It was a good weekend for Kenyan athletes who won accolades at various international races. Indeed, it was a moment of national pride when Kenya was once again thrust into the limelight as the source of endless athletics talent.
The most watched race was on Saturday when Olympic Marathon champion and World record holder Eliud Kipchoge made history by clocking one hour, 59 minutes and 40 seconds in the "INEOS 1:59 Challenge" in Vienna, Austria.
In Chicago, Brigid Kosgei, who is also the London Marathon champion, broke the women’s 16-year-old world record by clocking 2:14:04. Another Kenyan, Lawrence Cherono, won in the men’s category in 2:05:45.
Kosgei erased Briton Paula Radcliffe’s time of 2:15:25, which she set during the 2003 London Marathon. The athlete who trains at Kapsait in Elgeyo-Marakwet County said she is happy with her achievement.
“I’m happy to set a new world record. My body reacted well and that is why I was able to maintain the pace to the finish line,” she said.
But behind this success, is a sorry tale of poor facilities. Kosgei trains in a remote area of Elgeyo-Marakwet.
Although the region has good altitude, the conditions are wanting. Kapsait is at the border of West Pokot and Elgeyo Marakwet counties, and the roads in the area are sub-standard.
The training camp lacks a track and Kosgei together with her training mates cannot use it for speed sessions. They are forced to use either the roads which are sometimes ruined by rains or they have to travel up to five kilometres to a nearby school.
Kosgei’s coach Eric Kimaiyo, a former Honolulu Marathon champion, told Nation Sport that it has been a struggle to get good results owing to the poor facilities.
“It is not an easy task for athletes at Kapsait who overcome the odds to perform well. This is pure talent, and I want to ask well-wishers to help the athletes by improving their standards of training,” Kimaiyo said.
Cherono, who is also the Boston Marathon champion, bagged the men’s title in a sprint finish against Ethiopians Defene Debela (2:05:46) and Asefa Mengstu (2:05:48) who came in second and third, respectively. Cherono, who is under the Rosa Associati management, has been camping at Kaptagat in Elgeyo Marakwet County where he trains from Monday to Saturday.
The athlete is part of a group that travels about 30km to Moi University-Annex Campus track for speed training. The same applies to the greatest marathoner of all times, Eliud Kipchoge, who has been doing his speed training at the university track every Tuesday.
Kipchoge together with his training mates are usually at the track before 7.00am in order to complete their session in time and give way for other athletes to use the already congested field.
This is the sad pattern in the North Rift region after the government failed to build stadiums.
In September, Sports Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed visited Kipchoge at the Global Sports Communication in Kaptagat where she promised to build a track for the athletes.
She also said that they had discussions with the contractors to resume work in all the stalled stadium projects. However, a spot check by Nation Sport revealed there was nothing going on.