|Alice Aprot and Irene Cheptai leading the women's 8km senior race at Ndalat Gaa cross country|
The months of September through December see a lot of road races happening here in Kenya. Many local companies in the country come in to sponsor these races and as an athlete I feel so grateful for such companies.
However, unlike in other team sports like volleyball, soccer and rugby - where players even get salaries while in their training camps - I am yet to see a company in Kenya that supports athletes in their training, nutrition, coaching, access to gym facilities, accommodation, travel to races and other daily living expenses.
And if one is there, I am yet to find out.
Track and road running athletes only get sponsored once they prove that they do not need a sponsor to succeed; by winning a number of competitions and building a good profile with their running, which is not easy in the first place when you do not have the training facilities and money to keep you in a training camp. For example, to join some of the camps that are being sponsored partially by Nike and Adidas in Kenya, you have to have run under 61 minutes for half marathon, or 2:10 for the full marathon. That is when you get a sponsor!
It is not that Kenyan companies, and local governments, are not proud of the Kenyan athletes. In a recent trade fare show in Eldoret, many companies came out to parade their products and what caught my attention were a few companies that had their slogans associated with the athletes. Some of the slogans common around Eldoret are: Nutrition for champions, City of Champions, Source of champions, home of champions, among others. One of the sales executives of one company recognised me as an athlete and even told me that their company is proud to be associated with Kenyan runners and that they have always been joining in sponsoring some races. I asked him if they had one or two athletes who credit their success to them, or who can say they are able to keep training because of their assistance and he asked me to visit their offices one time and talk about that. A good way of saying they are not sponsoring any runners.
Could the reason why these local companies do not sponsor local athletes be perhaps the fact that these companies do not see any benefit they will get in sponsoring the athletes? Could it be that the athletes do not go to them to look for sponsorship deals? Could it be the marketers in these companies only know about the top Kenyan athletes like David Rudisha, Asbel Kiprop, Ezekiel Kemboi and Vivian Cheruiyot and are afraid that they will have to pay them a lot of money if they need to sponsor them?
Well, becoming proud of Kenyan athletes is the first step, knowing that they need help is second and sponsoring them is the third.