Although the overcast weather and the threat of terrorist attacks from Somali insurgent group Al-Shabaab robbed the event the carnival atmosphere it has generate in recent years, more than 15,000 runners and Nairobi residents turned up for the event.
Elly Owiti, one of the senior officials in charge of security said, “You cannot begrudge people for feeling a bit afraid about what has been happening and hence the dumb mood we witnessed but for today, we had three levels of security.”
Participants, officials and supporters were screened outside the stadium perimeter, on the entry to the gates inside with all vehicles permitted to the route and finishing areas searched by a combined force of Kenya Police, National Youth Service and private firm G4S personnel.
Police on patrol in the precincts of the course in addition to added numbers of race marshals kept watch along the route as most residents who had no business in the marathon kept away as most parts of the Kenyan capital remained deserted in the morning hours.
Four grenade attacks that have claimed five last in the past week blamed on Al-Shabaab that promised reprisals after the Kenyan military moved into Somalia to flush them out has led to the Government issuing a heightened terrorism attack.
“We have been doing this for the past nine years and we understand the route and which places are likely to be trouble spots and it’s not only for the Al-Shabaab but for other criminal elements and in these areas, we increased security,” Owiti explained.
But in a show of defiance, corporate teams and fun runners including 81-year-old Ruengo Gituchi, who completed the men 10km race and 57-year-old Joyce Nduku, the marathon running granny who was 62nd in the women’s half out in force.
“I did sub 2 hours and it must be a record of some sort for a 57-year-old granny like me. I had not trained enough for the full marathon but I’m happy to come here and once again finish a race,” Nduku who has only missed the inaugural edition of the Stanchart Nairobi race said.
“The secret to having a long life is drinking camel soup. I know many people hate camel soup but it is the best thing since they eat cactus. I train five days a week and this keeps me strong. I used to compete for Kenya in 1967 with the likes of Kipchoge Keino and Nyandika Maiyoro but they stopped and I’m still going on,” the octogenarian finisher stated.