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Pain for Kenyan athletes as coranavirus bites racing events

ATHLETICS By Mohammed Awal | March 12th 2020
Kenya's Lawrence Cherono, holds the trophy after winning the 2019 Boston Marathon. [Winslow Townson,AP]

“We have suffered as athletes because we have no other sources of income. Race organisers are cancelling races, it is tough for me to train alone since majority of athletes have left our training camp,” says Lawrence Cherono the Boston 2019 Marathon winner.

His words capture and paint the picture of how Kenyan athletes have suffered after the cancellation of major running events due to coronavirus.

Late February to early May is the ‘harvesting’ period for athletes competing in half and full marathons, but sadly the major running events scheduled for the aforementioned period have been cancelled by organisers.

One of the first major events to see a shift in schedule was the Tokyo Marathon at the beginning of March; the marathon was only held for the elites and the non-elite runners were given entry to the 2021 race. It suffices to say the event was a skeleton of its former self, with runners forced to run without fans.

The Tokyo cancellation was followed by the New York City Marathon which was scheduled for March 15, but the coronavirus scare was too big a risk to take.

Kenya’s Antony Maritim who finished third in last year’s Barcelona Marathon will be forced to wait till October to get a chance to improve his track record, after the postponement of the race from March 15 to six months later due to the Covid-19 virus fears.

With Italy recording more than 1000 cases of Corona infection, the Rome Marathon scheduled for March 29 was cancelled forcing Kenyan athletes to wait longer as the marathon was last won by Kenya in 2016.

“I was shocked to learn that the World Half Marathon slated for Gdynia, Poland had been postponed. As an athlete, I was well prepared for the event and to run for my country for the second time, to prove to the world that Victor is here. But the virus has cost me as well as my colleagues,” said Victor Chumo who was looking forward to the marathon which was postponed from this month to a later date in October.

Chumo is not alone. Paris Marathon bronze medalist Paul Lonyangata will have to wait for the next six months to try and go for the pole position after the French capital Marathon was rescheduled from April 5 to October 18.

Only two races have announced that the events will continue as planned; Boston and London Marathon scheduled for April 20 and 26 respectively.

With health coming first as the main reason for the cancellation, Kenyan racers have resigned to fate painfully so but they admit that their health is vital.

“We have to comply with the rules and regulations. Our health means a lot to us. It is better to understand the situation and run later,” said Chumo

In the meantime, athletes will continue to train and pray that the pandemic will be maintained sooner rather than later.

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