NAIROBI, August 10- Former Boston Marathon champion, Caroline Kilel will return to defend the women’s crown as Ezra Sang, who was second in the men’s race in the last edition, seeking top honours at this weekend’s seventh running of the Masai Mara Marathon.
The pair will be among the main attractions in an event where organisers are expecting some 5000 runners in Lemek Conservancy.
Speaking during the launch on Monday, Athletics Kenya (AK) South Rift chairman, John Wachira said the race will press on despite the withdrawal of title sponsor, Kenya Airways, who pulled out due to financial constraints.
“The central and county government are in full cooperation to ensure security will be tight,” he added.
Renowned athletes from the region including Olympics champion and world 800m record holder, David Rudisha, former World Cross champion, Alice Timbilil and national 400m titleholder and Beijing Worlds-bound Alphas Kishoyan have been invited as inspirational guests.
Winner’s prize money has been whittled down from Sh500,000 each for the men and women to Sh200,000 due to the tight finances with the event yet to secure a title sponsor.
The Ministry of Sports, Arts and Culture, Kenyatta International Convention Center, Kenya Tourism Board, Capital FM Kenya, Nation Media Group, Nakumatt Holdings, TARPO and the Main Event company have stepped in to facilitate Saturday’s showdown in the wild that will consider with the eighth wonder of the world, the Mara Wildebeest Migration.
Kenya Airways sponsored top five finishers in the sixth edition held in 2013 to at last year’s London Marathon, an incentive that saw Kilel, the 2011 Boston and 2013 Frankfurt champion brave huge odds to breast the tape ahead of all in the women’s race.
Kilel topped the 21km main race in 1:11:15, to stop a surging Faith Jeruto (1:11:56), Lucy Liyavoga (1:12:20), Chepng’eno Langat (1:13:04) and Naomi Chepng’eno (1:13:26) who rounded off the top five to earn their tickets to London.
In the corresponding men’s race, Leonard Kipkoech took the honours in 1:03:0 ahead of Ezra Sang (1:03:53), Nicholas Kipkemboi (1:04:0), Bernard Kitur (1:04:20) and Henry Sang (1:04.21) to clinch the London berths.
The national carrier had poured Sh58 million (approx USD580,000) into the event.
Lemek Conservancy covers about 17,000 acres in the Mara with proceeds from the marathon going into education, conservation, and resource supplies towards the community