Veteran Kenyan runner progresses from hawker to world beater

Nairobi, Nov 15 (IANS) Kenya’s Stephen Kamande, a hawker selling trinkets at a local market, started his athletics career in 2005 for leisure as a way of keeping fit and quickly became a regular participant in various events across the country.

This came after the 64-year-old gradually developed interest in the sport and has since become a common feature in local athletics road races in Kenya, reports Xinhua.

The “old man of Kenya athletics” finally capped his athletics career when he won the silver medal in the world half marathon event in the 60-64 years age category during the 2016 International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) World Masters Athletics Championships that were held in Perth, Australia in November.

“My dream of flying the Kenyan flag at an international event finally came to fruition, albeit at an advanced age. It also marked my first time to board a plane,” Kamande told Xinhua soon after arriving back to the country.

Kamande first participated in the 10km race when he registered for the event in Mwiki on the outskirts of Nairobi to test whether he could run even after getting past 50 years.

“To my surprise, during the prize giving ceremony, organisers noted I was the oldest participant and therefore having beaten all other old men in the race, I was awarded two U.S. dollars as prize money and a medal. My motivation doubled henceforth,” Kamande said here on Monday.

The bearded old man, who spots a turban, popularly associated with the Akorino sect, attributed his rise to the level of a national athlete to his passion for the sport amid criticism from his peers.

“Many of my age mates mocked, however, being a believer in myself, I remained steadfast in my commitment to the sport that saw me develop discipline of running every day and taking part in competitions,” Kamande said.

Kamande has participated in all editions of the Nairobi International Marathon, except during this year’s event where he has dominated the veteran’s category, in addition to running at various races in the Athletics Kenya calendar.

Kamande sells trinkets at the Ngara Market in Nairobi, where he also attends a monthly race every second Sunday organised by the Parklands Sports Club within the city for athletes above 60 years to enable them to get some money for their upkeep.

Kamande’s medal assisted Kenya to become the first African nation to bag a total of 10 medals. Kenya won three gold medals, four silver and three bronze.

The World Masters Athletics Championships are a biennial event held under the auspices of World Masters Athletics, for athletes over the age of 35 years.

–IANS

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