Standard Group PLC CEO Orlando Lyomu. [Christopher Kipsang, The Standard]

When at least 600 athletes line up at the third edition of Eldoret City Marathon on Sunday, one race, which is tree planting will be climaxing.

Since the inaugural edition in 2018, the race has lived to its Climate Action theme.

This year alone, three million tree seedlings are expected to be planted prior to and after the race, in areas around Eldoret, the athletics town christened the ‘The City of Champions’ because a majority of world-beaters live and train there.

But why Climate Action?

The Local Organising Committee (LOC) says the millions of trees will be planted in areas where athletes train increasing oxygen supply, a key component in running.

LOC chairman Andrew Chelogoi said the tree planting events are aimed at sustaining fresh air in Eldoret town in areas near major training bases.

Chelogoi said for the last three years, the race’s management, with support from its key sponsors, has consistently sustained the Climate Action theme.

“It is not only about the race. Our athletes should train in conserved environments and Eldoret City Marathon is aiming at planting three million trees this year alone,” the LOC chairman said.

Last year, the race was cancelled but was marked by tree planting at Kapseret forest, which is one of the key training bases in Uasin Gishu.

Kaptagat, Burnt Forest, Kipchoge Keino Stadium, Moi University grounds and the University of Eldoret are among key training areas in the town where the country’s athletes train.

The neighbouring counties of Elgeyo Marakwet and Nandi are known for producing the finest talents.

Retired athlete Daniel Komen told Standard Sport in a recent interview that training in Eldoret and other towns was becoming a health risk thanks to pollution.

“I urge athletes to train in areas away from town. It is risky to train in places with polluted air,” he warned.

Uasin Gishu Kenya Forest Service ecosystem conservator Thomas Kiptoo said at least one million trees will be planted on Saturday, just hours to the race.

“The one million trees will be planted in all streets of Eldoret town on Saturday as part of the official opening ceremony of the marathon,” Kiptoo said.

On Saturday, as preparations for the race entered the home stretch and as focus shifted to management of crowds at the finish line, Joseph Chemuren, representing Athletics Kenya in the LOC said Anti-Doping of Kenya (ADAK) officials will play a central role in the race.

Chemuren said open grounds at the TAC Centre, near the finish line, will be utilised for the VIP podium, athletes resting area and as space for race officials whose services will not be necessary at the finish line. “We now have a clear layout of the finish line and the final checks are on course. All the Covid-19 protocols for the race will be adhered to,” Chemuren said.

Race officials who will come into contact with athletes during the race must strictly wear face masks,” he said.

LOC secretary, Professor David Some says: “This is the only confirmed event to take place in the country this year and the world is watching. That is why we are careful.”

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