Two days after enduring a 40kilometre long run as part of her preparations for next month’s Dubai Marathon, Helena Kirop elected to use the Shoe4Africa five-kilometre run on Sunday (20) to spruce up her speed work.
But midway through the race, the 2:25 marathoner realized that she was well ahead of the field of 500 runners in the annual race and decided to go for glory, breasting the tape in 16 minutes, 33.7 seconds in a performance that will make Cristiano Ronaldo proud.
Real Madrid and Portugal’s Ronaldo, the world’s most expensive footballer, is among the celebrities helping out in the Shoe4Africa’s projects that include a $15 million children’s hospital coming up in Eldoret that is also supported by movie stars Natalie Portman and Anthony Edwards.
To date, $700,000 raised for hospital project
The Shoe4Africa Foundation was started in 2005 by writer Toby Tanser with support coming in from multiple World record holder on the road, Lornah Kiplagat, model Adriana Lima and Formula One racing driver Felipe Massa, among other celebrities.
So far, $700,000 has been raised for the hospital project with the Shoe4Africa five-kilometre run now an annual feature on the Athletics Kenya calendar to drum up support for the hospital project and other Shoe4Africa development initiatives.
Kirop, whose husband Peter Lomuria is a 2:13 marathoner, took the lead at the 2km mark in the field that included former European cross country champion Hilda Kibet, born in Kapchorwa, Kenya, but running for the Netherlands after her marriage to 2:12 Dutch marathon runner Hugo van den Broek. The couple live in Castricum, the Netherlands.
Also in the mix, running on the high altitude Iten loop at 2400 metres above sea level, was Kibet’s sister, Kenya’s 5,000m world silver medallist from Berlin, Sylvia Kibet, and Zimbabwe’s middle distance star Sharon Tavengwa.
Kirop was in Kenya’s marathon team to the Berlin Worlds but dropped off at 30km with heat exhaustion.
“I came to Iten as part of my training for the Dubai Marathon next month and I was looking to work on my speedwork. But after I saw no-one was responding, I decided to go for it,” said Kirop who earned $500 for her victory. “It’s an early Christmas present for me and I’m so delighted,” she added.
The race was started off at Lornah Kiplagat’s Iten High Altitude Training Centre by a legion of Dutch and Kenyan running stars including Kiplagat, former 800m World champion Janeth Jepkosgei, World half marathon champion Mary Keitany, former Olympic steeplechase champion Mathew Birir and World 3000m record holder Daniel Komen.
Also present was 2007 European indoor 800m champion Arnoud Okken of the Netherlands.
Jepkosgei, who handed over prizes to the winners, also gave the athletes a few words of advice on the Aids scourge that is on the rise in Eldoret and Iten areas. “As athletes, there will be many temptations but I implore you to stay safe,” the 800m silver medalist from the Berlin Worlds said.
The finishers were each handed a pair of second hand running shoes by Tanser. “They didn’t just get the shoes, they earned them,” said Tanser the force behind the annual women’s only race.
“We did not charge any registration fees to encourage the young talent and we hope that other race directors in Kenya can also consider waiving the registration fees or lowering them to encourage more people to run,” he added.
Shoe4Africa also collects used running shoes from top global races, especially the New York City Marathon, and distributes them to the needy athletes in Africa.
Elias Makori for the IAAF
Top results from the Shoe4Africa 5km race in Iten, Sunday (20 December):
1. Helena Kirop (16:33.7)
2. Janet Kisa (16:51.5)
3. Winny Jepkemboi (16:57.0)
4. Ruth Matebo (17:08.2)
5. Florence Chepkosgei (17:10.1)
6. Naomi Mayo (17:10.9)
7. Gladys Otero (17:10.9 – same time)
8. Edith Chelimo (17:24.9)
9. Jane Kiptoo (17:26.2)
10. Pamela Jepkoech (17:37.5)