Top Marathon runner killed in Kenya

Posted on January 22, 2008 by



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No. 2 finisher in ’06 Houston marathon killed in Kenya

Wesley Ngetich, the 2006 Chevron Houston Marathon runner-up who pushed the race’s three-time champion David Cheruiyot to a then career-best time with a personal best, has been killed in the spreading tribal violence that is rocking his native Kenya.

Hussein Makke, Ngetich’s manager, reported the death, saying the 34-year-old runner was shot in the chest with an arrow in fighting in his hometown of Trans Mara.

“They spoke to his sister-in-law who said they took him to the hospital and he passed away,” Makke said in an e-mail to Race Results Weekly. “I don’t have any other information.”

Ngetich had planned to run the P. F. Chang’s Rock ‘N’ Roll Marathon in Phoenix the same day as the Houston race a week ago but was unable to get a flight out of Kenya because of the fighting.

“It is a sad day when political unrest can cause this kind of violence anywhere in the world,” said David Chester, the Houston Marathon’s elite-runner committee chairman, who got to know Ngetich during his visit.

Originally seeded first in the Aramco Half-Marathon that year, Ngetich asked Chester that he be moved to the marathon the day before the race. He would not only push Cheruiyot hard but even briefly took the lead with about 100 yards remaining on Rusk Street before Cheruiyot nosed past him to win by less than a second, running a 2:12:02 to Ngetich’s 2:12:10.

Later, the two Kenyans were jokingly accused of a conspiracy because of Ngetich’s late change of plans, but Cheruiyot said: “No, no. I do not know him at all. This is our first race together. But I’m very happy. This guy, he is very good. He has won before. He runs faster than me.”

Which was true until that morning.

Minnesota winner

Ngetich had won the Grandma’s Marathon at Duluth, Minn., in 2005 in his previous best time and then won it again last year.He becomes the second prominent Kenyan runner to die in the conflict between the Kikuyu tribe of the country’s president, Mwai Kibaki, which has held power since the 1960s, and other groups after Kibaki was accused of rigging his recent re-election. Lucas Sang, a 1988 Olympian, also was murdered by a stone-throwing, machete-wielding mob in the Rift Valley region of Eldoret, home to most of Kenya’s great distance runners.

Reigning world marathon champion Luke Kibet is recovering from a concussion after being set upon by another mob.

250,000 without homes

An estimated 650 people have been killed in violence since Kibaki’s re-election last month and another 250,000 displaced. Most of the big Rift Valley running camps have been shuttered by the ongoing carnage.”Everything will go down — business, athletics, everything,” Cheruiyot said before he won the Houston Marathon for the third time in the past four years Jan. 13. “People have been killed, shops have been looted and there is no security. It is very, very bad.”

Cheruiyot stayed in the United States after his latest victory, traveling to Las Cruces, N.M., to train for at least a month.

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Posted in: Africa, Kenya, Marathons