Nakuru marks city status with top-notch races

Daniel Simiyu heads to the finish line to complete the 21km race during the Stanbic Nakuru City Marathon

Daniel Simiyu heads to the finish line to complete the 21km race during the Stanbic Nakuru City Marathon on November 28, 2021. 

Photo credit: John Njoroge | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Relin said her next focus would be to qualify for the 10,000 metres for next summer’s Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.
  • Also eyeing a coveted 10,000m Kenyan ticket, but for the World Championships in Eugene, is Cornelius Kemboi, the Iten-based 10km men’s winner yesterday.

This Wednesday, Nakuru finally gets its charter, elevating the Rift Valley capital to city status.

And there couldn’t have been a better preamble than the Nakuru County Government putting together elite half marathon and 10-kilometre road races to build up to the mid-week crescendo.

And boy, what a race day it was!

Officially the Stanbic Nakuru City Marathon — following title sponsorship from Stanbic Bank — Sunday’s races didn’t cover the full, 42-kilometre marathon distance, but they served up as an awesome start to what will be an annual ritual that will see the full marathon incorporated in 2023, organisers confirmed.

Athletes take part in the women's 21km race of inaugural Stanbic Nakuru City marathon in Kenyatta avenue, Nakuru town on November 28, 2021. 

Photo credit: Cheboite Kigen | Nation Media Group

Nakuru hardly disappoints, and purists couldn’t believe the clocks when indefatigable Olympian Daniel Simiu Ebenyo and second placed Godfrey Kipchumba, both from Elgeyo Marakwet County, both dipped under the iconic one hour mark despite a challenging course made even harder by the morning rains.

Simiu, 26, who was on Kenya’s 5,000 metres roster for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, won in an astonishing 59 minutes, 0.3 seconds, an excellent time at altitude, with Nakuru rising to an imposing 1,850 metres above sea level.

37th fastest half marathon

Simiu’s time ranks as the 37th fastest half marathon in the world this year with Uganda’s freshly-minted world record holder Jacob Kiplimo up there at the top with the world record 57:31 set in Lisbon just a week ago!

Kipchumba took a respectful silver on the streets on Nakuru yesterday, his 59:42 a huge improvement on his previous personal best time of 1:03:42 run in Boston in 2019.

Felix Kibitok, from Nandi County, was third, just micro-seconds over the one-hour mark in 1:00:01.

The women’s half marathon race was won by Catherine Relin, a Kapsait-based track specialist who is making in-roads into road running, in 1:07:29.

Gladys Chepkurui (1:07:32) and Caroline Jebet (1:07:38) completed the podium places.

The top three in the men’s 10-kilometre race were Cornelius Kemboi (28:53.06), Peter Mwaniki (28:57.06) and Ronald Kipkorir (28:59.99).

The women’s 10km top honours went to 2012 World Under-20 Championships steeplechase gold medalist Daisy Jepkemei (32:25.04) followed on the podium by Ludwina Chepng’etich (32:33.09) and Faith Cherono (32:42.27).

Nation Media Group CEO Stephen Gitagama makes his speech

Nation Media Group CEO Stephen Gitagama gives his speech at the end of Stanbic Nakuru City Marathon at the Rift Valley Sports Club grounds in Nakuru County on November 28, 2021.
 

Photo credit: John Njoroge | Nation Media Group
Nation Media Group CEO Stephen Gitagama enjoys a light moment with other participants

Nation Media Group CEO Stephen Gitagama (second right) enjoys a light moment with other participants at the Rift Valley Sports Club grounds after finishing the 5km race of the Stanbic Nakuru City Marathon on November 28, 2021.
 

Photo credit: John Njoroge | Nation Media Group

Besides the elite races, there was a five-kilometre fun run featuring both young and old, and attracting Nakuru Governor Lee Kinyanjui, Nation Media Group chief executive officer Stephen Gitagama who led a strong staff team, and other executives from the sponsors and Nakuru business community.

Winners of the men’s and women’s 21km races pocketed Sh500,000 while the 10km race winners cashing Sh100,000 cheques in the races that were televised live by NTV.

The top 15 athletes in each category received prize money with the second and third-placed runners in the half marathon bagging Sh250,000 and Sh150,000, respectively.

The Sh500,000 will certainly hold Simiu in good stead as he prepares for a busy 2022 season in which he targets podium places at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England, and the World Championships in Eugene, Oregon, USA.

Nakuru Governor Lee Kinyanjui (centre) arrives at the Rift Valley Sports Club grounds

Nakuru Governor Lee Kinyanjui (centre) arrives at the Rift Valley Sports Club grounds after finishing the 5km race of the Stanbic Nakuru City Marathon on November 28, 2021. 
 

Photo credit: John Njoroge | Nation Media Group

“I dedicate this win to my coach (Eric Kibet) who has been training me and motivating me to run,” Simiu said.

Grew up evading bandit attacks

“I am very happy and look forward to competing in many other championships, including the World Championships and Commonwealth Games next year,” added Simiu, who was a victim on spiking that saw him fail to make the final of the 5,000m at the Tokyo Olympics.

Simiu, who trains in Iten, and who grew up evading bandit attacks in the notorious Baragoi battlefield, was fresh from winning a 12km race in Cape Town, South Africa.

Yesterday, he bid his time, controlling the race from the from in an amazing gun-to-race performance that saw him open up an unassailable lead halfway the race before the field attacked the challenging, hilly Milimani sector.

In the women’s race, Jepkemei struck gold in only her second race over the 21km distance.

She has been on a 10km training regime and only decided to “try my luck” in the half marathon yesterday. 

She ran her first half marathon race last month in Eldama Ravine, Baringo County, finishing second, a result that motivated her to enter yesterday’s half marathon.

“I woke up and decided to try out my luck and I’m glad to be the winner,” she reflected, noting that she wasn’t overawed by the faces she saw at the start line who included multiple Boston Marathon champion Rita Jeptoo and 2006 World Cross Country Championships’ junior race winner Pauline Korikwiang.

Motivated in middle of race

“When I looked at who my competitors were, I saw several professional athletes and feared that my chances of winning were thin.  But I got motivated in the middle of the race when I learnt that no one was ahead of me,” said Relin.

The 23-year-old trains at the Kapsait Athletics Camp in Elgeyo Marakwet County in the company of, among others, world marathon record holder Brigid Kosgei who was in Nakuru yesterday as brand ambassador of race sponsors Stanbic Bank.

Relin said her next focus would be to qualify for the 10,000 metres for next summer’s Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.

Also eyeing a coveted 10,000m Kenyan ticket, but for the World Championships in Eugene, is Cornelius Kemboi, the Iten-based 10km men’s winner yesterday.

“I specialised in cross country running in high school before moving to the 5km and 10km races. My ambition is to be the world champion in the 10,000 metres race,” a confident Kemboi said at the Rift Valley Sports Club where yesterday’s races ended after starting outside the Stanbic Branch’s Kenyatta Avenue offices, attracting over 200 elite runners in the various categories with competitions starting off shortly before 8am on a wet morning.

Speaking during the prize-giving ceremony at the Rift Valley Sports Club, Governor Kinyanjui said he initiated what will now be an annual race day to, among other things, help nurture athletics talent among the youth to help them eke out a living from sport.

Market newly upgraded city status

“We want to make Nakuru a sports hub and the next home of champions after Eldoret by inculcating a sports culture,” he said.

“Supporting athletics and sports sector in our county will create employment opportunities to the jobless youth who have special interest in sports,” said Kinyanjui.

“This event will also market Nakuru’s newly upgraded city status to highlight it’s business, tourism and agricultural prowess as well as raise funds for conservation projects around Nakuru city and its environs,” he added.

The marathon comes when Nakuru has pumped about Sh800 million into upgrading sports infrastructure.

The county has invested Sh124 million in the first phase of the construction of the Keringet Sports Academy and Training Camp at Ndabibit Village, Kuresoi South Sub-county.

The high altitude training centre, one of Governor Kinyanjui’s flagship projects, will help nurture talent from Nakuru and other parts of the South Rift region.  

According to the Governor, the sports complex-cum-training camp will help in nurturing talent and encourage young athletes in the region while at the same time tap revenue through sports tourism.

“The sports complex will be fully equipped to help athletes in training.  It will also accommodate other sports in the county as part of our efforts to improve sports in the talent-rich region,” Governor Kinyanjui told Nation Sport.

“We will have international athletes camping at the centre as it will be a state-of-the-art high altitude training facility,” added Kinyanjui.

The 2,800-metres-above-sea-level sports facility is being constructed in two phases and is expected to be completed in the next 10 months.

Currently, athletes from Nakuru are having to to travel to Iten and Sirikwa sports academies for training.

Nakuru County is also rehabilitating the historic Afraha Stadium alongside Gilgil, Molo, Rongai and Kamukunji sports grounds, among others.

The county has pumped Sh650 million into the renovation of the 60-year-old Afraha Stadium to international standards.

The ambitious upgrade, that that is already underway, will see the stadium house multiple sporting disciplines with a convention centre also in the plans.  

Nakuru County Tourism and Trade executive Raymond Komen said yesterday’s Stanbic Nakuru City Marathon one of the activities meant to boost tourism in the area as Nakuru gets city status.

“Nakuru is a key tourism and business hub, with various natural resources including geothermal energy and agricultural products.

“The marathon has helped market Nakuru as the best tourism destination as well as business hub,” explained Komen gleefully.

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