Kenyans have ruled the roost at the lucrative Virgin London Marathon and organisers of this year’s competition have drafted the country’s best 42-kilometre runners into United Kingdom’s flagship race that is scheduled for April.
They include defending champions Emmanuel Mutai and Mary Keitany, three-time winner Martin Lel, World champions Abel Kirui and Edinah Kiplagat and silver medallist Prisca Jeptoo. Others are marathon world record holder Patrick Makau, Berlin Marathon champion Florence Kiplagat and Frankfurt Marathon winner Wilson Kipsang.
Coincidentally, nearly all of the athletes either come from around Eldoret and Iten towns or train there.
And there could not have been a better way for the Britons to fete the region than launch a “Wall of Fame” – a mural of paintings celebrating Kenya’s victory in the previous London Marathon races – in Eldoret.
The Virgin London Marathon race director, David Bedfort, on Sunday commissioned the wall which is strategically positioned at the entry point to the town. He said it would serve as inspiration for Kenya teams heading to the London Olympic Games.
“The Kenyan marathon team to London will produce a fantastic performance at the Olympic Games,” Bedfort told the Nation at the Grand Pri hotel on Sunday. “I am very sure they will retain the men’s title.
“It is only very tricky to predict the favourite as all of them are good. It will be headache for Athletics Kenya should someone like Martin Lel win London this year.”
Bedfort, the IAAF World Road Racing chairman, added: “But the women’s battle is quite visible.
“It is either Mary Keitany or Edinah Kiplagat: there is no stiff challenge at the moment.”
Since it was their first time in Kenya, Bedfort said he was greatly impressed with the training sites in Iten as “it is the best in the world”.
The mural of paintings features portraits of 10 Kenyan winners of the London Marathon.
Three-time winner Lel said at the brief ceremony: “I was proud when I saw the past winners on the wall; it really motivates the young athletes.”
Kenyan-born Dutch woman Lorna Kiplagat, a former World 21km record holder, said the wall was timely as it came ahead of the Olympics.
“As a young girl in Keiyo South I was motivated to run when I saw Kipchoge Keino’s portrait on the old-generation Sh20 note,” she said.