Turkana woman’s Elizabeth Ebenyo steely resolve pays off as she wins her first major race

Elizabeth Ebenyo on her way to winning the 8km senior women’s  race during the first edition of  Turkana County Cross Country at Lodwar Primary School at the weekend  [PHOTO:COURTESY]


It is strange how fortunes turn around.

Some years back, Elizabeth Ebenyo was heartbroken when her husband abandoned her and her children. She then turned to athletics, competing in local and international races to earn money.

But this fetched minimal success until luck came on her way at the inaugural Turkana Cross-Country Championship in Lodwar last Saturday.

The 32-year-old Ebenyo produced a superlative show to wow the huge crowds that included County Deputy Governor Peter Ekai, Tullow Kenya — an oil and gas drilling firm— Deputy General Manager Sid Black and Athletics Kenya President Isaiah Kiplagat at Lodwar Primary School.

And you could read the excitement in her face as she said: “I run for my children.”

When the mother of four, who also has two orphans in her custody, took to the course during the first edition of the Tullow Kenya-sponsored Turkana County Cross country on Saturday, not even the scorching sun could stop her from achieving her dreams.

Running ahead of the pack from the start to the tape, Ebenyo, who clocked 31.26 ahead of Joan Ekiru (31.18) and Rebecca Nakuwa (31.48) could not stop thinking about her four children.

Decent living

“I have ran in many local events, including one race in Rwanda just to put food on the table for my children, life has been cruel since my husband abandoned us, but I said to myself I am all they have and I will do everything to make them comfortable and athletics has been my hope and here I am today as a winner all for their sake,” said Ebenyo. 

“I took to athletics after seeing many female runners earn a decent living out of it. I decided to take athletics seriously by training across the ridges, sometimes on an empty stomach,” Ebenyo who is grateful to her coach John Ekiru told FeverPitch.

Ebenyo, who took home Sh100,000, promised to use the  money to construct a decent house and use the rest to educate her children.

Abandoned the gun

Turkana has produced a sizeable number of world beating runners that include Seoul Olympics 800m champion Paul Ereng, 2010 world cross-country champion Joseph Ebuya and Commonwealth Games marathon winner John Kelai.

In the men’s 12km race, Jamin Ekai, who abandoned the gun for athletics, has started reaping the fruits of his bold decision.

The former warrior clocked 30:14 to win the 12km men’s race to take home  Sh100,000 prize money.

Ekai, who comes from Kainuk in Turkana County said: “I decided to abandon cattle rustling because I saw more cattle in athletics, today I have won despite facing stiff opposition from Paul Eyanae and Joseph Lore.”

Eyanae clocked 30.18 to finish second ahead of Lore (30.45). The runner up took home Sh75,000 while the third finished pocketed Sh50,000.

In the 6km junior men’s race, John Loree timed 11:58, followed by Samuel Lomoi (12:04) and Samuel Tureu (12.45). Martha Akero ran in 16:15 to win the women’s 6km junior race ahead of Veronicah Kamaise 16:25 and Regina Aitwe (17:36).  

Black said:  “The Turkana community is our first point of contact when we go out into the field. When developing a community engagement programme such as this gala, it is critical that we get feedback from our hosts and integrate this information into our plans.”

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