Athletics Kenya President Jackson Tuwei has hailed the inaugural Mount Kenya Mountain Running Championship held in Meru county last Saturday as a big success.
Tuwei said the race just needed improvement on a few “logistical” issues so that it could seamlessly host a global event.
Participants were stuck in traffic for hours since the murram road leading to the venue is largely one-way thus hindering traffic flow to and from the Kenya School of Leadership and Adventure situated at the foot of Mt Kenya.
“The race was largely a success and it has helped popularize mountain running. There are a few areas to be improved. We will have to wait for the third championship to see if we can make it international. We have been sending runners to compete outside the country and now they have a chance to run at home,” said Tuwei.
Purity Gitonga and Emmanuel Bok won the inaugural 12-kilometre event ran at 2,800 metres above sea level, walking away with Sh500,000 prize money.
The championship was sponsored by various organizations, among them Nation Media Group which fielded a 20-member corporate team led by CEO Stephen Gitagama.
Meru Governor Kiraitu Murungi, his Kisumu counterpart Anyang’ Nyong’o, MPs Rahim Dawood and Kirima Nguchine and a host of MCAs also took part.
At least 10 ambassadors and foreign dignitaries from the European Union took part in the grueling experience, with Ambassador Simon Mordue finishing the 12-kilometre run in an impressive 75 minutes.
An ecstatic Kiraitu immediately predicted success for Meru runners in future events, laying elaborate intentions to popularize the race among the local youth.
Kiraitu said they will reach out to the national government so that they could use Kenya School of Leadership and Adventure as an athletics training camp.
“I am happy that the first winner is a girl from Kibirichia, just a few kilometres from the venue. It gives credence to the fact that we have a lot of talent. Just like the Kalenjin have dominated the marathon, we want to specialize in mountain running,” said Kiraitu.
The marathon dubbed "Challenging the Heights" seeks to mobilize funds towards the establishment of a cancer centre at the Meru Level Five Hospital and at the same time market the region as a tourism destination and investment hub to boost the county’s economy.
Kiraitu also announced plans to open up more routes to Mt Kenya, including setting up of cable cars to help tourists enjoy aerial view of the UNESCO world heritage site.
Kiraitu said the county had already increased pathways to the mountain to three, after opening up Theemwe route, in addition to Sirimon.
Theemwe route provides the easiest access to the scenic Lake Ellis at the top of Mt Kenya, where Meru government recently held a successful 4 by 4 Challenge attended by tens of race car enthusiasts.