Ethiopian and Eritrean flavour for Nairobi City Marathon race

Uhuru Classic Nairobi City Marathon

Former Boston Marathon Champion Lawrence Cherono and reigning world marathon champion Ruth Chepng’etich during the launch of Uhuru Classic Nairobi City Marathon on April 28, 2022 at the Norfolk Hotel in Nairobi.

Photo credit: Sila Kiplagat | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Prize fund for inaugural edition of competition to trickle down to the top 20 runners
  • Experienced Mekonnen, Girma Bekele to take on Kenyan men in Africa’s richest 42km contest

A number of Ethiopian and Eritrean athletes have signed up for the Uhuru Classic Nairobi City Marathon, Africa’s richest marathon race, which will be held on May 8 in the Kenyan capital city.

Experienced Sisay Mekonnen Jisa, Abraham Girma Bekele and Alemu Gemechu from Ethiopia, and Eritrea's Okubay Tsegay will compete in the men’s 42km race.

The 36-year-old Tsegay, who has personal best time of two hours, 06 minutes and 46 seconds from a fourth place finish at the 2019 Seville Marathon, has competed in Berlin Marathon twice, finishing seventh in 2018 and 2021 respectively.

Tsegay won the 2017 Changchun Marathon in China, and finished third in Porto Marathon in Portugal the same year.

Mekonnen, who has personal best 2:06:27 from a third place finish at the 2012 Paris Marathon secured victory at the famous Guangzhou International Marathon in 2013 before losing to his fellow countryman Shume Hailu Legese the following year in Rome Marathon.

Mekonnen romped home second in 2:11:20 as Legese won the rain-drenched race in 2:09:47. The same year, Mekonnen competed at Berlin Marathon but finished 10th 2:12:16, a race won by Kenya’s Wilson Kipsang in a world record time of 2:03:23.

Bekele is fresh from securing a fourth place at Rome Marathon on March 27 this year in personal best 2:08:31 where fellow countryman Fikre Bekele Tefera triumphed in 2:06:48.

In 2015, Bekele claimed the last podium place at the Linz Marathon in 2:13:02 and fourth at the 2019 New Taipei City Marathon.

Gemechu, the 2019 French Riviera Marathon winner, and has personal best 2:08:47, won the 2015 Dublin Marathon in 2:14:01.

Several Ethiopians, mostly debutantes, have also entered the women’s 42km race. They are Chernet Hailye, Abera Ketema, Abdu Asfaw, Gebisa Lelisa and Ayantu Idosa.

Idosa claimed bronze in women’s 10,000m in the 2016 Ethiopian Athletics Championships to earn a place in the country’s team for the 2016 Africa Senior Athletics Championships.

Idosa finished eighth in the race where Kenyans Alice Aprot, Jackline Chepng’eno and Joyciline Jepkosgei swept all the podium places.

The Uhuru Classic Nairobi City Marathon, the richest marathon in Africa in prize money, was launched on Thursday in Nairobi.

The organisers have set aside $389,500 (about Sh44.8m) as prize money where $370,000 (Sh42.55m) will go towards the men’s and women’s winners of the main marathon.

The prize fund for the marathon, that will start and finish at the Nyayo National Stadium, covers the top 20 finishers.

Some 33km of the route will be run on the new Nairobi Expressway with the rest on some of the streets in the city.

The men’s and women’s winner will each pocket $60,000 (Sh6.9m) in prize money with the second placed athletes in each of the categories going home with $35,000 (Sh4.02m) richer.

Those finishing third will pocket $25,000 (Sh2.875m) each with the fourth and fifth placed athletes getting $12,500 (Sh1.44m) and $10,000 (Sh1.15m) respectively.

Registration fee for the full marathon is Sh1,500 while those hoping to compete in 21km will part with Sh1,200 and 10km has an entry fee of Sh1,000. Those going for the 5km fun run will pay Sh500.