“RaceRunning changes people’s lives – and it really has changed mine!”
Henrik Eriksson, a RaceRunning athlete from Sweden, told us about his recent trip to Kenya to spread awareness of RaceRunning and Cerebral Palsy, and even take part in the KICOSCA Games!
After two flights and a total traveling of 20 hours with barely no sleep, we arrived in the capital of Kenya, Nairobi. Our dear friend and guide Apollo in company with his two drivers met us at the airport. The travel so far had been pretty tough but since none of us had been in the south Saharan region of Africa we did not know what to expect next. The upcoming journey of 260 km to Kericho took us almost 9 hours including a short break. The roads were full of speed bumps so it wasn’t possible to keep a constant speed. The traffic in Kenya is pretty hectic which includes using the ditch as a part of the road. It wasn’t all too unusual to see donkeys and cows close to the cars, but we reached the final destination at last.
After a big sleep-in to collect the lost hours of sleep we had the pleasure to visit the athletics arena and meet Kenya’s first ever RaceRunning athletes, Kevin, Victor and Sandra. We put together the two RaceRunning frames we brought from Sweden and started to test the tracks. It was a new experience for me since I’ve never been running on a track made of pure asphalt before. As we were running, all of a sudden a fire brigade drove into the arena and covered the whole track in water to clean it in preparation for the opening ceremony of the KICOSCA games.
The night before the opening cermony and the first ever 100 m RaceRunning event on Kenyan soil, my assistant and I got to feel the trouble between a couple of Swedish stomachs and the Kenyan food. Anyhow, the opening ceremony was a fantastic experience! The teams from all 47 counties in Kenya entered the arena, singing and dancing. Altogether there was something like 8000-10,000 people at the arena! After the speeches by the Governor of Kericho and others, including my mother Vicki who was invited to speak as a representative for Sweden and CPISRA, the first ever RaceRunning event Sweden vs Kericho, was going to take place.
Even though I wasn’t in my best shape I managed to become the first African champion in RaceRunning, but it was a tight race. Ntv, the biggest tv-channel in Kenya, broadcasted the race live on national television and afterwards we were interviewed live. My competitor Kevin ran very well for being on a RaceRunner for the second time in his life and to compete in his first ever race. I think he has great potential!
The interest shown by the local authorities was greater than I ever could imagine. I had the pleasure to meet the Governor of Kericho Professor Paul Kiprono Chepkwony at his office, to introduce myself and the sport I’m doing. He showed great appreciation and a lot of interest in the sport and to rise CP awareness. In connection to this meeting we had an official handover of the RaceRunning frames to Kenya’s parasport coaches along with CPISRA brochures and t-shirts printed “RaceRunning – changes people’s lives”. It was a pleasure but also a little bit sad to hand over my old RaceRunner that I have used for the past 5 years, the memories I have with that RaceRunner is unforgettable. But I’m very happy that it will help creating history in Kenya and hopefully spreading RaceRunning to the rest of African continent.
We also got to meet the deputy Governor of Kericho, Ms Susan Kikwai for a very nice lunch. Very early Thursday morning (3am!) we left Kericho to go back to Nairobi. Our friend Apollo had managed for us to meet the Deputy President of Kenya, Mr William Samoei Rutto and his First Lady Ms Rachel Rutto at their residence. It was a great honor to meet them and talk about how Kenya could be the locomotive for RaceRunning and to raise CP awareness not only in Kenya but in the rest of the African continent, and we handed over some gifts.
In Nairobi we also paid a visit to the Swedish Embassy to meet the Swedish Ambassador, Ms Anna Jardfelt. She was very pleased to hear of our mission and would like us to contact her if we are setting up more projects in Kenya.
As always, it is important to have supportive friends, especially when dealing with parasport. Therefore we were very pleased to meet two of the world’s best long distance runners, Edwin Cheruiyot Soi (bronze medal at 5000m at the Olympics in Beijing) and Paul Tanui (silver medal at 10,000m at the Olympics in Rio). They are from Kericho but were in Nairobi for training with the national team and preparing for the African games.
We also met up with Elijah M. Aliero, Secretary General for Kenya National Paralympic Committee and Mr Jairus Mugalo, former board member of the IPC representing the African continent. Both of them very eager to help spreading RaceRunning and to try to get some of their athletes to participate at the World Para Athletics World Championships in Dubai in November.
When going to Kenya I didn’t know what to expect. After spending a very intensive week I really like the country and the hospitality and I hope to go back some day. Of course they have a lot of challenges due to poverty and unemployment, but what really amazed me was the hospitality and the honest interest in listening to what I had to say. RaceRunning changes people’s lives – and it really has changed mine!