Lorot, Mkungo to face off at Lukenya race

Panuel Mkungo in a past action. [Renson Mnyamwezi, Standard]

Elite athletes are registering in droves for the second edition of the Lukenya University 10 Million Trees Marathon set for Mtito Andei, Makueni County on Sunday.

Latest entrants in the star studded list of over 150 world beaters are the reigning Istanbul Marathon champion Panuel Mkungo and former African Cross Championships junior silver medallist Andrew Lorot.

Mkungo believes his vast experience in the game will help him wrestle the trophy from defending champion Peter Kyengo who last season pledged to return to the Lukenya race blazing hot.

Mkungo's decorated record puts him as the marathon favourite against Kyengo but things do happen on the course on the race day.

Mkungo has been upping his game both locally and internationally, and winning Lukenya Marathon will be the best way to start his 2024 season.

Among the high profile races he has won include the Pittsburg 10 Miles Road Race in Russia (2017), Maratonica Citta di Arezzo Half Marathon in Italy (2021), Telesia Half Marathon in Italy (2021) and Mezza Maratona Half Marathon in Italy (2021).

Others are the Zagreb Half Marathon in Croatia (2022) and the Bucharest Half Marathon in Romania (2022).

Last season, he triumphed in the Istanbul Marathon in Turkey before settling for third place in the Grandma Marathon in the USA.

On the other hand, Lorot hopes to combine his junior tactics with his current in-form to dethrone Kyengo from the throne.

Lorot believes this mission is possible going by the way he has up his training for the weekend showpiece.

As a junior, Lorot brought the country glory, winning team gold for Kenya in the 2014 and 2016 African Cross Country Championships in Kampala, Uganda and Yaunde, Cameroun respectively.

As a senior, Lorot prides himself as Fukagawa Hokuren Road Race champion in Japan (2018) and Sendai Half Marathon runners up, also in Japan (2022).

Last year, Kyengo warned that the Lukenya University 10 Million Trees Marathon men's title is his for the keep for the next three seasons.

Despite winning, he pledged to review some of the drawbacks he faced in the challenge to return more inspired, motivated and energised in 2024.

Race ambassador Patrick Makau says preparations are already in top gear to ensure that this year's contest becomes as smooth as possible.

"We are doing final touches; we expect the athletes to start arriving on Friday via the SGR train. All plans have been put in place to ensure that everyone involved is properly accommodated for the marathon," the former world marathon record holder told Standard Sports.

Other categories to be battled during the marathon include the 21km, 10km, 50km cycling and the 5km fun/family run.

Over 40 sponsors have come on board to support the race cause which is to advocate for sustainable actions on climate change.

Leading broadcaster Standard Group PLC will broadcast the race live, through its various media platforms, to millions of Kenyans and those beyond the borders.

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