Nairobi Stanchart in elite athletes’ nod

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NAIROBI, Kenya, October 19- The forthcoming 8th Stanchart Nairobi International Marathon received major endorsement on Wednesday from two of the country’s foremost distance runners.

World marathon record holder, Patrick Makau Musyoki and double women’s world champion, Vivian Cheruiyot were unveiled by organisers as among the elite faces for the October 30 event.

During a media briefing, organisers also disclosed 5,500 entries had been received for the event so far as Athletics Kenya (AK) boss, Isaiah Kiplagat, tore Nairobi City fathers for their conspicuous absence in the run-up to the event.

“It is a great thing to see this country can organize such a big event. When I travel out there, I’m often asked whether Kenya has the capacity to host such races and through the Stanchart Marathon, we have shown it can be done,” Cheruiyot, who bagged the women 5000m and 10000m top medals at the Daegu World Championships said.

“I will participate in the 10km run as motivation to upcoming athletes who have found a platform to grow at this event. It gives me great joy to see our country having an event that has international standards and it is my hope I will feature in this race when I turn to marathon running in future,” the World Cross senior women titleholder who also holds the Commonwealth and African 5000m crowns added.

“It is my prayer that many athletes will turn up next Sunday to race at this marathon that has done so much to encourage upcoming runners. I will be there to offer them encouragement since I have just resumed training and I’m in no shape to compete,” Makau, who raced to the 2:03:38 world record in Berlin last month expressed.

“We should ensure that this event grows to attract the top athletes but it is on the right track and this should be encouraged,” the twice World Half Marathon silver winner as well as the 2010 Amsterdam and Berlin marathons champion continued.

With only a fortnight to go before the starting gun of the biggest marathon in Kenya, Kiplagat took the opportunity to blast civic authorities for neglecting the event.

“In places I have traveled such as New York, London or Berlin, we see the mayor at the forefront of such marathons since they promote the cities they are held. It does not matter whether there is private sponsorship,” the AK chief said.

“Since we began preparations for this race, we have not seen the Nairobi Mayor involved and this is a let down. We have also talked to Brand Kenya to use our athletes such as Makau and Cheruiyot to market the country and we are still to get a response,” he charged.

Organisers are targeting 20,000 participants this year up from the 14,000 that ran last year as they expressed confidence they would attain their aim by the close of Saturday’s registration deadline.

“We decided to include elite athletes in the programme so as to inspire budding talent to aim for the best during the race. In the last eight years, we have witnessed a surge of late registrations and this year will not be different,” Reuben Mbindu, the event’s chairman and Stanchart Area Head of Human resources said.

Apart from Makau and Cheruiyot, double world marathon champion (men), Abel Kirui is among top distance runners involved in the promotional push for this year’s event.

The marathon aims at raising funds for the ‘Seeing is Believing’ charity that has seen many beneficiaries with sight problems in Turkana, Kikuyu Eye Hospital and Tenwek Mission hospital benefit.

Foreign entries are also streaming in with last year’s race attracting 55 nationalities in the event where the winners of the 42km elite races takes home $15,000 (Sh1.5m) with 21km half marathons, 10km road races and 5km family fun run completing the schedule of activity.

Meanwhile, AK boss, Kiplagat, challenged the organisers to draw up a course where runners in the 21km and 42km races do not mingle as is the case in the current route.

“To attract athletes like Makau, we cannot have athletes mixing and this is something that has been a problem with this race. I know there are issues with narrow roads in Nairobi and conflict with churches but we shall discuss with organisers to see how this can be improved.”

Among the most recognisable exports from previous Stanchart Nairobi races are last year’s winner (men), David Barmasai Tumo who went on to win the Dubai Marathon in January and finished fifth at the Daegu World Championships.

Twice winner, Irene Cherotich, the only repeat winner at the event, won the Commonwealth women’s title last year as well as registering a top-ten finish in Daegu for Team Kenya.

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