It’s interesting, and a bit sad, that Kenya boasts so many elite runners yet has very few international races held within it’s borders. In fact, up until a few years ago there were basically zero races of any substance, save the national trials in track and cross country.
But in 2003, the Nairobi Marathon started resembling something like a real race. With the sponsorship of Standard Chartered Bank, this marathon attracted 7,500 participants and that has grown to over 15,000 expected for this year’s race which will take place on October 26th.
There are two things I really love about this race. First is that it brings out thousands of ordinary Kenyans to run in streets that are normally clogged with cars and buses and pushcarts. They get to experience the liberating (at least for the first few miles) feeling of running in the capital city of Kenya in the normally cool October weather.
The second is that the men and women’s marathon winner tends to be a “nobody”. I use that derogatory term purely for shock value since they obviously have the talent and dedication to take first place in this highly competitive race. But what I meant is that the winner is usually someone that has not been heard of in the elite running circles.
An example is last year’s women’s winner, Chimokil Chilapong. She won the 2007 version in an impressive time of 2:39:09 and beat out Joyce Chepchumba who was a three-time London Marathon winner. But what’s really interesting is that it was her first marathon and she was totally off the running radar. In fact she and her husband had to sell a sheep and a chicken to raise the money for a bus ride to Nairobi to compete in the race!
Although perhaps lacking as colorful a story, many of the other winner’s of the Nairobi Marathon have also come from the shadows to snatch a 1st place finish.
So if you’re running talent also hasn’t been spotted you might want to take a crack at this year’s race. You have a couple of weeks to get over, get acclimatized (we’re at altitude!) and give it a shot.
I’ll be on the course cheering you on!