Kenyans’ Tough Arrival in Mountain Races: “Racism, I Don’t Know; Definitely Suspicion”


Two athletes from the African country finish in the top 10 of Zegama-Azkori, the world’s best marathoner, but do not receive a sponsor. “I still have to invest in my savings for the next race,” explains Octavio Prez, his coach and mentor.

Pekemboi, in the middle of Zegamma.
Pekemboi, in the middle of Zegamma.igor quijanosky runners kenya
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dates d Killian JorneFour men. All four in the same uniform, with short black mesh and red tank top. All around the same construction on the mountain, very, very thin, unusual. and four from Kenya. Were Robert Pakeboi, Matthew Kiptanui, Ben Kimtai and Reuben Nary, member of Sky Runners Kenya, some of the pioneers. In the world’s best marathon, Zegama-Azkori, held in Guipazkoa last Sunday, four Kenyans broke the wall that had historically separated them from mountain running. Despite technical terrain and competing against the best in history, they were ahead in the first climb, finishing fifth, ninth and twelfth—Nary retired—and leading the way. They will rule the mountains, ruling the asphalt. The only question is when.

Because taking African runners to the mountains requires one thing, money, and at the moment it is not visible. The Spanish Coach Explains It octavio prazzo, their coaches, their representatives and their patrons: “This week the team has signed their first sponsor, Crown, a sports supplement, but is not yet a main sponsor of any of the four athletes. Casa Africa has signed off on flights and some Brand. They have given us material like Salomon, but I still have to put in my savings for the next race”. The lack of proposals for the four Kenyans, despite their consequences, has even sparked a debate about racism in mountain racing that is difficult to end. “Racism, I don’t know. Skepticism, certainly,” says Prez, from whom the idea to attract African runners to an emerging specialty like trail running came.

“In 2020, while in confinement, Killian Jornet tried several road races on asphalt, and the opposite question came to me: How can Kenyan athletes adapt to mountain races? Pulling my money, I set up a campus in downtown Iten Did. There are scars; there are marks that may be of great use to them in Spain, but of no use in Kenya”, recalls Perez, who saw the launch of his project last year.

“Don’t drink or eat”

Kimtai, one of the attendees at Zegamma last Sunday, debuted with second place in the Transgrancanaria Marathon and then climbed the podium of the Gorbia Suzien and Ultra Pirinue Marathons. It was a great start, although defects had already been discovered in those races confirmed by the rest of the African athletes this year.

“The main obstacle they have in the mountains is that they neither drink nor eat. They are used to distances up to asphalt marathons, which they do in just two hours, and on the trail they need to be more or less Have to run twice. The hydration and nutrition plan is very difficult to follow: I would say that at Zegamma he drank a maximum of half a liter of water in about four hours after the test, ”explains Perez, who also believes there are some strategies. In all the tests they have disputed, four Kenyans have come out to win from the first kilometer, without counting if they are ahead, for example, over 3,000 positive slopes. “Then they also lack technique in the descents, although they are not as bad as people think. They must learn, but to be fifth in Zegamma you have to know how to descend,” analyzes Preez. .

These days Kenyans have lived between the Basque Country and Navarra, where they participated in the Osasuna match, explored the sea at La Concha beach in San Sebastian and were invited to various gastronomic societies and would soon be running again. Two of them, Paqueboi and Kipatanui, will be T3T this Sunday, the Tolosa Mountains Marathon and next Sunday the 26th Marathon in du Mont-Blanc. If they manage to finish in the top 10, they will likely continue to compete for Europe this summer. If they fail and cannot find sponsors, they will have to retrain their country. His future in mountain racing is still uncertain, but his legacy is already indelible. Kenyans will rule the mountains as soon as they rule the asphalt. The only question is when.

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