Philadelphia Half Marathon record holder Mathew Kisorio is among the elite athletes who honed their skills in the annual Kogelo Marathon.
Mama Sarah Obama, the grandmother of the former U.S. President Barack Obama, passed on Monday at the Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Teaching and Referral hospital in Kisumu aged 99 years.
Her early morning death was confirmed by her daughter Marsat Onyango.
Her demise will be felt across many sectors including sports where she largely promoted athletics within the Siaya County.
The Sowo Mama Sarah Obama K’Ogelo Marathon is an annual race that helps tap talent from different parts of the country.
Apart from the annual marathon that was started in 2013, the race also advocates for the rights of widows, orphans and the vulnerable.
The race has grown in leaps and bounds, giving birth to other categories including the 5Km run, 6km, 8km, para-athletics tricycle, 3km corporate run and the 1km children and veteran run.
Some top athletes who honed their talent from the race include Philadelphia Half Marathon record holder Mathew Kisorio.
“Her death is a big blow to athletics,” Athletics Kenya President Jackson Tuwei told Standard Sports.
“Many young athletes came to the limelight because of her. She helped develop the sport from the grassroots within Siaya County.”
“Her efforts to improve the sport will never be forgotten,” Tuwei added.
AK North Branch chairman, Joseph Ochieng, whose office sanctioned the lucrative marathon, said they will continue to hold the marathon as long as they have sponsors.
“We want to keep Mama Sarah’s legacy alive. We want to uphold her values in sports. Through sports, she championed for the rights of vulnerable members of the society,” added Ochieng.
“Most sprinters from Nyanza North were tapped from her race.”
Former race Communication Director, Ephraim Mwaura recalled how they worked with Mama Sarah as they organised the annual event.
“Apart from identifying and developing local talents, we solved some of the problems that affected most youth, women, orphans and widows within the county,” Mwaura said.
Mwaura added that the race helped to convert hitherto strong football lovers within the county into athletics.
“It is after starting this initiative that other races cropped up within Siaya,” said Mwaura, who has since relocated to Canada.
It was also because of the marathon that Mama Sarah’s effort was recognised and honoured by the GoodLife Fitness Toronto Marathon who invited her to Canada.
In 2015, Mama Sarah visited Canada where she was received by a host of Canadian political and community leaders including former Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa, former Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion and Annie Bynoe, Executive Director of Knights Table, a charity organisation based in Brampton.
“She has been holding Mama Sarah Obama Kogelo Road Race in collaboration with the Siaya County Government to raise funds for HIV/AIDS orphans, vulnerable children and widows,” Mwaura added.
Former Publicity Director of the annual race, Laban Ochieng said the marathon brought together elite athletes from different parts of the country.