NAIROBI, July 8 –Top performers at Lari Half Marathon and Great Green Race in Thika were left stranded without a coin in Nairobi on Wednesday when race organisers vanished on them.
The 16 runners who converged at Nairobi five-star Hilton Hotel to collect their dues received a rude shock when the organisers failed to turn up before switching off their phones.
Eight others who were also affected by what they alleged scam could not make to join their colleagues with the affected athletes demanding a total of USD19,968 (Sh2m) in prize monies for their performances.
Both events were held in Kiambu County with the Lari running in March and the Green run taking place in May.
Gilbert Masai, who won Great Green race and finished second at Lari is the hardest hit with a demand note of USD 2,189.46 (Sh220,000).
“I was given a bouncing cheque and up to now I have not received official communication from them. This is the first time I’m encountering such problems. When we run in Eldoret, we are paid on time but after I came to run in Kiambu things are different.
“Lari organisers had announced prize money of Sh200, 000 but when we finished running we were surprised to receive a dummy cheque of Sh100, 000.
“They told us they will send the money through Mpesa only to call them after three weeks to tell me that they have not received money from sponsors,” Masai who hails from Mount Elgon alleged.
After being issued with what they termed dud cheques, the organisers Mike Njoroge (Green Race) and John Muchiri (Lari) were nowhere to be traced when the runners turned up at the capital to receive their dues.
Men and women main race winners at Green were to receive, Sh150, 000 apiece while Lari champions were to get Sh100,000 with the prize money with both events paying down to the tenth finishers.
Race promoter, Philip Muia who accompanied the 16 said they had nowhere to go in Nairobi after they were promised to be paid Wednesday only for no one to show up, forcing them to seek the intervention from the Ministry of Sports Arts and Culture.
“They told us to meet here today but no one is picking our calls its very bad because all the athletes come outside Nairobi and even don’t have fare to go back.
“We have gone to the Ministry’s office and they have directed us to file the case at the Sports Tribunal and that’s where we are heading.
“We have tried to get assistance from Athletics Kenya but there no response. I believe AK could assist us,” Muia asserted.
The athletes are planning to report the matter to the Directorate of Criminal Investigation to follow up on the matter if the organisers fail to meet their demands.
Responding to the issue, AK vice-chairman in charge of competition, David Okeyo told Capital Sport, they cannot intervene since the races were outside their calendar.
“They need to follow up with the Central Region office because we were not involved as the national office. They are not even part of our programme so it’s very difficult to assist,” Okeyo stated.
AK national treasurer and Central chairman, David Miano, could not be reached for comment as the identity of who sanctioned the races remained a riddle.
Registration for both events was Sh1000 with the Great Green Race attracting over 600 participants.
Lewa men’s Half Marathon winner, Robert Wambua who is owed Sh10, 000 for finishing seventh at the Great Green Race was among the runners claiming their dues.
“It’s now the fourth month since we ran and there is no hope to receive money soon. They gave us cheques but when we went to the bank, we were told the account has no money. They have been taking us up and down and now they are not picking up calls.
“Training and running is not easy so if someone can help us get our money we will be very happy because this is where we earn our living and some of the guys you are seeing here have families. We are wondering where the money went yet we registered,” the exasperated Wambua told.
A project coordinator with Green Race, who sought anonymity, told Capital Sport she is also yet to be paid her dues accumulating to three months.
“I was working with Multi Link to help them in planning and organising the race.
“I was in charge of mobilizing athletes and sponsors. I signed a monthly salary contract with Njoroge but up to today I have not received any money and he is not picking up my calls,” she decried.