Retired long distance and cross country runner Dieudonné Disi has challenged local athletes to roll up their sleeves and end a decade -long jinx at the Kigali International Peace Marathon ahead of the 2017 edition set for Sunday.
Started in 2005, as a way to use sports in the healing and reconciliation process after the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi and a medium to spread peace beyond the borders, the Kigali International Peace Marathon has grown into one of the region’s prestigious events.
However, Rwandan athletes have remained minnows in their own race, with Kenyans dominating it year after year.
Disi, now 36, who won gold in the men’s half marathon in 2006, has challenged the current crop of athletes to up their game.
Since 2006, no other Rwandan has won either the full or half marathon, in both men and women categories.
“Our athletes should get rid of the myth that Kenyans are born winners, if you are going to race against a Kenyan why do you feel they will finish in front of you even before the race has started, if you get tired in the midst of the race don’t give up, you should instead know that he (Kenyan) is a human being and might also get tired,” said Disi in an exclusive interview with Times Sport.
Rwanda’s most decorated long and middle distance runner, advised that, “Team work is crucial for them to win, they need to work together along the course, give each other pace and one, not all of them, should pick water for all of them in order not to lose time and then towards the finish, the stronger one, can sprint.”
In 2015, Jean Baptiste Ruvubi came close to making history in full marathon but fell short to finish second behind Kenya’s Ezekial Omullo Kemboi (2:18:15), who finished 48 seconds ahead of the Gicumbi-born runner.
Last year, fast-rising female athlete Salome Nyirarukundo also came close to winning the women half marathon but also had to settle for second in a race that was won by Kenyan Anges Jeruto.
According to the organizers, Rwanda Athletics Federation (RAF), this year’s edition is expected to attract about 6,000 athletes from across the world.