December 17, 2021
East African runners are known worldwide, but competition for the elusive sponsorships that will help them compete and support their families is fiercer than ever in the age of Covid
The elite East African runners whose American dreams hang in the balance
It is a Sunday afternoon in November in the village of Leldaet, Kenya, and Kip Tisia’s mother and sister-in-law are cooking a feast. The family has just watched a livestream of Tisia’s brother, Elkana Langat, winning the Maratona di Ravenna, Italy, with a time of 2:10:33.
A few weeks before, another brother, Kiprono Langat Clement Ken, won the Rome Marathon in 2:08:23. Tisia, himself a winner of multiple marathons in Upstate New York and Cleveland, is giddy as he shares the good news in a telephone interview. Many in the village will be coming over to celebrate with steak and ugali, a traditional Kenyan staple made from corn. Distance running is practically the national sport in countries in East Africa. For families like Tisia’s that have struggled, distance running provides a better income as well as scholarships to higher education in the United States – much like basketball in impoverished communities in this country.
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