TOKYO, Japan, Aug 30 – The Beyond Zero campaign entered a new dawn Friday when First Lady Margaret Kenyatta extended her training to Tokyo, Japan where she also launched the 3rd edition of the First Lady’s Half Marathon 2016.
The launch also marked the third time that the First lady was taking her Beyond Zero funds-raising expeditions abroad. The first such outing was during the London Half Marathon in 2014 and the recent training session in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, two weeks ago.
The marathons are aimed at creating awareness and mobilizing resources to fund Beyond Zero activities especially the acquisition of mobile clinics that the initiative has been distributing to the devolved units.
So far, 32 counties have benefited from the fully kitted clinics with significant impact on maternal and child health at the grassroots.
Buoyed by Japanese Government officials and the health-conscious nationals from Tokyo, the First Lady ran a 5km race around the emperor’s Imperial Palace in a chilly morning marked by a light drizzle.
Before the run, the enthusiastic participants that included the Kenyan ambassador to Japan Solomon Karanja, Beyond Zero team and JICA officials took part in a light work-out exercise to prepare themselves for the grueling race.
The pre-marathon training session around the verdant Imperial palace was unique in its own way because the First Lady was retracing the steps of past world marathon champions including her own personal coach Douglas Wakiihuri, Eric Wainaina and the late Samuel Wanjiru.
The three Kenyan marathon giants trained and made their names in the same “sports-crazy” nation where old age seems to be a key motivation to keep running every morning. Japan has some of the oldest people anywhere in the world.
After the race, the First Lady unveiled the official banner to launch the FLHM 2016 marathon at a colourful ceremony at the Hibiya Park.
The FLHM 2016 is slated for Sunday, March 6.
Thanking the Japanese nationals and the Government for hosting her and providing the training facilities, the First Lady said there were compelling reasons why she unveiled the FLHM 2016 in Japan.
She said the vision of the World Assembly for Women (WAW 2015) where she was a key participant resonates very well with the Beyond Zero campaign, whose ultimate goal is to empower the Kenyan woman and child through good health.
Secondly,said the First Lady, Japan is a country well known for its sporting culture and where some of the greatest Kenyan marathon champions had honed their world beating prowess.
The First Lady said Japan also epitomizes the much needed culture of ‘making women shine’ globally through the ongoing (WAW) intitiative by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Such a culture , she added, should be encouraged both in Kenya and across the world to enable equity and the overall empowerment of women.
The Chief Guest at the launch, Ambassador Norio Maruyana who is the Director General of Africa Affairs Department in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Japan said the event was significant because it was in recognition of Tokyo’s status as a “marathon City”.
He described the Beyond Zero campaign as a game-changer in Kenya’s health delivery system which had brought hope to many mothers and children living in under-served areas.
“The Beyond Zero is changing lives in a significant way,” said Ambassador Maruyana.
The First Lady was in Japan for the two-day WAW conference convened by PM Shinzo and which ended Saturday.