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A Sport led by Kenya and Ethiopia

By: Leon Cui

Kenya and Ethiopia have a remarkable running talent, producing many of the world's fastest runners. Despite may years of domination by the two countries, Uganda is challenging the two countries for their crown.

In the 2017 World Cross-Country Championship Game, a Ugandan Runner, Joshua Cheptegei, thought about winning Gold when there was still a mile left in the race. After setting his goal on getting gold, he was running harder and harder to prove that Uganda is the real home of the fastest runners, but on the final half-mile, he was fended off due to not being hydrated.

Although he didn’t win that one, he did win the 2019 championship, also breaking the record for a half-marathon. He said, “Every year, as a country, we’re getting better and better. The Mount Elgon region has always been home to running talent, and we’re only just beginning to showcase it.”

Uganda took time to develop the talent of its runners. The country was fighting wars and dealing with stability problems and a security crisis. Kenya, on the other hand, had a more stable government compared to Uganda, which is one of the reasons why the talent wasn’t seen in the past. In fact, during the 1990’s many runners still lived in forests, due to the slow modernization of the country.

Many people were inspired by the model of Cheptegei. As a teenager, he ran a 10-thousand-meter junior race, and the results were shocking. The president even wanted him to drop out of school and do full-time sports.

He said of the 2017 race, “It’s one of those incidents that built me mentally. I had two options: Allow it to break me; or gather myself together and build an inspirational story.” His determination helped drive him to victory two years later.

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