NAIROBI, Kenya, June 18- Boston and New York Marathon record holder Geoffrey Mutai and 2009 Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon runner-up David Tarus will face off at the third edition of Sotokoto Safari Half Marathon set for July 8 in Nairobi.
Mutai who ran the fastest recorded marathon in history after clocking 2:03:02 in Boston last year clinched the Sotokoto title in 2010 after upstaging Tarus who had won the inaugural edition in 2009.
In the women category, former Commonwealth 10,000m champion and Dubai Marathon runner-up Lucy Kabuu will be the star attraction where she will compete against Japan based Philes Ongori, last year’s Amsterdam Marathon titleholder who won the inaugural Sotokoto race in 2009.
Speaking on Monday at a press briefing, the event’s technical manager George Kariuki announced the race had so far attracted 647 athletes among them 620 locals.
“Despite the dip in the prize money, we expect to register at least 3000 athletes who we believe will be motivated by the presence of the elite names that many up-coming athletes are looking forward to compete against.
“The past winners will greatly raise the profile of the event particularly after it failed to take place last year owing to the tsunami disaster in Japan where our sponsors are based,” he expressed.
The race was the most lucrative half marathon in the country with a prize purse of Sh1.2m for the winner of the elite races but this year, the jackpot has been scaled down to Sh250,000.
Bridesmaid will pocket Sh125,000 with bronze winners taking home Sh100,000 with winners in the men 10km races bagging Sh100,000, Sh50,000 and Sh30,000 to correspond with their podium finishes.
“However we will extend awards to the top ten finishers in the main race as we hope that in the coming years the prize money will move up to Sh1.5m we had envisaged before the devastating tsunami,” Kariuki added.
A large field of over 500 runners has sent entries for the main 21km race while 114 are in the 10 km. 27 international athletes will fly in for the event with Japan leading the pack with 11 followed by the USA with 10.
Ireland will be represented by two runners as Congo, India and Somalia have one each.
“Registration will be on-going at our Head office in Langata, Riadha house and all other Athletics Kenya (AK) branches across the country up to the July 7 deadline.
“On the other hand athletes who bring in entries after July 2 will attract a Sh500 penalty above the normal Sh1,000 fee for adults,” the race director explained of the race that saw 2,100 runners take part in 2010.
Event director, former Olympic silver medallist and World Marathon champion Douglas Wakiihuri clarified that athletes will be subjected to doping tests in line with the regulations.
“In case samples of any athletes’ test positive for any banned substance we will pass the same findings to AK for appropriate action”
Mutai, who missed out on London Olympics selection after failing to finish his Boston Marathon defence in April, clinched the second Sotokoto after clocking 1:07.55 ahead of Tarus who crossed the line in a time of 1:08.21 while Elijah Moturi third in 1:09.02.
“Before Sotokoto we barely knew Mutai who later set the New York course record besides winning Boston emerging as the fastest man in the distance,” added Wakiihuri.
Helah Jelagat was crowned the women champion after completing the course in 1:17.52, ahead of second placed Irene Jerotich in 1:19.22 with Peninah Arusei following closely to take third in 1:19.36.
The Half Marathon to be flagged off at the Uhuru gardens is geared towards the promotion of peace and conservation of the environment.