Kampala — Kenya and Uganda runners unleashed what they are made of when they secured top flight finishes in most of the races in the just-concluded 9th edition of the MTN Marathon in Kampala on Sunday.
Kenya's Dominic Kangor Kimwetich is now sh14m richer after breaking past the finish line first to win this year's longest men's race, with fellow nationals David Tarus Kiptui and Glibert Masai coming in second and third, respectiviely.
With 18,283 registered participants in this year's edition - the ninth -, organizers failed to beat the current record of 22,000 (2009), and the statistic came only close to 2,000 entries short of last year's (20,000).
This year's race themed "Run with your heart" attracted elite runners from 10 countries including Ethiopia, Tanzania, Rwanda, Rwanda, Kenya and hosts Uganda.
With the top places dominated by Ethiopians, Kenyans, Tanzanians and Ugandans in the past editions, this year has sieved out Ugandans and Kenyans as the best-of-the-best in all the categories. It has been either a Kenyan or a Ugandan in the top three finishing slots of every race in the ninth edition.
You could say the recent success of Ugandan gold medalist Stephen Kiprotich in London has helped buoy the spirit of his fellow countrymen in the sport. But whatever it is that has inspired the local runners, it should not close on with the curtains of this year's marathon, but instead live on for the years to come.
That is the nature of spirit the event needs, and it appears to be what drives the organizers year after year.
Kololo Airstrip was a sea of yellow early Sunday with the runners in their respective categories of 42km, 21km and 10km categories braving the morning chill behind the starting line.
Some nervy ones fired themselves up with last-minutes stretches. While some tightened their caps and held onto their water bottles, a few had expressions of anxiety cut across their faces. But the general sense of euphoria could hardly be missed as the participants got on their marks. . .
. . . one mumbled some inaudible words, probably a prayer, as another was just in time to wave a quick sign of the cross, and off they went.
And when they were flagged off at the scheduled 6.30am, the thick flock of yellow slowly started to diffuse into clusters and then upfront, the individuals [definitely the pros] were at it. Within miniutes, they had broken away from the rest, their sights set on the other end of the race, where it all ends.
Luckily, the race routes were clear of motorists and cyclists, thanks to organized preparations by the security forces. Routes were clearly marked for the runners although some exhausted ones were seem making use of boda bodas to stretch them as far as they could go.
At the end of the men's 42km race, it was Kenya's Kimwetich smiling to the top-most prize, although the second finisher, Kiptui had earlier been favored for the top spot by analysts. Masai's finish after Kiptui ensured that the top three spots were all Kenya's.
Uganda did the same for the 21km women's race with Mercy Chemtai finishing first, Mildred Chebosis in second and world steeplechase champion Dorcus Inzikuru coming in third.
Then, all the top three spots for the 10km men and women races were taken by Ugandans.
It was a day well prepared for and a day well deserving for the winning individuals, but most importantly, the organizers will close in on the day knowing that the 'Run with your heart' cause has been another of the successes they have managed to achieve over the past nine years.