Joy as Lodwar town hosts North Rift races

Geoffrey Kiboi (right) and other athletes battle it out during the Athletics Kenya’s North Rift Regional Cross County Championships 10km senior men’s race at Ekalees Centre in Lodwar, Turkana County on January 18, 2020. Geoffrey won in 29:07:31. PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA |

What you need to know:

  • Runners defy hot weather to shine
  • Iten’s Chirchir tops women’s 10km race as organisers split competitions to shield runners from searing heat

Lodwar, the capital of Turkana County has rich history and has been classified as one of the hottest regions in Kenya, with temperatures rising to 35 degrees Celsius.

The region has become a popular destination for many after huge oil deposits was discovered in Turkana. The region has also produced top athletes for Kenya, among them former Commonwealth marathon champion John Kelai and former World Indoor 800 metres champion Paul Ereng.

On Saturday, athletes from Elgeyo Marakwet, Samburu, West Pokot, Turkana and Trans Nzoia counties converged at Ekaales Centre which usually hosts annual cultural celebrations to chase places in the team that will compete in the national trials in Nairobi next month.

For the first time, North Rift Athletics Kenya Cross Country Championships were held in the region yesterday. The organisers split the races into two, with morning and evening sessions because of the high temperatures.

In the morning session, senior women’s race started at 6.20am, followed by junior women’s 8km race, girls’ 5km race and the mixed relay. Iten-based Monica Chirchir won senior women’s race.

Chirchir crossed the line in 32min, 46.29sec to win ahead of Judith Korir, also from Elgeyo Marakwet, who timed 32:52.92. Irene Cheptai from Turkana was third in 33:02.80.

Chirchir was happy to have won to qualify for the nationals. “The race was tough but I had prepared well for to compete with the best athletes in the region,” said Chirchir. She is eyeing a slot in team Kenya for Africa Cross Country Championships slated for April in Lome, Togo.

“My target is to get a slot to represent Kenya in the Africa Cross Country Championships. I will train harder to achieve this,” said Chirchir who was second in Iten’s Athletics Kenya Cross Country series two weeks ago.

Kakamega Forest Marathon champion Korir came in second after losing the battle to Chirchir when the athlete sprinted to the finish line.

Korir told Nation Sport that the race was tough and the course was challenging but she gave her best after good training in Kapsait, Elgeyo Marakwet County.

Cheptai, who was making a comeback after a two-year maternity break, is using the cross country events as part of build-up ahead of the Olympic Games trials where she will be seeking a place in Kenya’s 10,000m squad.