It's all systems go as Onyancha, Kiprotich headline Lukenya Marathon

Athletes training ahead of Lukenya University One Million Trees marathon preparation that kicks off tomorrow at Kibwezi East sub County, Makueni County. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

It's all systems go for today's inaugural Lukenya University One Million Trees Marathon in Mtito Andei, Makueni County.

Both local and international athletes are ready to fight for the Sh 500,000 prize money on offer in the men and women's categories.

Top 20 finishers in the 42km, 21km and 10km categories will also be rewarded in the lucrative race.

George Nyamorio Onyancha, who is fresh from winning the Miami and Austin marathons in the US, is among the world beaters who have descended in the Kibwezi East Constituency to look for glory in the race.

"My target is to win the race," the Graz Marathon (Austria) champion told Standard Sports.

"I have tested the route this morning (Saturday), the road is quite rugged, but the most challenging bit is the weather.This will be the greatest drawback for most participants here."

Taipei Marathon runner up, Thomas Kibet will be looking for honours in the men's 21km which he has prepared for three months.

"My speed and endurance is top notch, what I fear is the humidity in this zone, I'm yet to figure how I'm going to handle it," said Kibet, who will use the Lukenya race to gauge his body ahead of his departure for the Copenhagen Marathon in Sweden.

Hammington Cherop from Kaptagat believes the decorated Onyancha is the one who is standing between him and the prize money in the men's 42km category.

"The weather will definitely be a challenge, but I'm targeting a podium finish," reiterated Cherop who finished top ten in the Eldoret City and Standard Chartered marathons last year.

Paul Machoka from Kisii is also planning for the 'Money Heist' in the men's 21km.

He says his inspiration to lift the race was motivated with a top ten finish in the Nyamira Great Run last season.

Athletics Kenya Western Region men's U-20 Cross-Country champion Kones Kibet said his mission in Lukenya is to lower his Personal Best in men's 21km which stands at 67 minutes. Kibet upped his training with the National Police Service in Ngong Hills ahead of the race.

Victor Kimutai and Nathan Ruto have both expressed similar sentiments in the men's 10 km category where they are hopeful to leave a mark.

Mercy Kiprotich (10km) and Gladys Jepkoech (21km) believe the women's titles are theirs to lose owing to the kind of preparations they have had for the races.

Due to the extreme weather conditions in Makueni County, Lukenya University Vice Chancellor Constantine Nyamboga has indicated that the races are only open to athletes over 18 years old.

The event will be graced by athletics legends among them former world marathon record holder Patrick Makau who is also the race ambassador, Catherine Ndereba, Tegla Loroupe and Cosmas Ndeti.

"We are also here to motivate upcoming athletes," Makau said.

The marathon will be accompanied with a tree planting session to support sustainable actions on climate change.

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