•Olympic marathon champion says participating in local races set her up for future worldwide success
•The 2013 Toulouse Marathon champion Benjamin Bitok praised Uasin Gishu for its efforts at growing athletics at county level
•AK held final session of their nationwide consultative fora with athletics stakeholders in Kapsabet, Nandi County
Olympic marathon champion Peres Jepchirchir says she would not be a globe-trotting road racer had it not been for her humble beginnings as a runner in her county of Nandi.
Jepchirchir said local races at the county level provide upcoming athletes with a platform to showcase their talents and a foundation from which to build a budding career.
"I started at the bottom where local races played a key part. I know there are many athletes like myself out there and I want to challenge our leaders to channel more resources to more races at the county level," the New York Marathon champion said.
The World Half Marathon champion subsequently urged county governments to sponsor more local races to allow as many upcoming athletes as possible to put money in their pockets by virtue of their performances.
Her sentiments were supported by marathoner Benjamin Bitok who said other county administrations can learn a lot from Uasin Gishu.
"Counties like Uasin Gishu have their own races and big marathons where athletes are being paid well. I don't understand why our county can't emulate or even go a step further," the 2013 Toulouse Marathon champion said.
The two were speaking at Kapsabet Showground during the final session of Athletics Kenya's nationwide consultative fora with athletics stakeholders in the Nandi region.
One of the pertinent issues raised was the increasing number of local athletes deeply mired in debt, primarily due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Marathoner Jane Seurey said many athletes fell into the trap of shylocks during the difficult period and were now living in a persistent debt cycle.
"It was extremely difficult to survive during the height of the pandemic. We have a lot of needs that need resources. So without a source of income, it is easy to fall prey to the shylocks," she said.
She urged fellow athletes to emulate teachers in the county who have formed welfare groups and Saccos.
"It is a pity to see shylocks taking personal properties from athletes because the athletes are not able to repay loans. If we had a Sacco, it could have been easier to borrow from them and be able to return later when things get better," she said.
After a month-long consultative series across 15 zones countrywide, AK will now retreat to the drawing board to prepare for a week-long workshop to deliberate further on the issues raised and explore plausible solutions.