LARI, Kenya, March 1- Charles Kimeli and Embu based Risper Langat scooped the top honours in the men and women 42km race during the inaugural edition of the Kiambu Lari Marathon that went down at the punishing high altitude of Kiriita Forest on Saturday.
In what ranks as the first marathon to run through a forest, Kimeli clocked 2 hours, 30 minutes and 3 seconds after timing his run to perfection to edge out the front runner, Moses Mbugua for the victory in a course that was extremely hilly in the race run in high humidity and chilly weather conditions.
Victor Kipchirchir (2:31:27) came through for second ahead of home runner Mbugua (2:35:32) who sealed the last podium place with a brave run that would have brought him victory had he not lost his running shoes before borrowing slippers from the crowd to finish the race in 2:35:32.
It was an incident that saw him first disqualified before he was re-instated after evidence was produced he ran the entire 42km course.
In the corresponding women’s race, Embu based mother of two, Langat, shadowed long time race leader, Elizabeth Chemweno before reeling her in and sprinting away for victory after the field came through the deep forest part of the course for the win in 2 hours, 55 minutes and 60 seconds.
That was seven minutes ahead of the deposed front runner who took second in 3:02:00. Rosina Kiboino led the challengers’ home in third with the clock reading 3:06:20.
“Running through the forest was a scary experience and at the start, we went together since we could see Elephant waste on the route. After we left the thick forest, it was everyone for herself and when I saw her (Chemweno) tiring.
“I made my move and even though the course was very tough and hilly, I held on for the win. In my life, I have never ran such a difficult race but I hope winning here will open doors for me to compete in bigger races in Kenya and abroad,” the exhausted winner said.
In an action packed day, Hosea Nailel and Pauline Kavekye, a member of the Kenyan team for the 2013 World Cross In Bydgoszcz, Poland emerged victors in the men and women 21km half marathon competition in contrasting fashion.
Nailel crushed the challengers in the men’s race in 1 hour, 7 minutes and 28 seconds after shifting through the gears in the steep incline 2Km from the end to prevail with Machakos based Robert Wambua (1:07:37) taking silver ahead of Reuben Maiyo (1:07:52) filling the podium in what was a tight scramble for the honours.
“I had trained well and when I heard about this race in the press, I decided to come here and test myself and although it was very difficult, I managed to time my finish and win here.
“This gives me a lot of hope ahead of the events I want to run for the rest of the year,” the winner uttered.
In the women’s race, Kavekye shadowed the front runners before a sustained burst of acceleration over the last 3Kms saw her arrive home unchallenged in what was to her, the most unexpected of triumphs as she seeks to stamp her authority in distance running.
“A friend of mine in Naivasha told me about this race and drew me a map to get here and when I heard athletes from Eldoret and Iten were coming, I did not expect anything but as we ran, I saw the leader fading and I took my chance.
“I went on and on until I got here first and I attribute the victory to God. I will give ten percent of my prize money to church because I believe all this happened because of the power of God because we suffered there, the course was so tough,” the mother of two said.
Pauline Muchiri (1:21:20) and Nancy Kimaiyo (1:22:00) who did most of the early pushing before fading towards the end took second and third.
In the opening showdown of the day, Bernard Muya out-lasted the hard chasing Isaac Langat in the men’s 10Km race with the clocks returning 32:53 against 32:55 with Patrick Muaka coming in 33:02 for third in a enthralling dash for the tape.
The women’s equivalent was a procession to coronate home runner Beatrice Wanjiku who arrived at the finish in 33:27, well ahead of runner-up Jane Njeri (39:32) in a commanding gun to finish performance, the most dominant victory on the day.
Monicah Wanjui (40:16) was further back in third in the staggered race where the winner forced the issue from the off.
Besides the race for honours, local leaders led by Kiambu County Governor, William Kabogo, ditched their suits for running gear to take part in the 5km fun run and 10km races where they got a feel of the tough course for fronting the campaign to have one million tress planted in the forest in the next five years.
Kabogo gamely finished the 5km run well behind his deputy, Gerard Githinji, who earned the bragging rights in the top echelons of a County not famed for its sporting prowess.
“I’m very impressed in the turn out and the message this event is sending about conservation and using sports as a tool for development. Many youth in this County are being lost to drug abuse and we have seen this forest lose a lot of trees and through this event.
“We are going to ensure we have a clean environment, promote sporting activity and tourism by having local and international runners come here and above all, stimulate development through sporting activity that includes soccer and other disciplines to create employment opportunity,” Kabogo said.
His County Executive in charge of Youth and Sport, Machel Waikenda, added plans are afoot to make it an annual affair with the Kiambu Lari Marathon one of the flagship events to promote the conservation and sporting tourism agenda of the region’s Government.
“What we have witnessed today and the success it has brought are the result of a vision we have to make Kiambu County a reservoir of talent and open up the high altitude area for training for international athletes as part of the broad agenda to use sport as a vehicle to promote development,” Waikenda, who ran stride by stride with his boss to the end explained.
Other notable leaders who took part and finished was Jude Njomo, the Member for Parliament (MP) for Kiambu who took the longer 10Km race.
“After we started on a hill, the challenge was tough but after we ran for a while, I thought I was close to the finish only to see the 2K sign and I fought through the rest of the 8km.
“First, I have learned I have to lose a lot of weight and I want to use that as a way to raise funds to stock libraries of the primary schools in my constituency that have a severe shortage of books,” the panting legislator said after completing the race.
His Lari counterpart and host MP, Mburu Kahangara, gave up the challenge in the 5km but left with enough motivation to make another go for next year’s edition.
“As you can see, I’m not fit enough and the challenge I have is to be in good shape to run here next year but the best thing is that this idea to send the message of conservation through running was such a huge success today and it gives us the motivation to know this was idea whose time had come.
“Lari is over 400 square kilometres and is an important water reservoir for Kiambu and Nairobi and the rate we were losing trees, we were all under threat.
“This idea was mooted by the youth and with the support of the County Government and many other well-wishers and sponsors have seen Lari host the first ever marathon in the forest and there is enough reason to continue working to make next year bigger and better.”
Besides the athletics action, fans and competitors were treated to a Jazz in the Forest concert where they got to shake their tired limbs in what was truly a unique cocktail of sport, conservation campaign and entertainment at the high elevation of over 2,500 feet above sea level.
“We have discovered another area for high altitude training and those athletes who perform well here will go on to do very well in other areas. It is a region we will look forward to using to train our distance athletes,” John ‘Warm-up’ Mwithiga, a national cross country coach of long standing summed.
Among distance running gliterrati who attended were Paralympian record holder, Henry Wanyoike, who took part in the 10km race as well as 2012 Boston Marathon winner, Wesley Korir, the Chrengany MP.
1. Bernard Muya 35:23
2. Isaac Langat 32:55
3. Patrick Muaka 33:02
4. Alex Mutisya 33:10
5. Daniel Muindi 33:12
1. Beatrice Wanjiku 38:27
2. Jane Njeri 39:32
3. Monicah Wanjui 40:16
4. Gladys Kemboi 40:21
5. Martha Akeno 40:45
1. Hosea Nailel 1:07:27
2. Robert Wambua 1:07:37
3. Reuben Maiyo 1:07:52
4. Cosmas Mutuku 1:08:39
5. Simotwo Kemei 1:08:43
1. Pauline Kavekye 1:20:50
2. Pauline Muchiri 1:21:20
3. Nancy Kimaiyo 1:22:00
4. Shelmith Muriuki 1:23:40
5. Alice Koech 1:25:60
1. Charles Kimeli 2:30:03
2. Victor Kipchirchir 2:21:27
3. Moses Mbugua 2:35:32
4. Joseph Kamzee 2:36:45
5. Elijah Sang 2:36:45
1. Risper Langat 2:55:60
2. Elizabeth Chemweno 3:02:00
3. Rosina Kiboino 3:06:20
4. Susan Kiplangat 3:09:10
5. Joyce Kirui 3:23:60