•Naomi Nduta is hoping and praying for a podium place after finishing sixth in 2020
•Junior Allan Kiptanui will be making his debut in mountain running but is optimistic of a top five finish
•Winners in the men and women's category will walk home with Sh500,000 each
As more people continue registering for Saturday's Mount Kenya Mountain Running Championship, two of those who have already enlisted are hopeful of good returns from the race.
For Naomi Nduta, the annual event presents an opportunity to go one better than she did in 2020 when she debuted in mountain running during the first edition of the competition.
"Last time, I finished sixth overall in the 13km run. I am hoping and praying to get myself into one of the podium places. It was a bit tough competing for the first time but with that knowledge, this time I think I am better prepared," Nduta, a hairdresser by profession, said.
Despite being wiser than her maiden appearance, Nduta is under no illusions about the humongous task that awaits her in Meru, considering most of the other runners will be chasing for victory.
"As is the case with every race, it will not be easy. I have been working hard in training but so have been the others. Even with the knowledge and experience of how energy-sapping mountain running is, it would be a mistake to assume this is an added advantage," she said.
Nduta added: "Mountain running has impacted my life, including my profession as a hairdresser. I would like to encourage those who are yet to register to do so because it will be fun. Although I have no other mountain running event in mind after Saturday, this sport will always remain a part of me."
While Nduta is targeting a podium finish, debutant Allan Kiptanui says he will be running to sharpen himself for upcoming half marathon races in which he plans to participate.
The junior athlete has been camping in Meru for the last five months to train and familiarise himself with the terrain ahead of the material day.
"Even though it will be my first time to participate in mountain running, I am optimistic of a good result come Saturday. I have been training, doing a lot of runs uphill and downhill. A top-five finish for me would be a job well done," Kiptanui said.
He added: "I have been doing a lot of research on mountain running to gain an idea of what to expect in the race. It will be an opportunity to test myself ahead of the Eldoret City Marathon in April, where I plan to compete in next."
The Mount Kenya Mountain Running Championship further seeks to raise funds towards the establishment of the Meru County Cancer Centre. Both athletes expressed their excitement at being part of this initiative.
"It is a noble cause that I am proud to be part of considering the high prevalence of cancer in Meru County. It is a serious disease we should all join hands to fight against," Kiptanui said.
Nduta added: "As those running in this competition, we should create awareness on the importance of regular screening. I'd like to advise my peers to always go for testing so that cancer can be detected at an early stage and treated immediately."
This year's winners — elite men and women — will go home Sh500,000 richer whereas the overall prize money is Sh2 million.