By John Kwoba
NAIROBI, July 3 (Xinhua) -- China and Japan athletes are among the over 50 foreign athletes that are expected to take part in the annual Sotokoto Safari Half Marathon in Nairobi on Sunday.
But that does not in anyway mean that the foreign legion will have a strong foothold in a local road race as top Kenyan runners led by Tokyo marathon champion Dennis Kimetto, his mentor and Berlin marathon champion Geoffrey Mutai and 2012 Dubai silver medallist Lucy Kabuu are also lining up.
Kabuu will run in Moscow in August in the women marathon race. "I need to gauge my preparedness. I am not going to the World Championships in marathon so I need some speed and endurance."
"Running a half marathon just a week before the trials is important. I want to run in the 10,000m distance in Moscow," said Mutai.
Former World Marathon Champion Douglas Wakiihuri, who is also the Sotokoto Safari Half marathon race director, said the entry of many foreigners especially from Asia and top names from Kenya will make the challenge tougher.
"Each year we move up in terms of attracting top names. This year several elite runners are in the mix and they are not here to jog, but to battle hard to win the race, which will be run in the outskirts of Nairobi. The race is on Sunday with Tokyo Marathon champion Kimeto leading the pack," said Wakiihuri.
The race, which was not staged in 2012 because of the Tsunami that hit Japan coastlines, where the sponsors of the event come from, will also have the 2011 winner David Tarus lining up against other top runners with entry now pegged at over 6,000 runners.
"Winning a race in Kenya twice is always hard, but I plan to do just that. I have been stepping up my training in Eldoret and it has been going on well with no injuries. I am in great shape now," said Tarus.
Besides the elites and half marathon runners, there are other categories for the children and the 10km race.
Yukio Ueno, Senior Corporate Auditor of Mitsubishi Corporation accompanied by Yasuhito Hirota (Executive Director) and Naoko Ogawa (Environment CSR team leader) will compete in the 10km category.
They are just about the many foreigners who are keen to run in the event that wants to turn around the lives of many young children.
Mitsubishi Corporation is one of the sponsors of Smile Africa, a Japanese NGO that collects and distributes shoes through Sotokoto Half Marathon to needy Kenyans.
The 65,000 pairs have so far been distributed, according to the race CEO Douglas Wakiihuri, the first Kenyan marathon world champion.