Thursday, January 26, 2012

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Monday, November 10, 2008

Kenya's Cross Country Series Kicks Off

Runners hoping for a fast dry course for the first installment of the x/c series were dissapointed with the muddy conditions in Machakos this past Saturday. Nicholas Kamakya (37:33) and Pauline Korikwiang 28:11) took the seniors races with Nicholas having an easier time of it- he beat the runner up by about half a minute.

This year's series should be of higher quality seeing that Athletics Kenya has required runners hoping to make the national team to have participated in at least 4 of the 6 meets.

Kamakya, a police officer, gauged the field over the first 2km lap and then opened up a 100 meter lead. The nearest competitor was Joel Kamary (38:06) over the 12km course.

Pauline battled it out with Pascalia Chepkirui (28:17) for a seven second victory.

The next race is this Saturday in Kericho and looks to attract a stronger field.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

New York Marathon: What Did It Reveal?

While everybody else in the world (and especially here in Kenya) were talking about the impending US Presidential Elections, a few thousand runners were forcing their lungs and legs to grind through 26 miles of New York streets.

As we all know by now, the Brazilian Marilson Gomes dos Santos took the race in 2:08:43 with 2nd place going to Morocco’s Abderrahim Goumri (2:09:07). A Kenyan by the name of Daniel Rono reached the podium with his 2:11:22 effort.

So what conclusions can we draw from this race?

A non-African CAN win a major marathon.

Kenyans and Gebreselassie have taken their fair share of major and minor marathons over the past few years. There are just so many sub-2:10 East Africans that there is sure to be a few entered in that marathon or road race near you. This is a fact of life and unless more runners outside of this region start developing into faster runners, expect more of the same.

But there are exceptions to every rule and dos Santos demonstrated this well in NY. While no country or region can match East Africa in numbers, there are always individuals that can “steal” a race or two.

Paul Tergat still has some life left in him.

Although he was far off the pace with his 2:13:10 fourth place finish, Tergat still finished 4th at New York! He said that he twisted his ankle at the 18 mile mark and attributed that for slowing him down.

In Kenya there’s some people that think he should just retire gracefully. They don’t believe he can regain his form from a few years back especially since he’s pushing 40. That may be true but only Tergat knows why he’s still running. Perhaps he’d like to see how long he can still run sub-2:15’s for? Maybe he wants to get under 2:10 one last time? Maybe another Major? Maybe…wait for this one…maybe he just loves competing and running?!

So I say let the guy run until he thinks it’s time to hang up the racing flats.

Martin Lel is still the man to beat.

Last year’s winner, Martin Lel, sat out the 2008 edition due to an injury he got in Beijing. But even his absence from the race didn’t stop him from collecting a cool $500,000 for winning the World Marathon Masters Series.

For those who aren’t familiar with the WMMS, it started in 2006 and consists of the Boston, London, Berlin, Chicago and New York City marathons along with the Olympics and World Championships. Points are given according to place and the runner with the most points gets the money. Simple.

So Lel got the money by accumulating 76 points which beat this year’s 2nd place NY finisher Abderrahim Goumri (56). I don’t know the status or details about Lel’s injury but let’s hope he gets up to speed soon. With him, Gebreselassie and Samuel Wanjiru on the roads, it's going to take alot to win a major marathon for the next few years!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Friendly Runners: Samuel Njuguna

So I was sitting in the Athletics Kenya waiting room when a young man struck up a conversation with me.  Now normally I'd be my usual, introverted self and promptly snuff out the conversation, but since I have this blog to think about, I put on a smile and chatted him up.

Turns out he is an aspiring marathon runner who only has 2 full marathons under his belt.  His first was a 2:25 effort in the 2004 Nairobi Marathon and his latest was a 3rd place finish in last year's Barbados Marathon.

He is training for this year's edition of the Barbados marathon where he is aiming to win the whole thing.  Apparently last year, he was in 2nd place with a few miles to go when he received poor directions and went the wrong way!  By the time he got back on track, he was in 3rd place and had to settle for that at the finish line.

Furthermore, he had sorted out his visas just a couple days before the race and arrived in Barbados the day before.  Let's hope things work more smoothly for him this time around.

But the title of this post was "Friendly Runners..." which has been my general impression with the runners I've met so far.  So many of them are looking for the right opportunity to prove their talent and hard work so they seem to be willing to share their stories.

Njuguna informed me that many of them train on the outskirts of Nairobi and I hope to visit them there next week.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Samson Kikwei Tuiyange- A Long Road to Victory

Although Kenya is known for producing large quantities of young running talent, there are also a few old guys and gals coming up through the ranks.  Paul Tergat (39) ain't no spring chicken and fellow marathoners Catherine Ndereba (36) and Tegla Loroupe (35) are also closing in on the 40 year mark.  Yet all are still competitive on the international marathon scene.

The recent Nairobi Marathon winner, Samson Kikwei Tuiyange (34), hopes to join their ranks.

As is typical of all Nairobi Marathon winners, Samuel came from near obscurity to win this highly competitive race in a course record 2:10:30 last Sunday.  Cosmas Musyoka (3rd, 2:13:10) was leading for most of the race until Tuiyange and eventual runner-up Gitia Baaru (2:11:01) passed him around the 30km (18M)  mark.  Tuiyange then went solo from the 40km (24.4M) point and cruised to the finish line US$20,000 richer.

Setbacks and Recovery

Back in 2004 he was showing some promise having finished 31st in the Nairobi Marathon then running a 2:15 in China.  He was training under an expereienced manager and things were looking up.

But an achilles injury in 2005 put him out of serious competition for about 3 years.  3 YEARS!  That's not what you want to happen when your hoping to start an elite distance running career and you're in your thirtys!

But (apparently) Samuel kept at it and after completing a half-marathon in Eldoret (major town in Kenya) he felt he wasa getting in shape.

The rest is history.

But now all eyes will be on him to see if he can duplicate his performance in another marathon in the next few months.  I'll let the media interest in him die down and then try and get an interview with him.  Of course he's probably busy building a new house with his well-deserved earnings, but I can always shoot him a few questions while I hammer in a few nails.  After all, I may not be able to help him build a career at this stage in his life, but I can do my small part to help build his house.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

A Day at the Nairobi Marathon

6:35am: Leave the house so that I make it to the starting line before the races kick off at 7am. I was tempted to sleep in a bit since a lot of events run on “African time” which means they don’t always start precisely on schedule, but I decide to err on the side of caution.

6:55am: After a half-hearted attempt to walk (only about 2 miles), I instead opt for a bus that cuts a mile off my commute. The starting area is full of runners warming up although I can’t say I recognize anyone. My efforts to meet up with a coach I know is fruitless since the music blaring from strategically placed loudspeakers disorients me.

7:15am: The half marathon kicks off and it ain’t pretty! There’s so much pushing and jostling behind the starting line that the security guards form a human fence to hold back the surging crowd.

Unfortunately, the security guards remain there when the starting gun goes off! It was almost comical as one security guard was sprinting for his life to get ahead of the runners so that he could get off the course and out of danger!

7:25am: The full marathon gets off and running. Same chaos at the starting line as the half. But we hope that the top runners get off to a clear start although a few runners fall to the ground but luckily avoid being stampeded.

7:35am: I recognize and confront former Marathon World Champion Douglas Wakiihuri (also got silver at the Olympics and won the London and NY marathons). He's a musician as well as an accomplished runner and let me take this picture of him. I hope to get an interview with him in the next few weeks as he's still incredibly active in the Kenyan running scene.

8:17am: The first runner crosses the line in the half marathon. Peter Kurui (only 18 years old) finishes the 21 km in 1:02:23 about 11 seconds in front of Kiplagat who placed 2nd.

8:25am: Catherine Tuwei takes the women’s race in 1:11:07. She’s more than a minute ahead of her nearest competitor.

9:18am: A new course record is set with Samson Kikwei Tuiyange collecting $20k with his 2:10:30 victory in the Nairobi Marathon. This is almost a 5 minute improvement over the old course record but it should be noted that the course has been changed from previous editions. The picture below is of the winner 100m before the finish:

10:34am: I’m still unable to find my friend so I decide to take the long walk back to my house and daydream about running a sub 2:30 in next year’s marathon (Editors note: author has never run anything close to a marathon and should dream about finishing one first before mentioning sub-anything).

11:02am: My legs surprisingly tired from the 2 mile walk, I take my morning tea (this is Kenya!) and plan on stepping up my mileage for next week.

The Good and Bad of the Nairobi Marathon

I just got back from the 2008 edition of the Nairobi Marathon and just wanted to post some initial thoughts.  

New Course Record (Good)

The winner (I'll have to track down the name later- it was hard to hear over the PA) set a new course record of 2:10:30-something.  This was partly due to a new course which we can assume is faster since the old course record from last year was in the 2:15's.

No Timer at Finish Line (Bad)

Unbelievably, there was no indication of the time anywhere at the start or finish line!  

Crazy Starting

To have survived the start at the half and full marathon you should have packed a taser.  It was akin to a stampede and this has to change in next year's edition.

I'll follow up with a more coherent analysis tomorrow.