Marathon cancelled:Kenyan Athlete’s Weather Sandy’s Effects In New York


As the professional runner’s equivalent of the world cup, the ING sponsored New York City Marathon has always attracted a stellar roster of athletes.  Since its inception in 1970, the event which is organized by the New York Road Runners, has grown from a race of 127 local runners to over 40,000 from all over the world. So many professional as well as amateur runners aspire to run in this race that it has become the largest marathon in the world and the majority of runners are chosen by a lottery system. And like so many Marathons since the turn of the century, it has come to be dominated by Kenyan runners. In fact, sixteen Kenyans have won this race, mostly in the last 10 years and some like Douglas Wakihuri have become household names while others like last year’s winner, Geoffrey Mutai, continue to set new records.
Winning these races has put Kenya on the map in a positive light, adding to Kenya’s  reputation as a world marathons leader. Kenyans take so much pride in participating in this event that both the Kenyan Ambassador Elkanah Odembo and the UN Ambassador Macharia Kamau planned to host an ‘ugali’ dinner for the Kenyan elite athletes this year.  After months of preparation, some of Kenya’s world class athletes- Moses Mosop,  Wilson Kipsang,  Stanley Biwott,  Martin Lel,  Edna Kiplagat and Sharon Cherop arrived in New York in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.  They found a different New York, one in which the restaurant for the ugali dinner was submerged in water although they were able to have the dinner elsewhere.
In fact, the New York Road Runners had optimistically declared that the race would go on even before the full impact of Sandy had been assessed. Unfortunately, the blow the hurricane dealt the city was too heavy for the runners to participate in the marathon with a clear conscience. The news of the cancellation from the New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg after a decision from the organizers put the runners minds at ease despite the competitive and financial loss they had to bear. ‘We felt it was the right thing to do when the race was cancelled. We share the grief of New York City and wish them a stable recovery’, said former New York marathon winner Edna Kiplagat . “We wish there was more we could do‘, added Sharon Cherop, who had won the Boston marathon earlier this year. ‘I’m very pleased with these five Kenyan athletic megastars. I received a call from them wanting to know how they can help with the relief efforts’ said Toby Tanser, one of many organisers of the New York marathon and the founder of shoes for Africa, a charity currently working to build the largest hospital for children in Africa.
The gas shortages coupled with the lack of transport hampered the Kenyan athletes’ ability to get to the ferry that would have transported marathon participants to Staten Island, one of the areas that was hardest hit by the storm. The nature of this damage may be new to the Kenyan athletes but, as Sharon later mentioned, they saw their share of devastation in Kenya during the post election violence of 2008 where they had to help internally displaced citizens recover from tragedy and loss. The Kenyan athlete’s, however, did get a chance to participate in a morning practice at the park in New York and enjoyed training with the mass of runners that showed up. The experiences of the Kenyan athletes in post Sandy New York were captured for the new, soon-to-air TV series, Marathon Fuse

This article is a joint effort of the EM Press/Russell Kenya









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