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Each week, Justin Lagat provides us a A view from Kenya. Justin Lagat lets us see how elite athletes compete in local Kenya races, and how elite wanna bes compete in local Kenyan races, hoping to be seen. Justin Lagat has allowed us to appreciate just how competitive it is in Kenya for middle and long distance events. This piece is on the AK cross country series.

Out of the recent results from races across the world, it is evident that a new generation of stars is emerging. Relatively new names are getting into the podium places in major city marathons; like Diana Kipyogei and Benson Kipruto winning the Boston Marathon, Bethwel Yegon finishing second in Berlin, Mohamed Aaraby and Violah Lagat finishing second in New York, among others.

It would appear that there have been limited opportunities for many runners to compete and showcase their talents in the last two years due to the pandemic and could be the reason we are seeing a lot of new names and surprises in many of the big races.

With the series of cross country races that just began in Kenya, many runners now have the opportunity to attend and get spotted.

The first leg happened in Machakos last week and the podiums of the senior races were dominated by new stars. Emmanuel Kiplagat won the men’s 10K race in 29:41 followed by Vincent Kipkurui in 29:43 and Fredrick Domongele in 30:09. The women’s race was won by Esther Borura in 34:08. Caren Chebet finished second in 34:29 and Valentine Jepkoech followed for the third position in 34:48.

Cross country season in Kenya has always been a time for Kenyan runners to work on their endurance and speed. This is where the long distance runners meet with the middle distance runners, for different reasons. The distance runners are here to work on their speed while the middle-distance runners are here to work on their endurance.

Often, runners who emerge on the podium positions are the same ones who will feature in the big marathons later in the year and on the Diamond league races. For example, both the men and women winners of the Kenyan national cross country championships; Rodgers Kwemoi and Sheila Chelangat ended up representing Kenya in the 10,000m event at the Tokyo Olympic Games.

Being held in Iten where the largest number of Kenyan runners train, this cross country event promises to provide a list of runners to watch out for in the lead up to some major athletics competitions next year, especially towards the World Athletics Championships in Eugene.

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