Kenya: No Travel, No Problem for Winny Kosgey As She Targets Virtual Race

On Sunday, a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule docked with the International Space Station, the first time a crewed US spacecraft has performed the feat in nearly a decade.

The "Soft capture," the moment when the spacecraft makes first contact and starts latching with the target vehicle, occurred at 10:16 am Eastern Time (5.16pm Kenyan time).

Carrying two NASA astronauts, Bob Behnkhen and Doug Hurley, the mission marked a huge milestone in space travel.

Back on earth, and right here in the North Rift, man will celebrate another major milestone, this time in sport, not space travel.

Under normal circumstances, Winny Kosgey, an upcoming distance runner, would have been in Ottawa, Canada, for a 10-kilometre run.

But with the coronavirus having disrupted global sports programmes and airline travel, Kosgey was among scores of sportspeople who couldn't travel to their destinations of competition.

However, she will still run the Ottawa 10km race, and has the possibility of bagging prize money.

Thanks to technology, organisers of the race have elected to have it run, virtually.

With virtual competitions slowly becoming the enforced vogue, Kosgey will most certainly break new ground for Kenyan sport when she competes on Tuesday.

Virtual running seems to be the way forward now for athletes as they wait for the virus to be contained.

Last weekend's cancellation of the Boston Marathon, the first time it its 124-year history, drove further affinity to virtual running.

Nation Sport on Sunday caught up with Kosgey who trains in Eldoret, Uasin Gishu County.

Her quick thinking directed her to the internet where she managed to register for the reorganised race, and she has been preparing for the last few weeks.

Promoting social distancing

The virtual race requires an athlete to compete alone at his or her own pace, adhering to social distancing regulations provided by the government and Ministry of Health.

She said she has been promoting social distancing in sport, and, at the same time, competing to raise money for charity for a children's hospital in Canada.

She will be running alone, with her husband a freelancer journalist Justin Lagat, and her daughter, Berylynn Jerotich, monitoring her progress from a trailing car.

"The race is to promote social distancing and it's only my family who will be able to see me running.

"I don't expect anybody to cheer me while running," said Kosgey, who names world marathon record holder Brigid Kosgei as her mentor.

After the race, she will be able to transfer data from her Garmin watch to her phone by paring to upload to a Garmin Connect App, before relaying the Garmin file to Sportstats, another App which compiles results.

The window for the race started on May 15 and will run until September 7 before the results are combined and final tally produced and a winner declared.

According to Kosgey, it's a tricky affair to run alone and the high altitude will also be a challenge for the East African athletes compared to those who run in low altitude like Europe and Asia.

"I have done good training and I will be targeting to run a pace of three minutes and 30 seconds per kilometre, targeting 34 minutes in the race.

"But the problem with virtual running is that the altitude varies. Those of us at the high altitude will be record slower time compared to those who are in Europe and Asia," added Kosgei.

Last year, Kosgey competed in the Family Bank Half Marathon in Eldoret where she emerged 15th before improving her performance at the Standard Chartered 10-kilometre race in Nairobi where she managed sixth place.

Kosgey said that her plan was to compete in Eldoret City Marathon which was also cancelled due to the virus leaving her with no option other than just to train to keep fit.

Embrace the technology

"I was in good shape this year and I was eagerly waiting to participate in the Eldoret City Marathon which I had high hopes of doing well. The virus stalled my plans and we just have to wait to be contained," she said.

World marathon record holder Eliud Kipchoge says virtual run is the way to go during these hard times and athletes should embrace the technology because of the changing times.

"Things are really moving fast and technology is taking shape in the sport and virtual running is the only way to go as we wait for the virus to be contained," Kipchoge said.

Two weeks ago, Kipchoge teamed up with half marathon record holder Geoffrey Kamworor and the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy's game rangers for a feel of the Lewa Safari Marathon route ahead of the June 27 virtual race prompted by cancellation of the actual race.

With additional reporting by AFP

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