All Eyes On First Lady In London Race

At 10.30am, she will join elite runners in 42-km race she hopes to finish in under seven hours. First Lady’s ‘Beyond Zero’ campaign hopes to buy 47 mobile clinics, one for each county.

First Lady Margaret Kenyatta with Team Manager Mr Abraham Mutai and 2012 Paris Marathon winner Stanley Biwott at the Elite Athletes Welcome Reception on board the Silver Sturgeon ship near the Tower Bridge, London.  Photo/PSCU

First Lady Margaret Kenyatta with Team Manager Mr Abraham Mutai and 2012 Paris Marathon winner Stanley Biwott at the Elite Athletes Welcome Reception on board the Silver Sturgeon ship near the Tower Bridge, London. Photo/PSCU

“We are very focused. We are ready.” This was First Lady Margaret Kenyatta’s rallying call on Saturday as she prepared to take to the streets of London to tackle the 42.195-kilometre London Marathon this morning.

The event is the climax of the First Lady’s five-month training to fund raise in her determination to prevent maternal and early childhood deaths. Known as “Beyond Zero”, she hopes to raise money to buy 47 mobile clinics, one for each county.

The First Lady arrived in London last Tuesday and has been waking up early for breakfast with the team. After breakfast, she has been going to Royal Kensington Park in Central London to work out followed by a scheduled itinerary.

She had a meeting on Thursday with Child Investment Fund directors and a cocktail hosted by Standard Chartered Bank at the fund’s London headquarters.

Mrs Kenyatta then met Kenya’s elite athletes who will be the main focus in today’s race. Among them is world marathon record holder Wilson Kipsang, double world marathon champion Ednah Kiplagat and world marathon majors title holder Priscah Jeptoo.

The other top Kenyans lined up at the Greenwich Park at a reception hosted by the Virgin London Marathon team included New York Marathon champion Geoffrey Mutai, 2012 Paris Marathon champion Stanley Biwott and world half marathon record holder Florence Kiplagat.

Mrs Kenyatta’s first major race was the 21-km First Lady’s Half Marathon in Nairobi last month, which she completed in under three hours and 40 minutes. She is looking to run today’s marathon under seven hours.

The First Lady’s Half Marathon raised well over Sh100 million for the ‘Beyond Zero’ campaign. It hopes to rake in a lot more after today’s London Marathon, the biggest fund-raising event in the world with over Sh82 billion raised since it’s inception in 1981.

The First Lady has covered well over 300 kilometres in training and will run in a team of eight, including her sister-in-law Ms Nyokabi Muthama, her Chief of Staff Mrs Constance Gakonyo and Mrs Florence Awori of the First Lady’s office.

The team will also be flanked by the First Lady’s medical and security teams with organisers providing additional security.

“The team is in high spirits and the reception accorded the First Lady in London has been overwhelming, with a group of Kenyan MPs, led by retired General Joseph Nkaissery even joining her for training yesterday,” Mr Maina Kigaga, deputy head of the Presidential Strategies and Communications Unit in charge of the First Lady’s office said on Saturday.

“Today we are focusing on sorting out the running gear and also loading in carbohydrates which will be essential in the race,” added Mr Kigaga who has also been training with the First Lady since November.

The only hitch the team has encountered is the salty mineral water in London.

“The water here is quite salty and after going around several supermarkets, we found a Nestle brand of water that is the closest to that we have back home,” Mr Kigaga said.

President Uhuru Kenyatta was expected in London Saturday evening to cheer on the First Lady and his sister Ms Nyokabi along with the elite Kenyan runners in Sunday’s race.

Also in London is former First Lady Mama Ngina Kenyatta, the President’s mother.

Mrs Kenyatta will run alongside thousands of other charity runners raising funds for various causes, among them former England, Manchester United,  Liverpool and Newcastle United football star Michael Owen who is raising funds for, among others, two children’s hospitals.

The First Lady this week had a feel of English football fever, residing at the Chelsea Harbour Hotel, the same hotel that English Premier League side Chelsea have resided for the better part of the last two weeks in the build-up to their European Champions’ League class against Paris aristocrats PSG, a game Chelsea won.

– Daily Nation