Tough battle expected as Iten hosts first international race

 Iten town in Elgeyo Marakwet County on August 28,2022. [Christopher Kipsang,Standard]

Next month, focus will shift to Iten, the high altitude training base that has produced a huge number of world beaters.

This time though it won't be the athletes lining up in the wee hours as they engage in their rigorous training sessions. They will line-up for the inaugural Iten International Marathon.

According to organisers, the December 18, 2022 race, which is sponsored by Elgeyo Marakwet County and the Kenya Commercial Bank, is expected to display talent and attract international athletes and position Iten as the world’s premium training destination.

Organisers have already laid the ground for a world class marathon that is set to be run in a high altitude with an elevation of 2400m.

At least 3,000 distance runners train in the North Rift athletics town daily.

A technical team preparing for the marathon said the December marathon seeks to redefine Iten’s potential not just in producing and hosting the world’s best athletes and coaches, but also in hosting a global event.

They added that elite athletes from Kenya and across the globe will be eyeing glory in the race.

“I invite all sponsors to partner with us to ensure this marathon is a success. We will appreciate your support as we aspire to reawaken the champion (Iten) that has continuously produced athletics talent,” Governor Wesley Rotich, who is the race’s patron, told Standard Sport.

He said the international marathon will showcase Iten’s potential as the 'Mecca' of distance running.

He said alongside the marathon, organisers have planned a 2km fun race for corporate partners.

The town was in 2019 awarded the World Athletics landmark plaque for its rich history in the sport. Talk of Elgeyo Marakwet athletics legends and the list is endless.

Some of the athletics stars who have trained in Iten include Ibrahim Hussein, the three-time Boston Marathon winner and one-time New York City Marathon champion, Peter Rono (the 1988 Olympic 1500m gold medallist), Wilson Boit Kipketer (1997 World 3000m Steeplechase champion), Matthew Birir (1992 Olympic 3000m Steeplechase champion) and David Rudisha, the 2012 Olympic 800m gold medallist and world record holder.

Also in Iten’s list of world beaters are former World champions Edna Kiplagat, Florence Kiplagat, Lornah Kiplagat, Linet Masai, and Mary Keitany, among others.

Others are Olympic track and field athlete Mary Keitany, Edna Kiplagat and Florence Kiplagat, World half marathon record holder Joyciline Jepkosgei and Beijing Marathon champion Valary Aiyabei.

Irish missionary and teacher-cum coach, Brother Colm O’Connell – the father of Kenyan athletics, who has been largely responsible for the relentless rise of the Kenyan athletics stars, has called Iten home since the 1970s.

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