It was pomp and dance for the little known Purity Gitonga after her win in the debut Mt. Kenya Mountain Running Championships held at Kenya School of Adventure and Leadership deep in the Mt. Kenya Forest in Meru County on Saturday.
Ms. Gitonga on hitting the tape after beating her teammate and 33-year-old closest challenger, Lucy Wambui who is a World Mountain Racing superstar said she wants to be the Meru County ‘Kipchoge’ rallying fellow youngsters to use their sports talents to earn a decent livelihood.
She earned accolades from the thousands of fans after becoming the first in the 12kms run amid a grueling track within the Mt. Kenya forest, exuding confidence in competing on the international arena after edging her teammate who has been a World champion in the same race twice.
Ms. Gitonga from Kibirichia Ward in Buuri Sub County who clocked 53:13:64 minutes said athletics is a sport that can be exhibited by anyone as long as they have passion.
“The race was tough especially with the muddy road that called for endurance. I had to employ all my stamina to come first despite sustaining bruises owing to a fall at the starting point,” said the little known budding athlete who was cheered immensely by her twin sister, Caroline Gitonga.
Her closest challenger, Wambui from Nyandarua County, whom they share the same training camp in Kiambogo, Naivasha termed the championship a landmark in Kenyan history. She clocked 53:34.04 minutes
She emerged second followed by Esther Waweru from Nyahururu who clinched the third position.
The trio bagged Sh.500,000, Sh.250,000 and Sh.100,000 cheques each respectively in an event that was presided over by Kisumu Governor Anyang’ Nyong’o and his host counterpart, Kiraitu Murungi.
In the men’s category, 27-year-old Emmanuel Bor from Nandi County took the lead with Martin Mbaabu from Nyeri County coming second with Dennis Kemboi Trans Nzoia closing the best three chapter.
The three clocked 46:20:00, 46:35:02 and 46:48:03 minutes respectively in the 2,800 metres above sea level altitude race.
In the 8kms men’s run, Kelvin Kariuki from Embu County won in 33:32:51 minutes followed by Misheck Lochomoi from Baringo County in 33:46:57 minutes whereas Fredrick Mboyoni from Embu County closed the top three chapter in 37:35:04 minutes.
In women’s 6kms run, Susan Wahome from Nyeri County took the lead closely followed by Salome Otiso from Embu and Marqueta Mahiga from Meru County.
Under the 12kms Corporate run, Lolomarik Farm took the lead followed by Kenya Methodist University and Meru Dairy Cooperative Union respectively.
The championship dubbed, “Challenging the Heights” sought to mobilize funds towards the establishment of a cancer research institute in Meru County and also sensitize residents on the cancer prevalence in the region together with marketing the region as a tourism destination and investment hub.
The President of Athletics Kenya Major General (Rtd), Jackson Tuwei commended the Meru County leadership for coming up with the initiative saying as an athletics body they have earmarked the premier championship as an annual event.
The Meru Governor said the close to 3,000 participants was an indication that the event was a success urging residents to take cancer as a threat in the region and that all mechanisms have to be put in place to eradicate it.
Kisumu Governor who was the Chief Guest took the challenge, saying he will see to it that a similar championship happens in his county.
By Richard Muhambe