East Africans reign long-distance flowing up to 26.2 miles but longer races are almost exclusively white-hot things. As ever in top-level athletic, fund has a lot to answer for
In the world of ultrarunning, one race stands out as the most competitive, the Super Bowl, the London marathon of ultrarunning: it is the Ultra-Trail Mont Blanc.
Since getting involved in ultrarunning a few years ago, I have followed the race online each August. The start is inciting trash: more than 2,000 athletes gather in the town of Chamonix in the Alps, with the sport’s creme de la creme gathered at the figurehead. These are the supermen and superwomen who will race around the 105 -mile route at mind-boggling accelerations. They are among the greatest players on Earth.
Yet, watching it, I discovered a big, red flag hovering that no one else seemed to mention. Everyone on the start boundary was lily-white. If this organization is the world’s greatest distance runners, where were the Kenyans?
I don’t need to explain to readers of this blog that Kenyans, along with their neighbours in Ethiopia, dominate the world of long-distance is participating in distances up to and including the marathon. After that, however, they don’t aspect. Why?
Asking parties at the center of the Kenyan running world, in the town of Iten, about ultrarunning returns mainly mystified searches. What is this thing you speak of, they question? Operating further than a marathon? Is that possible?
I told one 2hr 4min marathon runner that I had guided 100 km. He looked at me in incredulity and asked me how many days it had taken. I know 100 km is a long way, but if you can do 42 km in just over two hours … well, do the maths, it is less than a daylight. But the concept was so alien that he couldn’t get his head around it.
Left with this puzzle, I decided to do something potentially disastrous, but also potentially gamechanging for Kenyans and for ultrarunning: I decided to introduce them to each other.
The large-scale hurdle to this is, of course, was fund. In Kenya, “there wasnt” administrators looking for ultrarunners , no one willing to pay for an aircraft ticket to a hasten in the hope of cashing in on a share of the prevails. This is because the prizes are tiny or non-existent. Money is a key motivator for many Kenyan athletes: moving offers them a style to change their lives, to escape privation and to help their families and communities. They don’t always have the indulgence of doing it just for the ardour of it.
Yet, as the sport of ultrarunning germinates, so do the opportunities to earn money. A few of top ultrarunners now have agents procuring them large-hearted sponsorship spates and a few cases hastens are putting up big cash prizes in the hope of luring the top challengers. So, for those working thousands of Kenyans who dedicate themselves to training and live like professional jocks, but who are in a position never get a discern in a road race, ultrarunning could give an shop for them to express their talents.
Not everyone in ultrarunning enjoys this idea. One senior party in an ultrarunning fellowship told me he hoped Kenyans would never discover ultrarunning, for panic they would” kill it by winning all the races “. He said he believed it was a question of branding, that beings don’t care when a Kenyan prevails a marathon, why i am” machines realized for extending “.
But Kenyan runners are not machines: they work hard to achieve what the hell is do and they deserve the same opportunities as everyone else. Their fibs are just as compelling if people take the time to listen.
Luckily the rest of the ultrarunning parish has been more welcoming, with top US smugglers Sage Canaday and Gary Gellin already putting some coin forward to help the project. Ultrarunner Zach Miller told me he would relish the opportunity to race some top Kenyans and had invited them to train with him in Colorado.
My belief is that Kenyans taking part in ultrarunning is simply hoist the play and be added layer of interest by making it more competitive. It will be a world-wide boast only when its doors are open to everyone.
So, a wheel has been invented. Some friends in California and I are crowdfunding to cover the costs for two Kenyans to improve for and hasten in the Lake Sonoma 50 -mile ultra race in north California in April. The hasten unit is revelled, with race administrator John Medinger saying he was ” thrilled to have them” at Sonoma.
Convincing Kenyans to take up the challenge has not been easy, but two contestants agreed to give their marathon-running ideals on hold for a few months to witness what would happen if they took to the trails.
The first is Francis Bowen, a 2hr 8min marathon runner at his best( he flowed his PB in 2011 ). Now 43, Francis may be the fastest marathon runner ever to try a course ultra. That is an provoking potential. The second is Risper Kimaiyo, who has in fact run one ultramarathon, the 50 km world championship in 2016 in Qatar. She triumphed.
” I precisely experience running great distances ,” she adds. She trained in South Africa for a while- where ultrarunning is more common- and remarks she used to run 70 km every Saturday. That is why she decided to put herself forward for the world championships.” I went to Qatar and I came up liking it[ ultrarunning ],” she pronounces. Yet, despite being “the worlds” champ, she hasn’t been able to race an ultra since. The opportunity just didn’t exist. Until now.
* To help Francis and Risper train for and travel to the Lake Sonoma 50, please pledge your approval here.