Kenyan athletes backed in marathon quest

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POISED and ready at the start of this year’s Standard Chartered Jersey Marathon, several elite runners from across the world had their eyes on the top prize of £2,500 today...

Eric and Edna

But two of the favourites may not have had the chance to compete at all, if it wasn’t for a non-profit organisation operating out of Northern Ireland.

Farmer Eric Koech and mother-of-two Edna Cheruto from Kenya were due to take part in this year’s race thanks to the help of Project Africa Athletes. The organisation was set up by Northern Irishman Ciaran Collins in 2015 to support non-professional athletes in east Africa to compete on a semi-professional basis.

Mr Collins said the prize money athletes his organisation support gets ploughed back into their community or businesses back home to support them through life when they can no longer compete.

Mr Koech, who has won the Belfast Marathon, and Mrs Cheruto, who came fifth in the women’s race, have travelled from Nairobi, Kenya, to Dubai to Manchester and then on to Jersey to compete.

Mr Collins said: ‘I was out in Kenya and Uganda in 2015 and saw a large gap between professional athletes and really talented athletes who were not pro and struggling.

‘Eric is a farmer, he has two or three cows, and has been with the project since 2016. He came to Jersey before but was injured but’s he’s had a good year. He’s started to grow coffee and through prize money he wins he is developing his farm because it is a short running career.

‘Edna is a mother-of-two and spends lots of time looking after her kids as well as training twice a day.’

The pair are staying with a Jersey family for a week after the race to recover before their long journey back home. To be eligible for the elite race, male runners have to have recorded a time of less than 2 hours 32 minutes for a marathon in the last 12 months and females a time of 2 hours 52 minutes. Prize money is the same for men and women. Top prize is £2,500, second is £1,500 and third £1,000.

Last year’s men’s winner finished in a time of 2 hours 19 minutes and 23 seconds. Women’s race winner Khrystyna Bohomiahkova finished in a time of 2 hours 48 minutes and 46 seconds.

The event started today at 9am at the Weighbridge.

Jack Maguire

By Jack Maguire


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