By Mutwiri Mutuota
Prisons Service glamour girls were out in force at Saturday’s Kenya Prisons cross-country meet to support an event that is losing its lustre as the years go by.
Failure by the department to recruit fresh faces means twice World Champion, Catherine Ndereba, 2009 Boston Marathon champion, Salina Kosgei, three-time World Half silver winner, Susan Chepkemei and thrice World Cross short course titleholder, Edith Masai have continued to be the main attraction at Prison events for over a decade.
"We happened to join Prisons at almost the same time, and we had a strong women’s team that used to challenge our colleagues (Forces and Police)," Ndereba said after taking seventh in the senior women 8km run.
Chepkemei, returning to some vein of form following her doping sanction finished fourth with Kosgei eighth. Masai, who was the last Prisons female runner to make the national at the 2004 running in cross-country team sat out.
This is from a department that produced the first female long race World Cross champion in Hellen Chep’ngeno who took the title at the 1994 edition in Budapest.
Using the event to flex their muscles and gauge their form, the age defying Prisons famed trio that took part in the race outlined their plans for 2011.
"The injuries that have slowed me for two seasons are behind me. I’m training for a spring marathon that my manager is working on. My work is to be ready for it," Ndereba stated.
"I wanted to give a chance to younger girls to compete at the World Championships but Athletics Kenya insist I must be there. If I’m fit, I will compete," she disclosed in reference to going for an unprecedented third world title after her victories in 2003 and 2007.
"My first aim is to reclaim my Boston title in April," Kosgei, who was third there last year said.
"That is one of the event that will determine who competes at the World Championships and if selected, I will aim to do my best," added the athlete, who is eyeing at being the first Kenyan female runner to bag the lucrative World Marathon Majors crown.
Chepkemei, who was handed a one-year ban by IAAF in 2008 for doping violation after being given asthma medication believes her return to form is almost complete.
"Today I felt great out there. It’s been a struggle to regain full fitness after sitting out for that long. I intend to start with a few road races and half marathon to regain my sharpness then thereafter, return to marathon running," the thrice New York Marathon runner-up stated.
Prisons hopes of cracking the Punta Umbria World Cross rest on Pauline Wangui and Alice Mogire, the first two finishers at Saturday’s showdown.
But even they know they have their backs against the wall.
"I believe I will have a chance if I’m allowed to train with my friends at Police and Armed Forces. Here, we do not have strong runners," Wangui said.