Thursday, March 17, 2011

Did You Know…? World Class World Cross Edition

This weekend, the world’s best distance runners will gather in Punta Umbia, Spain to contest the 39th IAAF World Cross Country Championships. Did you know that KIMbia athletes have collected NINETEEN Top 5 finishes at World Cross? Paul Koech leads the way with an impressive four, including a silver medal in 1998 that might have been gold, had the unbeatable Paul Tergat not been in the field.  (Koech also finished sixth on two occasions.)

Individual medalists include Sammy Kipketer (silver, 2000 4k), Luke Kipkosgei (silver, 2002 4k), Daniel Komen (silver, 1998 4k), and John Yuda (silver, 2002 12k). Additionally, Top-10 finishes have come from Elana Meyer (6th in 1994 and 1995) and Elva Dryer (8th in 2002 4k).

A list of Top-10 finishes by KIMbia athletes is below. Read the full article

TwitterFacebookGoogle+DeliciousDiggPrintRead It LaterRedditPinterestWebnewsEmailEvernoteShare
Friday, March 21, 2008

Report from Iten Peace Run

Peter Vigneron is in Kenya for the next few months to work on KIMbia Foundation projects. Here’s his account of the Iten Peace Run, held last Saturday in Kenya’s unofficial running capital.

Our correspondent and some of his new rafikis (friends).A little after 8am I arrived at the soccer field in Iten center, shepherded by Paul Koech and with 30 girls from Silgich Hill Academy following in two matatus. Already I was traveling with a former world champion, and presently I would meet another, then an Olympic gold medalist, then a reigning world champion at 800 meters. I snagged a picture of the man who holds the greatest record in track and field, and—true to form—he made an early exit from the scene. This was the start to my fourth day in Kenya, 74 hours into the trip.

Toby Tanser and Lornah Kiplagat have held a girls race in Iten since 2004. This year’s edition was scheduled for January 5th, but events intervened and the race did not proceed. On February 28, Kenya’s rival politicians signed a power sharing agreement that has brought a nervous peace to the country, and the event, which in normal circumstances promotes education and athletic achievement for young girls, was recast as a peace march and 4k cross country fun run. This year, it featured nearly every prominent Kenyan runner of the last four decades.

Douglas Wakihuri (1987 world marathon champ) and Luke Kibet (2007 world marathon champ) with their country’s flag.When the idea for a peace run was born, Kenyans had made precious few serious gestures toward peace and reconciliation nationwide. In fact there is still a disheartening shortage of such gestures, but the running community is beginning to make its voice heard. “Actions speak louder than words,” Olympic bronze medalist Mike Boit said after the race, “and we have told everyone that we want peace in Kenya.”

The elephant on the field Saturday afternoon was a report published by the International Crisis Group (ICG) February 21 that accused runners of funding and organizing some of the post-election violence in Rift Valley Province. It quoted sources who suggested that Kalenjin runners with military training helped to drive the Kikuyu supporters of Mwai Kibaki out of the Rift after the election, and were thusly responsible for the deaths of hundreds of people and the widespread destruction of Kikuyu homes and shops.
These allegations came several weeks after several athletes received SMS text messages threatening violence against runners if they purchased abandoned Kikuyu land. The ICG paper reports that runners involved in the violence had “partly economic” motivations for supporting Kalenjin militias, and the SMS threats were probably intended to deter athletes from buying Kikuyu land at low cost. Moses Tanui, who owns several large commercial buildings in Eldoret, was also harassed by police, whom many Kalenjins say sided with the government against the opposition.
Who needs CoolMax? Tanser recruited nearly 600 girls from local primary schools for the race, and gave each a yellow t-shirt bearing the Shoe4Africa logo and the words “Run for Peace.” Tanser’s organization distributes running shoes to underprivileged Kenyan children, and each girl received a pair of sneakers at the finish line.
Each elite athlete was also asked to don a shirt, and so shortly after 10am, a parade of yellow clad runners—past, present, and future—marched through the small commercial center of Iten. 1988 Olympic silver medalist ’87 world marathon champion Douglas Wakiihuri carried the Kenyan flag at the head of the parade with Luke Kibet, the reigning world marathon champion who was injured in the violence. Wakihuri is Kikuyu and Kibet Kalenjin.
The 31 page ICG report contains only one paragraph on athlete participation in the violence, but that paragraph has attracted worldwide media attention. An article on noted how disappointing it would be if athlete role models were responsible for or involved in violence. It is a concern that has deeply offended the Kenyan running community, who view themselves as the face Kenya shows to the world.
Well, so much for a blazing kick–some girls queued up 100 meters from the finish.After the march, KIMbia athletes Chris Cheboiboch and Tim Cherigat led the girls through the two-lap 4k course. 14 year old Paskaline Kosgei took an early lead, running alongside Cheboibach for a solid victory over Chelimo Ng’etich and Gladys Cherop, who were paced by Cherigat. Kosgei won a Compaq laptop for her school, and Ng’etich and Cherop took home 12,000 and 8,000 Kenyan Shillings, respectively, or roughly $185 and $125 USD. All but a few girls racing went barefoot, and the scene at the finish was at times both chaotic and comical. Race organizers and staff rushed to hand out shoes but were quickly overwhelmed. At one point the queue for the finish grew to over 100 meters.
The athletes I’ve spoken with are furious that the paragraph implicating runners in the ICG report has been seized upon by the media. “It’s all political,” one told me. “It’s people taking advantage of the situation to tarnish big names in the running community. They see an opportunity and they take it.”
In Iten, business is back to usual. The hundreds of runners who normally train on the town’s famous red dirt roads have returned. KIMbia athletes Cheboiboch, Cherigat, James Kosgei and Mike Jeptoo put in a very good 25k effort on Wednesday, and Charles Kibiwott ran 2:08 at the Seoul International Marathon on Sunday. World Cross County is coming up. The athletes would like the violence, and now the accusations, behind them.

International athletes in attendance, Shoe4Africa Run For Peace:

  • Daniel Komen
  • Janet Jepkosgei (The Eldoret Express)
  • Lornah Kiplagat
  • Yobes Ondieki
  • Joyce Chepchumba
  • Amos Biwot
  • Moses Tanui
  • Luke Kibet
  • Moses Kiptanui
  • John Yuda
  • Paul Koech
  • Mike Boit
  • Douglas Wakihuri
  • Ezekiel Kembio
  • Jephart Kimutei
  • Ben Maiyo
  • Matthew Birir
  • Kimutei Kosgei
  • John Litei
  • Durka Mana
  • Silvia Kibet
  • James Kosgei
  • Rebbie Koech
  • Peter Tanui
  • Christopher Koskei
  • Paul Cherop
  • Ben Kogo
  • Rose Tatamuye
  • Wilson Juma
  • Jonah Birir
  • Luke Kipkosgei
TwitterFacebookGoogle+DeliciousDiggPrintRead It LaterRedditPinterestWebnewsEmailEvernoteShare
Saturday, March 8, 2008

More on Kenya from Paul Koech

The author, during more peaceful times in Iten, in front of one of the town’s destination restaurants. Photo courtesy of Paul Koech’s take on the sad situation in Kenya of the last few months. Paul is a captain in the Kenyan Army, and recently spent a year as part of a peacekeeping force in Darfur, only to return home and find senseless political violence occurring in his own country.

Hope this will find you and your family in a fine mode. We are coming to terms with what transpired in our country in the last two months. Although things are returning to normal, it is at a snail’s pace and suspicion and tension remain in several areas. We have high confidence with the results of the mediation team led by former UN Secretary General Koffi Anann. The team has a positive intention towards stability in our country. We hope that the government is ready for change, as they will be significantly affected.

The cause of this conflict actually is power greed, which is what most of our old guard leaders were brought up with and thus they believe that they can stay in power as long as they wish. That is, as long as they control the arm of security forces.

Those involved were surprised by what occurred after all their plans of rigging were exposed before the election actually took place. They had tried to use administrative elements to ensure victory, but then realized that many of these people were not on their side in several areas where they were not popular. They then decided to use Administration Police, whom, since President Kibaki took power in 2002, have been trained and equipped to support the government in case of any uncertain resistance by citizens to any government project. There is evidence that these police were sent to several polling centers, which were unfriendly to the government, with marked voting papers, with an intention of stashing them into the ballot boxes.

This plan failed when some of these very police passed the information to the opposition. The opposition leader went to the press and condemned the presence of police at the polling centers. Thus, this marked the end of government power in unfriendly areas, as any suspected police in civil or uniform were aggressively stopped.

With this plan aborted, they staged another scheme whereby they waited for the results from various regions and then altered the figures in favor of Mwai Kibaki. The alteration of these figures was noted and complaints were raised by returning officers, who had been in the poling station. They were then threatened and replaced and the specific forms used in placing results were changed and signed by the different officers. Also, the chairman of Electoral Commission was forced to announce the doctored results. He complied since, as it has been suggested, one of his tribesman was bound to be vice president and could eventually take over leadership after Kibaki’s term ends.

The act was not just vote rigging, but even more significantly, the stealing of Kenyan rights. The events from the time Kibaki was announced as the winner to swearing in was a clear indication that there was a scheme hatched prior to the election, for the normal ceremony protocol was not followed when the announcement of the winner took place. This immediately marked the beginning of the clashes on December 28.

It is also interesting to note that it took the Electoral Commission three days to announce the presidential election results, while the parliamentary results were announced immediately. In the party result, the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM, led by Raila Odinga) had 99 members of parliament against 43 for Party of Nation Unity (PNU, led by Kibaki). Other small parties had 65. This indicates that Kibaki had the support of less than a quarter of the MPs. When ODM raised complaints of rigging in the specific areas, their pleas were ignored as the legal system appears to have favored the Kibaki and his government. If this continues, legal arguments against PNU will most likely take several years before it is deliberated or given a hearing.

The negotiating teams made considerable progress, and on February 28 the two leaders, Kibaki and Odinga, signed a power sharing agreement. The parliament was constituted on March 6 and will address needed changes to the Constitution to accommodate the signed agreement. The proposed changes designate that there shall be a president, who will be the head of state, and an executive prime minister, who will be the head of Government, with Kibaki and Raila taking the above positions, respectively. Although the general population accepts this compromise in a effort to save the country from breaking apart, in reality ODM followers are bitter about what occurred.

At one point, Paul was the second fastest 10,000m runner in history. Photo courtesy a result of this controversial election, it may take Kenya ages to heal and to return to where we were. The most affected areas are the core ODM areas, where anger ruled over justice and common sense. People destroyed properties by fire and even hanged rival supporters who were living in the area. Destruction in some areas was not tribal, but rather as a result of political rivalry.

Our country is divided into eight regions, where Central Province is almost entirely Kikuyu. This is the largest tribe in Kenya and the tribe of Mwai Kibaki. The property in this area is owned almost exclusively by the Kikuyu. Kikuyus are also found in all the other regions and own many businesses and properties. The reason behind this dates back to colonial time, when the Central Province, in general, was not occupied by the whites, but the Kikuyu were used by the colonialist to fight other tribes and worked for them. By virtue of their close relationship, Kikuyus had early access to education and hence were able to prosper.

Thus after independence, the Kikuyu had an upper hand to succeed to most of the positions in the government. The government of our first president issued land to Kikuyu, through a settlement scheme, in the areas which were perceived to be for other tribes.This did not sit well with the other tribes, and as a result of resistance to this act, many were jailed and intimidated. People have been hiding their anger for the last 40 years, only to resurface by the election dispute.

Despite all of this, I remain optimistic and I hope that we have learned some positive lessons from this conflict. It is clear that the greed and selfishness of a few can negatively effect the lives of many. I hope that this is a lesson that we do not forget.

I feel that we should be especially indebted to Kofi Annan and to President Bush and Secretary Rice for their efforts to see us through this turbulence of greed.

TwitterFacebookGoogle+DeliciousDiggPrintRead It LaterRedditPinterestWebnewsEmailEvernoteShare
Friday, February 29, 2008

Kenya Update From Paul Koech

Paul Koech (26:36 10,000m, 2:07:07 marathon) sent us this report from Kenya on Wednesday, one day before the leaders of the country’s rival political parties signed a power-sharing agreement. A captain in the Kenyan Army, Koech founded Silgich Hill Academy in 2004. The school provides free primary education for more than 150 students.

Students at Silgich Academy. Photo courtesy of are fine, although with some tension in relation to the security state of the country. Silgich Academy is going on well, although most of the parents were affected by the violence after the disputed election results of two months ago. All of the school staff are safe and well, but some students transferred, for their parents feared that the situation in the country would deteriorate into an out-of-control ethnicity-based conflict.

There is only one student, Kenneth Ngetich, whose father was shot by police along Eldoret-Nairobi road while he was walking to the shopping center. The boy is among the students sponsored by Mr D’s class [at a Massachusetts elementary school]. I will send you his picture and some of the pictures of the affected area.

The main problem we are facing is the feeding of persons who ran away from the clash-torn areas, and payment of school fees for parents who are mainly farmers and were not able to sell their produce or had it destroyed. We are struggling to sustain ourselves with the little we have. Our neighboring academy was closed, for they did not have the resources to continue.

Kenya as it should be. Photo by Tim Nelson.The closest area to Silgich that was affected is 6 kilometers from here, a shopping center where houses and shops were burned and destroyed, for it was said that these were people who supported the government. The effect in Eldoret is substantial in areas outside the town. All parts of the country, except Central and Eastern provinces, had a considerable share of destruction of properties due to anger of the ODM’s [the opposition party led by Raila Odinga] supporters and sympathizers.

Despite all of these problems we are optimistic for the future. I know that as athletes, we always considered ourselves to be one Kenya. I have confidence that in the end we will again return to the state where we are all proud to be Kenyans.

TwitterFacebookGoogle+DeliciousDiggPrintRead It LaterRedditPinterestWebnewsEmailEvernoteShare