Hundreds of athletes across the country are gearing up for the inaugural Lukenya University One Million Trees Marathon set for Lukenya University, Mtito Andei Campus in Tsavo East on March 26.
The race Local Organising Committee (LOC) chairman George Wasonga, says they are targeting 10,000 athletes, both elite and amateurs in the race.
"The athletes will not only run but will be able to plant three trees each, translating into 30,000 trees on the marathon D-day," Wasonga explained.
The LOC committee member and Lukenya University representative Paul Mwania, says they came up with the tree-planting initiative because Makueni County, where the university is located, is a semi-arid area.
"The temperature in the county is 1.69 degrees above the national average index," he explained.
"We believe if we increase the forest cover by 40 per cent in the region, the temperature will drop by 0.45 degrees in the next one year."
The other reason for coming up with the marathon, according to Mwania, is that the race is in line with Lukenya University objectives and core values.
"One of our functions is community outreach, we want to benefit the society around us through environmental conservation as we commit to our main function of teaching and research," he said.
"The marathon is open to both elite athletes and the legends. The legends will go for a short run, their presence will be of great significance in that it will help to create awareness on the sustainable actions on climate change that we are advocating."
Mwania has clarified that the race proceeds will be used to fund the tree planting initiative specifically in Kibwezi East areas.
"I urge Kenyans of like minds to join us in large numbers to support the marathon. The race will help to green Kenya, it will give the country enough forest cover," Mwania underlined.
"Trees not only harness rain but also help in environmental and soil conservation."
Mwania explains that the university has chosen sports to drum up its message on climate change because sports is a path to any awareness comprehension.
"Sports is a unifying factor, sports don’t discriminate," he said.
The ambitious tree planting session by the university was kicked off by the Vice Chancellor Constantine Nyamboga on December 12, 2022.
So far, those who have been engaged in environmental conservation, are the students of the institution, the Lukenya community and the Lukenya Secondary and Primary schools.
"The Makueni Sub-County experiences climate change effects through droughts leading to low crop production and loss of animals in the region," said Mwania.
"This initiative we have started will contribute towards the mitigation of climate change and economic empowerment of the community.
"This will ultimately lead to increased food production thereby mitigating poverty in the county."
Former women's World Marathon record holder Tegla Loroupe and double women's world marathon champion Catherine Ndereba are some of the legends expected to grace the race.
Others are double men’s half marathon champion Patrick Makau and two-time Boston marathon champion Cosmas Ndeti.
The champions of the race whose theme is "Running For A Greener Future" will each walk home Sh500,000 in prize money, in both men and women categories.
Runners up will each go home with Sh250,000. The university plans to plant 200,000 trees annually.
Lukenya University has partnered with leading national media house Standard Group PLC to drum up support for the marathon.
Athletics Kenya has hailed the race saying it's a noble idea meant to promote sustainable actions on climate change.