Marathon / Sports

Another harsh Twin Cities Marathon for Elite African runners

For the 27th annual Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon, I had the pleasure of riding with big media folk and USA Track And Field (USATF) coaches and elite recruiters in the trolley that drives ahead of the elite male marathoners.  The day was grey and the weather this time round was about thirty degrees cooler than last year’s 72F record temperature. Because this race was designated by the USATF to be the the USA Men’s and Masters Marathon Championship the cash prizes were heavily slated towards American citizens and as a consequence many top-knotch elite athletes were MIA. I was still optimistic that the Africans would still out run everyone else. The marathon started promptly at 8:00am and as the runners passed by St. Mary’s Basilica in downtown Mpls I said a short prayer – I prayed for the rain, rain to stay away and that the Africans would win.The first few miles went okay, though the 5 minute per mile pace seemed surprisingly slow. The group ran in a tight pack by the time they had got to Lake of the Isles, Kenyan Richard Kandie was in the lead with Kenyan-born Sawe close behind. At mile 7 seven it started to rain and by mile 11 it was pounding, by half marathon the Kenyans had dropped back. As we passed the St. Paul Cathedral at mile 26 it was evident that Fernando Cabada was going to get gold so I said another prayer – I prayed that the Africans would at least finish top ten.

That turned out not to be the case for the men marathoners. Kenyan Richard Kandie, the first African to cross the finish line, came in 38th and Sudanese-born Macharia Yuot finished 39th while Kenyan-born Simon Sawe dropped out at mile 24. The women fared much better with Nigerian-born Mary Akor, winner of the gold medal at the grandma’s marathon in June, finishing fourth despite running on an injured hamstring. Kenyans Zeddy Chepkoech and Callen Moraa finished 10th and 22nd respectfully. All of them complained about how cold the weather was, as most of them are used to running in much warmer climates.

There were many local African marathoners and it was a first for Kenyan, Grace Ngunu and Ethiopian, Samuel Kidane. Grace, who was running to raise money for a slum in Kiandutu, clocked an amazing time of 3:38:18 and qualified to run the Boston Marathon. Both admitted that the marathon was one of the toughest things they ever had to do and while Grace is unsure about participating in the Boston marathon, Samuel is sure he won’t be running another marathon for a long time.

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