Nairobi — Athletes started pouring into Mombasa last night for the city's biggest athletics competition in living memory. The Tusker national cross country Championships at the Mombasa Golf Club course tomorrow begins at 7:30 am.
The heat and humidity will be a fresh experience for most upcountry based runners who have never been at sea level. However, several internationals like Catherine Ndereba, Susan Chepkemei, Jefferson Siekei, Charles Kamathi and Patrick Ivuti should have no problems.
Organisers were faced with only two choices -hold the event in late afternoon or early morning. Competitors will under the watchful eyes of International Association of Athletics Federations officials who have flown from Monaco for the championships. In competition will be 275 athletes.
Athletics Kenya moved the IAAF Permit Meet which has been held in Nairobi since 1992 to Mombasa under the insistence of the IAAF who wanted a serious dry run for the World Championships.
This is a challenge Athletics Kenya secretary David Okeyo has taken. The technical matters will be under the supervision of the Local Organising Committee technical director John Velzian and assistants John Ngugi, Ibrahim Hussein and Dan Muchoki.
"This is essentially a world championships less the numbers," said Okeyo who is also director of logistics.
Their biggest challenge is how to conduct doping tests. Alf Kimani and his eight nurses will undertake tests in readiness for the world championships when they are expected to conduct 250 tests before the championships and several others after the last race of the day-the 12km race.
The IAAF will convert the main club house as a doping centre on March 24, Kimani said.
Okeyo said the main headache is how to successfully get the runners to Mombasa, accommodate them and move them to and from the competition venue tomorrow.
Hopefully after tomorrow's meeting, Mombasa residents will get a clearer picture of what the March 24 world championships will be like.
"Minus international athletes expected on the March 24, our championships are as big as the world championships," Okeyo said.