Nairobi — Some of Kenya's top up-and-coming long-distance runners will race through the streets of Nairobi alongside the public, UN staff and the diplomatic community in February to celebrate universal membership of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).
Heads of State and nations meeting at the Rio+20 Summit in Brazil last year agreed to "strengthen and upgrade" UNEP in its Nairobi home. They also decided to transform its annual Governing Council from a membership of 58 nations to one of universal membership of more than 190 member states.
Organized by the Paul Tergat Foundation, Athletics Kenya and UNEP, with the support of the International Olympic Committee, the 21-kilometre celebratory run on 24 February is not only about this big boost to Kenya's global standing in international and environmental affairs.
The race - which will start at the Kenya Technical Teachers College and wind through the leafy streets of Gigiri and surrounding neighborhoods - is also in support of The Sports for Peaceful Elections Campaign, started in January by the UN, the Sports Association, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) and Google Kenya.
UNEP's Clean Air Campaigns Patron Patrick Makau, whose time of 2:03:38 at the 2011 Berlin Marathon is the current world record, is supporting the run, as are Catherine Ndereba, former marathon World Champion, and Tegla Loroupe, former half-marathon World Champion.
There will also be a 7.4-kilometre fun run for all the family, allowing people of all ages and fitness levels to join in the festivities.
"UNEP has shown exceptional leadership by hosting the second edition of the UNEP Half marathon around its precincts here in Nairobi," said Mr. Tergat. "As I said before, every athlete requires a very clean environment, especially clean air to be able to stay healthy and perform optimally; hence sports and environment are intertwined."
"It is also encouraging that this year's marathon will also be used to promote peace, which is extremely critical for this country as the race comes just a few days before our historic General Elections," he added.
The run takes place shortly after UNEP's Governing Council meets in Nairobi. The meeting is the first since the UN General Assembly in December 2012 voted to pass the decisions taken at Rio+20.
"The decision to strengthen UNEP at its headquarters in Kenya underlines how nations are increasingly recognizing that climate change to the loss of fertile lands are now challenging the lives and livelihoods of increasing numbers of people world-wide, but it also signals a fresh, determination to realize a more sustainable, Green Economy path," said Nick Nuttall, Director of UNEP's Division of Communications and Public Information.
"UNEP's upgrade means that in many ways Nairobi is now truly the environmental capital of the world," he added. "There is no more fitting way to demonstrate the unity of purpose that UN member states are now showing towards UNEP than a run that brings together Kenyans and peoples from all backgrounds and parts of the world in a display of solidarity for peace and the environment."
A total prize purse of 1.4 million shillings is available. The winner of the Half Marathon will receive 150,000, while second and third place will receive 100,000 and 75,000 respectively. A cash prize will also be awarded to the top school team.
Since 1994, UNEP has been integrating its work on the environment with sport. Today, it advises countries and sporting federations on incorporating environmental considerations into all major sporting events.
UNEP has a longstanding collaboration with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in the greening of the Games that spans Athens 2004, Torino 2006, Beijing 2008 and Vancouver 2010.
The Russian government and the Organizing Committee of the Sochi 2014 Olympic Games also invited UNEP to provide guidance on the integration of environmental considerations in the preparation and staging of the games.
The FIFA World Cup 2014 and the Olympic Games in Brazil in 2016 are also set to benefit from UNEP's assistance after an agreement was signed in 2012.
To register online, visit http://www.unep.org/sport_env/marathon.aspx.
Registration venues include Athletics Kenya, Nairobi, and athletics camps in the North Rift such as Kaptagat, Kapsabet, Eldoret, Iten, Nyahururu, Kisii, Kericho, Bomet and Machakos.
Registration on the day of the race will take place from 0600 to 0830. The fun run is set to commence at 0845, and the half-marathon at 0930.
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is the voice for the environment in the UN system. Established in 1972, UNEP's mission is to provide leadership and encourage partnership in caring for the environment by inspiring, informing, and enabling nations and peoples to improve their quality of life without compromising that of future generations.
UNEP is an advocate, educator, catalyst and facilitator promoting the wise use of the planet's natural assets for sustainable development.
It works with many partners, UN entities, international organizations, national governments, non-governmental organizations, business, industry, the media and civil society. UNEP's work involves providing support for: environmental assessment and reporting; legal and institutional strengthening and environmental policy development; sustainable use and management of natural resources; integration of economic development and environmental protection; and promoting public participation in environmental management. For more information, please visit: www.unep.org
About The Paul Tergat Foundation
The PAUL TERGAT FOUNDATION (PTF) is the initiative of Paul Tergat, former World Marathon record holder and five-time World Cross Country champion, an internationally renowned athlete and philanthropist. For more information please visit: www.paultergat-foundation.org/