Athletes’ Christmas gift for children battling cancer

Toby Tanser

Isla Lough (left), her mother Paula Radcliffe (partly hidden), sibling Raphael Lough, Chelimo Saina Tanser (carrying the baton) and Toby Tanser during the Shoe4Africa 80-kilometre relay race in Equator, Timboroa, Uasin Gishu County on December 24, 2021.

Photo credit: Pool |

What you need to know:

  • Charity Britain’s marathon legend Radcliffe joins Kenyan stars in 80-kilometre run to raise funds for hospital
  • Radcliffe, accompanied by her 14-year-old daughter Isla Lough, who suffers from cancer, flew into Kenya just to be part of the worthy cause.

At 7.30am on Friday, a number of athletes — led by Toby Tanser, the Shoe4Africa Foundation charity director, Great Britain’s former world marathon record holder Paula Radcliffe, and scores of Kenyan legends — braved the cold chilly morning in Timboroa, Uasin Gishu County, to run a charity race.

They hope to raise enough funds for the construction of a 152-bed children’s cancer hospital to be known as “The Shoe4Africa Juli Anne Perry Children’s Cancer Hospital.”

Friday’s 80-kilometre run was a relay from the Equator to Eldoret and saw the athletes change over after every 10 or five kilometres. Time didn’t matter. The worthy cause did.

Radcliffe, accompanied by her 14-year-old daughter Isla Lough, who suffers from cancer, flew into Kenya just to be part of the worthy cause.

Kenya-born American athlete Haron Lagat and former two-time world marathon champion Abel Kirui were the first to hit the road, later terming the race as something Kenyan communities should embrace as one way of helping those in need.

After 10 kilometres, another Kenya-born US runner Paul Chelimo, the Tokyo Olympics 5,000m bronze medallist, and former Commonwealth Games marathon champion John Kelai covered the next 10 kilometres.

This paved way for Paul Radcliffe and former world 10,000 metres champion Sally Barsosio who participated in the five-kilometre leg race before handing over the baton to former 800m world champion Alfred Kirwa Yego and former marathoner Jerry Maritim for another five kilometres.

Former world cross country champion Lydia Cheromei, running side-by-side with former 800m world champion Janeth Jepkosgei, also covered five kilometres before handing over to former 3,000m steeplechase world champion Moses Kiptanui and 2005 world champion in the 5,000m, Benjamin Limo.

Daniel Komen, the only man ever to run two sub four-minute miles back-to-back, also featured in the five-kilometre sector along with Olympic steeplechase champion Mathew Birir.

Nahashon Kibon and John Ewoi, who are coaches, also joined the five-kilometre race.

Doug Perry who donated $100,000 (Sh10 million) to the hospital project in honour of his late wife Juli Ann, Tanser, William Tanui (1992 Olympic 800m gold medallist) and Sammy Korir also covered five kilometres.

Former Commonwealth 5,000m silver medalist Luke Kipkosgei, former London Marathon champion Emmanuel Mutai and the 2011 Valencia Marathon champion Francis Bowen too completed five kilometre sections.

Simon Biwott, a former Rotterdam Marathon champion and one of the first athletes to get shoes from Tanser’s charity, and Joseph Atogo (Eldoret’s Shoe4Africa Children’s Hospital engineer) did two kilometres before handing the baton to marathon superstar Mary Keitany and Sammy Yego.

Kipchoge Keino

The final walk to the finish line saw Sharon Cheptoo a 14-year-old who is under treatment at the Shoe4Africa Children’s Hospital after she was diagnosed with Leukemia, joined Isla by walking to the hospital entrance where legendary athlete Kipchoge Keino was waiting.

The ground breaking for the proposed children’s cancer hospital was finally done by Isla who later said that she is happy the hospital will be able to treat and save many children in the Sub-Saharan Africa.

“Cancer is a terrible disease but I’m happy I managed to travel with my parents to support the construction of a children’s cancer hospital. I can imagine how many kids will be saved once the facility is complete,” she said.

Radcliffe added that it was pity seeing young children lose their lives from a disease which can be treated if detected early enough.

“Losing nine out of 10 children is not a good thing and we are raising funds and awareness on the first children cancer hospital and my daughter had gone through this. Treatment went on well and we also want to see children in Africa surviving and the 80km run was just to make the world aware of the noble cause,” said Radcliffe.

Through her “Paula’s Families on Track” website, she has been raising funds towards the construction of the Shoe4Africa children’s cancer hospital in Eldoret.

Shoe4Africa founder Toby Tanser said the hospital will support young children in Africa to get better health.

"I have managed to raise funds that will enable the completion of the hospital that will have 152 beds within one year,” he said.