On Saturday, Justin and I headed to Eldama Ravine town where one of the regional cross country meets was being held for juniors (under 18) and seniors (over 18). The town is 100 kilometers- about a two hour drive - from Eldoret and we watched the dawning of the sun on the trip. The GPS had a ridiculous notion that maintaining a steady speed of 80 kilometers an hour is possible. Not if you want to have your car survive the journey. We averaged considerable less, but still made it to the meet early enough to grab a quick breakfast of tea, samosas, and chapatti.
The races, four total, were held at the fairgrounds. Pulling up, it reminded me of nearly all the small meets that the Asotin kids run, with the limited flagging and small but vocal crowd. As you'd expect for a regional, the officials did a nice job of keeping things organized, and there were race marshals out on the course. The crowd helped shoo cows and little children from the raceway.
The course was a two kilometer loop with open ground through the fairgrounds, some single track out on the far end, and enough turns to allow for some tactical maneuvers. It didn't have much in the way of hills. The juniors girls were running 6k, the junior boys were running 8K, and everyone else was in for five laps, or 10K.
The biggest difference between the local races I attend in Washington State and here was the speed (though this was a regional championship, so more like our state meet than a local district meet.) The races started with a simple whistle and the runners left the line like quicksilver on a downhill slope.
Nandi County ended up very well represented in the finishes, sending three girls to the next meet. Similar results for the boys race. Both races were relatively competitive for the first couple of laps until the winners made moves and gapped the fields.
The senior races, on the other hand, weren't nearly so competitive. The woman's race was won at the beginning of the second lap when the leader made a move past the pair next to her and never looked back. She ended up winning in dominating fashion by over a minute and a half. There's always a concern when someone breaks early that they may have made the move too soon. This young lady dispelled that notion by crushing the last lap and showing a hell of a kick to the finish.
The men's race saw an early lead by a runner who expected to win. Rather than play a conservative game, he left the line hard and maintained that. Unfortunately for him, another young man had a bigger engine. He chased the leader and, on the third lap, made a move to go past him. Like the lady in the race before, he didn't look back, building a commanding lead. The first man continued to run hard and will be moving on to the next race, having taken second.
The finish line was old-fashioned, with runners given placement cards to present as they exited the chute. I didn't get results or names to go with the faces. It's a different feeling watching races where you don't know half the athletes personally. In most of the races I attend in Washington, I've been watching the same kids, whether it's Tiegens and Egglestons/Dykstras at Asotin, or Ward and Vanos from St. George. Anyway, an odd juxtaposition of familiarity and disconnection.
Justin was hustling after every race, getting interviews so that he could write stories for freelance sale.