•Gitonga says the county boasts a lot of sportspersons who are crying out for training resources
•She is already working with approximately 50 female runners to inculcate them into mountain running
•The Mount Kenya Mountain Running Championship was launched on Monday afternoon
The defending champion of the Meru County Mount Kenya Mountain Running Championships, Purity Gitonga, believes the county can become the next 'home of champions' if only a training camp is established to nurture budding talent.
Gitonga says the county boasts a lot of sportspersons who are crying out for training resources to enable them perfect their skills and achieve their God-given potential in the industry.
"I would love to encourage the county government to build for us a training camp in Meru to tap as many young talents as possible. It would be my joy to see as many young runners registering for the Meru County Mountain Running Championships," Gitonga said.
Alongside her twin sister, Maureen, Gitonga revealed she is already working with approximately 50 female runners to inculcate them into mountain running.
"When we started mountain running, it was only a few of us. However, with my twin sister, we began a programme to mentor as many young runners into the sport as possible. We believe that with the right structures in place, Meru can become the next home of champions after Iten," she said.
The Internazionale Città di Nembro 3000m champion was speaking at Serena Hotel, Nairobi, on Monday afternoon during the launch of the Mount Kenya Mountain Running Championship to be held in Meru County on February 26.
The second edition of the annual championship seeks to raise awareness on the fight against cancer in Meru County as well as to call attention to the need for environmental conservation of resources in the area.
Having won the inaugural edition, Gitonga admits she cannot wait to tackle the course once again in her bid for a second title.
"Last time, in 2020, many athletes confessed to enjoying the race a lot. It would be wonderful to see an increased attendance this time around. Personally, I am looking forward to this edition and competing against the best of the best," she said.
Speaking at the same event, Meru governor Kiraitu Murungi described the race as a perfect platform to create positive change in the community by increasing awareness about the pertinent issues affecting residents.
One of these issues is the construction of a sanctuary for the rehabilitation and conservation of the mountain bongo and black rhino species.
"It is not just about money but to raise visibility about issues to do with cancer and environmental issues. Last time, because of the championship, the national government provided money towards the setting up of the Meru County Cancer Institute," Murungi said.
He expressed hope that more participants will register for this year's edition during which he plans to run the full 12km course.
"In 2020, we attracted nine European ambassadors who came to compete. This year we are expecting more numbers from the international participants not forgetting the locals. There are different categories and so we invite you to register and compete. Even if you will not be running, we still need spectators and so you are invited," he said.
The registration fee for this year's edition has been reduced from the previous Sh 2500 to Sh 1000 for the seniors' category whereas junior participants will part with Sh 500.
Athletics Kenya mountain running sub-committee chair Peter Angwenyi promised that this year's competition will be bigger and better.
"The juniors will only pay Sh 500 to compete but there will be tokens or vouchers to enable them purchase books for their studies. This time we will also be rewarding the top 10 performers in each category albeit the prize money will be varied," he said.