NAIROBI, October 25- The Stanchart Nairobi Marathon is an annual sporting and social spectacle to behold in the Kenyan capital but one man, Julius Njogu, shot to infamy when he attempted to cheat his way to riches in the 13th edition on Sunday.
As is tradition, the streets of Nairobi were taken over by elite, corporate and fun runners, estimated at 17,000 as luminaries mingled freely with ordinary people of all walks of life in what has evolved to be an annual ritual to get residents of the robust Kenyan capital out for a day of fun.
However, the celebration degenerated to drama and confusion as attention turned to Njogu, 28, when he crossed the line for what would have been a richly rewarding second finish in the men’s marathon- he had Sh650,000 in prize money reasons to smile.
“I don’t think he has run,” one of the press hounds at the finish uttered, capturing the mood of many around the finish area.
As the man who had breast the tape for victory Joshua Kipkorir lay in the ground, exhausted and writhing in pain from completing the gruelling 42.195km course in the punishing High Altitude of Nairobi, the strain of the effort evident, Njogu appeared to have come off a jog, hardly breaking sweat.
He looked the part, singlet and running short complete with an official bib number 388 pinned across his torso but his running shoes looked a bit off, not to mention an extended body frame that did not fit the profile of a marathoner.
Njogu did not even head to the medical tent as all top finishers around him did for attention on burning muscles, cramps or other adverse effects. The official photographer who had joined the press area after being dropped close to the Nyayo National Stadium finish could not even recall anyone like him.
Soon, all the media attention turned to his infamy questioning his kit, participation and why he looked like someone strolling out of a mall or about to start, not finish a marathon.
Security and officials soon set upon him like a rash, questioning him of his training methods and alleged camp in Naivasha.
Video footage and photographs from the course were reviewed as course judges submitted data from their various split check points that showed no proof of his participation. He had stretched his legs for less than a kilometre, joining the leading trio in full view of the stadium.
His goose was cooked. Njogu, the fake hero was led to the nearby Nyayo Stadium Police Post for further questioning by security and race officials with the drama delaying announcement of official results.
In 2013 similar controversy was sparked in the women’s full marathon when two runners claimed the victory but after analyzing data it was clear they were part of a scam.
– Fanfare galore-
Njogu’s shenanigans blighted but did not dampen the sporting carnival that saw Nairobi taken over by participants spotting the white, green and blue kit of sponsoring bank, Stanchart as they ran, jogged, walked or crawled along the course.
Joshua Kipkorir and Elizabeth Rumokoi joined the millionaires’ roster after each took home Sh1.5m for winning the men and women classic distance races with runner-ups and third finishers pocketing Sh650,000 and Sh350,000 with 1000 taking part in the elite race.
High profile bigwigs who donned their running gear to support the charity event that benefits the Seeing Is Believing cause to battle blindness included United States of America Ambassador Robert Godec, Central Bank Governor Dr Patrick Ngugi, Legendary Kenyan runner Lorna Kiplagat, and Baringo Senator Gideon Moi who joined various captains of industry.
The event motto for 2015 was Run For A Reason with Godec running the 21km race which he enjoyed because it was not too hot.
“I love to participate in marathons. It keeps me fit; some participate for various reasons physically, and mentally. For me it’s more spiritual and I think it’s very important when you also run for a reason,” the American envoy underpinned.
With the much feared El Nino rains keeping away from the capital as temperate conditions after an overcast morning gave runners ideal settings to put their best feet forward, the event did not disappoint.
Social media was awash with messages and photos of gratified finishers in various categories, with the half marathon and 10K races popular among family and corporate teams.
Njogu ‘the cheat’ however, took the biscuit.