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First Lady ready to pursue marathon history

11 April 2014, 10:25

Nairobi - As she wraps up preparations to venture uncharted waters, First Lady, Margaret Kenyatta, is on the throes of making history on Sunday as she bids to become the first wife of a Head of State to complete the ultimate distance in athletics of 42.195 km at London Marathon.

Kenyatta quest is one of the gripping side shows of the event that will have more than 600,000 involved including a stellar elite fields, fun runners, volunteers and race officials.

Since she took up her office on April 9 last year, the naturally reserved First Lady has made the loudest statement that has endeared her to a nation by preaching her message of ending mortality at childbirth through a sport that has placed her nation of the world map.

There is no bigger stage than the London Marathon for the wife of the fourth Kenyan Head of State, who celebrated her 50th birthday at a cocktail in London on Wednesday, to attract a global audience with her quest bound to command huge publicity worldwide in one of the gripping sideshows of an event that is part of the elite World Marathon Majors circuit.

"Realizing that this change starts with me, I have launched the Beyond Zero Campaign. This campaign aims at creating awareness and raising funds to tackle issues that affect maternal and child health issues and mother to child transmission of HIV," she wrote in a blog in March during the countdown for the inaugural First Lady's Half Marathon.

"Mothers and children are suffering and dying in our country from avoidable causes - pneumonia, malaria, diarrhoea and HIV transmitted from their mothers. This saddens me as a mother and I know that it saddens you too. Together we can make a difference!"

Her spouse and Kenya's President, Uhuru Kenyatta, is scheduled to be at the finish line to receive the First Lady, just as he did on March 9 when she became the first wife of a sitting Head of State to complete the 21km distance in 3:46:00 during the First Lady's Half Marathon.

In a statement from London, the Kenyan Presidential Strategic Communications Unit (PSCU) said that Kenyatta and her team ran for 5 kilometers at the Kensington Park, London on Wednesday, where they were also briefed on the dietary regime to follow ahead of their debut Sunday race.

"According to the team's physiotherapist, Japheth Kariakim, the initial high altitude training at Iten and Sagana prepared them to run longer distances for the purpose of developing endurance and resilience."

"He said professionally, the intensity of training is normally expected to be high at the initial stages but as the race day approaches one needs to slow down in order to avoid injuries and muscle exhaustion," the statement said.

The team coach and former world and London champion, Douglas Wakiihuri, said the squad needs to take more carbohydrates and reduce intake of proteins and vitamins as the day of competition approaches.

Wakiihuri, the 1989 world and London titleholder said the plan helps in preserving energy levels before the Marathon day.

He said another strategy usually employed at this stage is manipulation of muscles by doing massage to reduce lactic acids and to improve blood circulation.

The First Lady and her team are participating in the marathon to raise awareness and funds for the "Beyond Zero Campaign" which she launched on Jan. 24 this year.

"I want to thank the Government of Kenya and the President who gave authority for First Lady to do the marathon. She has run in her heart and she gets up very early in the morning more than us at 5am. How many can wake up at 5am?"

"So she's teaching us not to be lazy and to be a country of runners," former women's world marathon record holder, Tegla Loroupe, who ran alongside Ms Kenyatta, said after the First Lady's race on March 9.

Another former record holder and two-time world champion, Catherine Ndereba, also ran alongside the First Lady, was full of effusive praise for her effort.

"To have that company of running with the First Lady it means a lot and how supportive our leaders are. She knows the pride of being a woman and a mother. I know what it means to hold a healthy baby after delivery and as long as this initiative will be there I will continue supporting it."

"It was nice pacing here and giving here morale. She is so energetic and has a lot of passion and I can say she is a marathoner coming up."

"What stood out today is when I saw our President waiting the First lady at the finishing line, it reminded me the way my husband used to wait me in front of the finish line of Chicago or Boston Marathon," the four-time Boston Marathon winner told of the experience with running with the First Lady.

Whatever the outcome, Ms Kenyatta will still go down in the hearts for leaving her privileged and jet-set position to sweat for a course that aims at ensuring all 47 counties in the country receive a mobile clinic.

 - Xinhua

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