MERU COUNTY, Kenya
Kenya’s First Lady Margaret Kenyatta was among the 1400 runners who participated in the 20th edition of the Safaricom Marathon in the Lewa Conservancy early on Saturday.
The event, which has grown over the years to become an international attraction for conservation enthusiasts, attracted a rich mix of elite and amateur runners from over 30 countries who participated in the 42 kilometres full marathon, 21 kilometres half marathon and 5 kilometre race which the First Lady took part in.
Since its inauguration 20 years ago, the annual event has raised over Shs 750 million in support of biodiversity conservation and community development programmes in the Lewa Conservancy catchment area which straddles Meru, Isiolo and Laikipia counties.
The funds raised through the marathon are channeled into education, healthcare, water, micro enterprises, women and youth empowerment projects in ways that promote wildlife conservation.
Speaking when she addressed participants and presented prizes to the winners of the different races, the First Lady commended the runners for their contribution to the country’s conservation agenda.
“This event reminds us that conservation and community development are interconnected. As Kenyans, we have the responsibility to help uplift the communities that need our support,” the First Lady said.
She noted that conservation interventions and partnerships initiated by the Lewa Conservancy have successfully contributed to the protection of endangered species such as the African elephant, rhino and the Grevy’s Zebra by working with local communities to promote human-wildlife co-existence.
“Kenya has over the past years been recognized internationally for its conservation efforts; I thank you for being part of that success,” the First Lady said.
She observed that besides conservation and supporting community development, the marathon accorded visitors the opportunity to sample the Kenyan safari experience through the stunning scenery of Lewa Conservancy.
Earlier, before the prize giving ceremony, the First Lady toured the Lewa Education Centre’s adult and digital literacy initiatives as well as a bead-work project by pastoralist women.
The bead-work project is supported by the Northern Range lands Trust, a membership organization of community conservancies in northern and coastal Kenya involved in peace building and livelihood improvement activities through conservation.
“I thank the Northern Range land Trust for going a step further to ensure that this beautiful bead-work is linked to markets to expand trading opportunities,” the First Lady.
“I know as a mother, the important role women play in uplifting the lives of their families,” she added.
She praised the Lewa Conservancy for their growing investments in the education sector, noting that the hopes of over 10,000 school children had been restored and their future secured.
“Today I have seen the outstanding work of collective efforts, under the dedicated stewardship of Safaricom, Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, Tusk Trust and the County Government,” the First Lady said.
Noting that partners and sponsors of the marathon have invested over Shs 50 million in healthcare facilities, the First Lady promised to do what she can to support their work.
Duncan Maivo clocked 02:20:04 to win the 42km race in the men category while Morris Munene took home the trophy in the 21km run.
Mzee John Ruwengo, 89, who took part in the 21km race received a special prize for being the oldest participant in this year’s marathon.
In the women 42km race, Emmah Kilole took the top honours in a time of 02:50:31 while Milliam Ebongom won the 21km race.
Sports, Culture and Heritage Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed, Meru Governor Kiraitu Murungi, Safaricom Chairman Nicholas Ng’ang’a, Tusk Trust CEO Charlie Mayhew and his Lewa Conservancy counterpart Mike Watson among others spoke at the awards event.