By Our Reporter
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The inaugural MTN Eastern National Half Marathon held on Sunday was dominated by the Uganda Police Athletics Club. The half marathon took place in Mbale town, starting and ending at the Mulukhu Sports Ground. It involved mostly elite athletes for both the 21 kilometers and 10 kilometers races.
Uganda Police had a total of 8 athletes that qualified to walk-away with prize money. They were closely followed by Arua Athletics club and Uganda Prisons Service with a total of six each that walked away with prize money.
The athletes traversed the outskirts of Mbale town and run as far as 14 kilometers along the Mbale – Tororo Highway. Flagged off at 9am, the MTN Eastern National Half-Marathon championships will be annual event.
The flagship event, the 21kilometers half marathon for men was won by Kiplimo Philip from Uganda Prisons Service, who clocked at time of 1 hour and 30 seconds.
Olympic gold medalist Stephen Kiprotich finished 4 th in the same race, clocking a time of 1 hour and 54 seconds. Kiprotich noted he had come to give morale to the upcoming elite athletes that had come to participate in the half-marathon.
In 21kms for the ladies, Chebet Emily from UPDF finished first, clocking a time of 1 hour, 16 minutes and 56 seconds.
Organized by the Uganda Athletics Federation (UAF), the event has been used to select a national team of men and women to represent the country at the IAAF World Road Running Championships slated for March 24, 2018 in Valencia, Spain. UAF will announce the team by end of 2017.
“We suggested to MTN to have 3 regional road races in a year, in the run-up to the main MTN Kampala Marathon as part of getting talent that would eventually represent Uganda at the international stage. This is just the start and next year we shall we shall have national road races in Northern, Western and Eastern Uganda,” explained Dominic Otuchet the President UAF at the Mulukhu grounds after the races.
Eastern Uganda remains the hub for talent in terms of long distance running. “Such events help with the rise of previously unknown athletes. Our partnership with UAF we are spreading the search for talent right across the country,” said Valery Oketcho, the Corporate Communications Manager at MTN Uganda.
The Eastern MTN Half Marathon, Mbale provided an opportunity to expose its ‘dormant’ talent and surrounding districts are situated in high altitude areas conducive to producing good and talented middle and long distance runners. Mbale, Sironko, Manafwa, Bulambuli amongst others have lagged behind leaving Sebei Sub region to dominate long distance running.
The winning athletes (top 5 for 10kms and top 10 for 21kms) are expected to also participate in the MTN Kampala Marathon on Sunday, November 19 th 2017.