NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 9 – Three hours and 46 minutes after she started the 21 Kilometer course on Sunday, First Lady Margaret Kenyatta sprinted to the finish line of the inaugural First Lady’s Half Marathon with her arms raised and straight into the arms of President Uhuru Kenyatta.
The First Lady who maintained a steady power-walking pace throughout the course expressed pleasure at having finished the race and set her sights on the London Marathon.
“Now I can boldly say, London here we come,” she said to applause.
President Kenyatta expressed pride in his wife’s accomplishment and the determination she demonstrated by seeing the marathon through, all the way to the finish line.
“She said she was willing to do anything to bring an end to maternal and infant mortality. I didn’t believe she would actually go to this extent. I am completely proud of her and I really think that this is a fantastic effort on her part,” he enthused.
Health Cabinet Secretary James Macharia, who kept pace with the First Lady, also expressed admiration at her determination and how effortless she made it look.
“She was smiling and waving all the way. And I was very proud although I was very challenged; we couldn’t stop in our group because Her Excellency was in that group and so falling off was going to be quite embarrassing,” he admitted.
Athletics Kenya Chairman Isaiah Kiplagat also sang the First Lady’s praises saying that he was impressed by the over 30,000 participant turn out and wishing her all the best at the London Marathon to be held on April 13.
“For her to run 21 Kilometres which I cannot even run myself as the President of Athletics Kenya is great. I would like to say thank you, your Excellency because it is not easy and now that you are preparing for London Marathon I think there are bigger things to come,” he said.
Former World Marathon record holder Tegla Loroupe, on her part, thanked President Kenyatta for permitting his wife to take part in the marathon.
“I want to thank the Government of Kenya and the President who gave authority for First Lady to do the marathon. She has run in her heart and she gets up very early in the morning more than us; at 5am. How many can wake up at 5am? So she’s teaching us not to be lazy and to be a country of runners,” she said.
And after she got off the course, the First Lady got onto a mobile clinic — the motivation for the marathon — which she drove for a few feet before awarding the winners of the inaugural First Lady’s Half Marathon.
But she received her certificate from none other than the Head of State and her husband, President Kenyatta, who accompanied it with a hearty handshake and a pat on the back.
On Saturday, during celebrations for the International Women’s Day, he explained that he was unable to participate in the marathon himself as he was in no physical shape to do so.
The First Lady has been training for both the inaugural First Lady’s marathon and the London marathon since January under the watchful eye of Douglas Wakiihuri who was the first Kenyan to win a World Championship marathon gold medal in 1987.
Through both the First Lady’s Half Marathon and the London Marathon, she hopes to raise about Sh500 million, of which she has raised Sh200 million so far, for 47 mobile clinics, one for each county, as part of the Beyond Zero campaign.
The Beyond Zero campaign’s aim is to eradicate maternal and infant mortality; an end the First Lady hopes to achieve by ensuring expectant mothers, the children they carry and infants do not loose their lives for lack of health care.
And as for the choice of a marathon to raise both funds and awareness the First Lady explained: “Nothing reflects our resilience and strength as Kenyans more than our marathon running.”
Deputy President William Ruto’s wife Rachel Ruto also joined the First Lady in running the marathon finishing her race in four hours and 20 minutes.