NAIROBI, August 4- Ethiopian distance running legend, Haile Gebrsellasie, will join Kenyan sporting stars for the grand finale of their 552 mile (888.358km) Walk for Peace through the troubled North Rift Valley region.
Gebrsellasie, credited with over 20 world records at various distances will announce a new international chapter in the campaign that is the brainchild of 2010 Commonwealth World Champion, John Ekiru Kelai, who hails from the volatile region.
“The Champions Walk for Peace may have begun in Kenya but it’s inspired others around the World – including me – so today isn’t the end, it’s just the start. We’re going global now,” Gebrselassie told organisers.
He will join Beijing-bound two-time London Marathon titleholder Wilson Kipsang Kiprotich and three-time steeplechase world titleholder, Ezekiel Kemboi, female distance running legend Tegla Loroupe and Kelai for the final few kilometres of their walk through the Rift Valley.
“Before this finishes in December, we’re coming to Chicago, New York and London,” the man simply known as ‘The Emperor’ added.
Gebrselassie is not the only global star throwing his weight behind the campaign.
In the UK, Olympic wheelchair racer Anne Wafula-Strike and the record-breaking ‘Marathon Man’ Rob Young also intend to take part.
In the US, Pan-American Steeplechase Gold Medallist Sara Hall tweeted her support: “Love what the @Aegis_Trust is doing in helping bring an end to violence and hatred in E Africa through Walk for Peace http://www.walkforpeace.co.ke/.”
Members of the public who donate or sign up to raise at least $500 as part of the Champions Walk for Peace will have the opportunity to meet some of the champions at events after the Great North Run in Newcastle, UK (September), the Chicago Marathon (October), the New York Marathon (November), and at a special closing event in London (date TBC: expected late November or early December).
“We’re calling people everywhere to be champions for peace and walk with us now,” Kelai, who helped initiate the campaign noted.
“People can sign up through the official website to take part anywhere in the World, but if you make it to one of our events then I and my fellow champions will personally sign your shirt for you,” he says.
So far, the athletes have raised over $90,000 (Sh9, 103,905) towards their $250,000 (Sh25,288,625) target to kick-start a peace building programme with the Aegis Trust – modelled on Aegis’ successful peace building work in Rwanda – which will engage with at least 10,000 young people at risk of being drawn into the violence in Kenya’s North Rift Valley.