Another Successful Marathon, with Philemon Baaru and Fridah Lodepa Emerging Masters of Lewa's Terrain
Lewa's most anticipated annual event, the Safaricom Marathon organised in conjunction with Tusk Trust, took place last weekend with 1,256 people running the half marathon, while a few, 148, braved the full marathon. 183 children took part in the 5km children's race, and over 5,000 spectators came to cheer on the runners as they cut across Lewa's rugged course. Of the runners, 150 flew in from overseas to run and we had a record-breaking 45 nationalities represented with people hailing from as far afield as Fiji, China, and Argentina.
The surprises of the day were two powerful wins by race champions Philemon Baaru and Fridah Lodepa who seem to have mastered the Lewa terrain. By beating other competitors in their individual categories this Saturday, Fridah and Philemon have now won the race four times each, certainly no mean feat.
"I had an injury last year that prevented me from finishing the race, but this year, even though I had a slight cramp on my left leg, I was determined to reclaim my title. I'm glad the race went well and happy to once again be the full marathon winner. It is hard work, but all very worth it."
Philemon crossed the finish line in 2 hours, 22 minutes.
(The course record for the full marathon is 2 hours, 18 minutes - a time set by Philemon back in 2014.)
Fridah Lodepah managed a time of 2 hours, 48 minutes in the women's full marathon category. She, like Philemon, credits her consecutive wins to hard work and resilience.
Peter Wambua from Ngare Ndare Forest Trust raced around the half marathon course in a mere 1 hour, 5 minutes to clinch first prize in the men's category while Polline Wanjiku was the first half marathon woman to cross the finish line in 1 hour, 16 minutes.
London marathon winner Eliud Kipchoge, one of Kenya's most talented runners, participated in this year's event as a build up to the 2016 Olympics. While on Lewa, Eliud got to meet our head of Anti-Poaching Edward Ndiritu to chat about conservation efforts, and also had time to interact with baby rhinos Kitui and Nicky.
It was a precious moment for the star athlete, who had never seen rhinos close up, nor learnt about their plight and conservation efforts to save them from extinction.
Celebrated Kenyan runner, Henry Wanyoike, also participated in this year's race. Henry, despite being blind, has gone on to smash world records at various Paralympics Games and continues to work to change attitudes towards the disabled.
Over the last 17 years the event has transformed countless lives and invested over USD 5 million into Kenya. We hope this year will be as successful as ever. Blackrock, the team that won the prize for the most funds raised, have contributed an astonishing USD 150,000 thus far. In the coming months we will know the total amount raised by the event this year.
As with previous years, the funds raised will go to benefit a wide range of conservation and community programmes across Kenya. Thousands of children in a number of schools will receive new classrooms and improved facilities; numerous pastoral communities to the north of Lewa will see benefits as marathon funds will support a range of initiatives designed to improve lives and increase security for both people and wildlife. Tusk Trust will also direct considerable funds into rhino and elephant conservation at Lewa as well as a variety of other critical projects spread across the country.