne, nicknamed “Rubani Mkimbiaji” (running pilot) will run in the famous Kenyan singlet, with bib number 367, as a sign of respect to the home of champions.
Brienne says besides running alongside the world’s best athletes, he will also use the race to prepare for April’s London Marathon. “I have to thank Athletics Kenya for allowing me to run. It’s a great hour,” Brienne told Nation Sport on telephone from Amsterdam.
“Of course I might be the last, given the high quality of the field, but I will compete in the Kenyan shirt just to show my respect for your great country and its great runners.”
The 51-year-old pilot was due to fly his Boeing 747 on a 10-hour flight from Amsterdam’s Schipol Airport to Johannesburg before connecting to Nairobi and then on to Eldoret in time for the 4pm senior men’s 10-kilometre race.