By Jonathan Komen
It is unusual for a Kenyan athlete to enter the athletics millionaires’ class in a local competition –without boarding a plane abroad.
They race at international marathons longing for the big money as well as seeking the bragging rights to the world’s athletics bonanza — the IAAF World Championships and the Olympic Games.
In fact, most elite runners stay away from local competitions for fear of competition swirling around because of the talent glut.
But the tradition continued on Sunday when upstarts Weldon Kirui and Agnes Jepkosgei emerged from obscurity to claim victory at the sixth Kass Marathon run in Eldoret, each walking home Sh1.5 million richer.
Talk of their Christmas coming early in reward to a two hour work. The feat makes the two runners enter the millionaires’ class by default, quite literally.
Kirui and Jepkosgei athletics scripts are not like that of your typical Kenyan athletes.
Both had lofty dreams from their impoverished households — to work hard in academics and deliver their families from poverty chains.
The brilliant thoughts were soon crashed since their parents could not manage to raise their school fees.
Kirui, who comes from Chebilbilen in Bomet, dropped from school in Form Three at Sotik Secondary.
“Let me tell you, life has been hard for me. I braved numerous challenges while at Njerian Primary School then attended Kabungut Secondary School for two years before heading to Sotik Secondary School but I lacked fees to complete secondary education,” Kirui told Fever Pitch
The Kass Marathon showpiece — often billed as one of the biggest 42-kilometre contests in Africa — stands out as a stage for the hot talents from Kenya’s rural areas to pull a fast on the elite, gliding into the elite millionaire class then proceed to brilliant wins at the world stage.
Change of fortune
Kirui, a sixth born in a family 11, said: “After I dropped from school, I straight away decided to training athletics since this was the only option I felt it could change my lifestyle. That was in 2003.”
When he hit the roads running, some of his neighbours mocked him and even asked him to consider trying his hand in other businesses.
“But I am happy my life has changed,” he said.
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Kass Marathon Eldoret IAAF