The Isaiah Kiplagat Memorial Ndalat Gaa cross country race continues to receive great support from its main sponsors, the county government of Nandi, local institutions, and the local community at large. The 2018 race was even so much better organized and bigger.
This event takes place annually in a village called Ndalat Gaa. It is situated away from the town life and it is a great get-away from the busy life for fans who are not just interested in watching great cross country running, but also to enjoy the fresh air in the countryside.
What makes this village unique is a hill that is famous for hiking adventures during the weekends by different groups of adventure seekers, especially the locals.
In the last couple of years, the event could not take place due to the COVID 19 situation across the world. But, it is one event that is well-remembered by kids and professional runners alike and that everyone looks forward to.
Over the years, the Ndalat Gaa cross country event has been turning much more into a fun weekend than a competition. It is a great opportunity for meeting up with former training mates, mingling with star athletes, watching the races, and getting entertained by traditional singers and dancers, among other enjoyable activities you can get involved in.
The races were, as usual, well attended by athletes from across the country with the junior men’s race recording about 500 entrants and becoming almost difficult to manage. There was one false start that the leading athletes took over half a kilometer running before they could be brought to a stop and taken back to the starting line again.
Rhonex Kipruto fresh from narrowly missing the men’s 10km world record led the men’s senior race after around the first 2km all the way to the finish line ahead of Abraham Kiptum in second and Julius Tanki in third place.
Sandra Chebet defended her title in the women’s senior race after overtaking Delvin Meringor with about 400m to go. Norah Jeruto, the 3000m steeplechase runner, finished 3rd.
There were so many categories for kids in different age categories and many schools from around Ndalat Gaa had brought their pupils to participate. There were many school buses at the car park and while for the junior and senior categories runners were given T-shirts after crossing the finish line; for the kids, they got theirs even before they got to run and their happiness could not be hidden on their faces.
In any typical race, one would expect to see banners of shoe brands and other companies associated with running, but here in Ndalat Gaa, a village around 25km away from Eldoret town, most of the brands were hospitals, banks, and other local businesses dealing directly with the local population.
There was a free medical camp set up to screen the locals and advise them on any medical condition they had and how to stay healthy. Medical staff from the region came out in large numbers to volunteer in the exercise and the lines were long.
There is a way in which the Ndalat Gaa cross country experience takes one back to about 20 years ago when we would attend sporting activities as kids and enjoyed almost the same experiences with women preparing food in the open to sell them.