Kenyan runners run solo half marathons to compete in virtual race

With the coronavirus pandemic cancelling races the world over, a group of 30 elite Kenyan runners spread across the country ran half marathons all by themselves in a virtual race.

The runners — 20 men and 10 women — had been training for the Wuhan Marathon that was to be held this week before it was postponed when the coronavirus outbreak first emerged in China.

Athletes are unable to train regularly during the lockdown and with restrictions and social distancing protocols in place to try to curb the spread of the coronavirus, the CoronaRun was organised in Kenya.

Runners started their individual races at 8 a.m., using their GPS watches to record their times, and Edwin Kirwa won the men’s race when he finished his 21-kilometre course with a time of one hour, one minute and 52 seconds — a personal best.

“To run a race competitively alone? I never imagined it,” Kirwa told the Olympic Channel. “That was something else.

“It was a different kind of running. It was like chasing an imaginary person and being chased by somebody you can’t see.”

Since the athletes ran on entirely different courses, some had flat courses while others had to contend with steep courses.

Fancy Chemutai, who ran in the Kenyan highlands in her hometown of Kericho, won the women’s virtual race in one hour, 10 minutes and five seconds.

“It was like running in my debut race in 2017 in Prague,” she said.

“I was in Kericho, but in my mind I was on the streets of Prague where I ran most of the race all alone… I was far behind in position three, all alone. This race took me back to that time.”

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