When it rains on a lion, it can easily be mistaken for a cat. This Kenyan proverb relates to Kenya’s achievements at the recently concluded World Indoor Championships. It will be interesting to see whether Kenya’s performance here will mean anything in the future in a year full of other big global athletic events, including the Paris Olympics.

This question forms part of what will make the World Cross Country Championships later in the month interesting as Kenyan runners seek to show that they are still a powerhouse in the running.

Kenya won just one bronze medal at the Glasgow Indoor Championships courtesy of Beatrice Chepkoech, the world record holder of the women’s 3000m steeplechase event, after finishing 3rd in the 3000m flat race. The time she ran, 8:22.68, was a new national record. This placed Kenya at the tail end of the medal table as it placed 27th with six other countries that also won single bronze medals.

Ferdinand Omanyala speaks with Kip Keino Classic, photo by Justin Lagat.

However, on the positive side, Kenya’s outing showed new potential in the sprints after the Kenyans narrowly missed medals in the men’s 60m and the 4x400m relays. The time registered by the relay team of 3:06.71 was a new African Record. Vivian Chebet Kiprotich was the other Kenyan fourth finisher at the championships after Benin’s Noelie Yarigo finished ahead of her. She earned her country a rare medal in the event before celebrating it; perhaps more than others would have celebrated a gold medal.

Endurance and outdoors are two words to underline as we head to the Belgrade Cross Country Championships at the end of this month, on 30th March. Cross-country running is quite different from indoor running in the distances runners cover and the environment they use to compete. Kenyans and Ethiopians have often dominated the event in recent years, and it remains to be seen if that trend will continue.

There is already a lot of excitement about the women’s 10K senior race, in which Siffan Hassan of the Netherlands will compete against the strong Kenyan team. The team comprises Beatrice Chebet, the defending champion, Kenyan women who have run a 10K in under 29 minutes, Agnes Ngetich (28:46) and Immaculate Anyango (28:57).

On the other hand, the Kenyan men will have to battle it out with Uganda’s Joshua Cheptegei and Jacob Kiplimo, who have won the past two editions, respectively. Ismael Kipkirui, who won the junior race in Bathurst last year, will be in the senior team this time, along with Sebastian Sawe, Samwel Chebolei, Nicholas Kimeli, and Benson Kiplangat.

Jacob Kiplimo of Uganda winning the 2023 World Athletics Cross Country Championships in Bathurst, Australia (photo by Clay Shaw for Race Results Weekly), used with permission

At the last edition of the world cross country event, Kenya won six gold medals (four teams and two individual titles), with its second-placed competitor, Ethiopia, coming second with two gold medals.