Swiss running company On has tapped into a new market with the launch of The Milimani Runners, an elite trail running team based out of Iten, Kenya.
Kenyan runners are among the elites at most major international road races, but the story isn’t the same at trail races. Trail running has grown in popularity with the rise in global competitions and funding behind the events.
Most Kenyan runners have the goal of standing on top of the Olympic podium or following the footsteps of Eliud Kipchoge. A 2020 study from the ITRA found that almost 65 per cent of trail runners are from Europe or North America, lacking the star-power and diversity that African runners bring to races.
The On-sponsored Milimani Runners group was founded to shake things up on the trails and have currently been training on the expansive Iten trails to prepare for their debut this summer’s Sierre-Zinal and Ultra-Trail Monte Rosa races.
“For Kenyan runners to make it to the big European races, they need to be sponsored to make the trip,” says Milimani Runners coach Julien Lyon. “Our project could open the doors to undiscovered talent and give more opportunities to East African runners.”
The team is loaded with talent who have already recorded some impressive performances on the roads. The men’s team is led by Mark Kangogo, who smashed the course record at the 2018 Luxembourg Marathon with a 2:12:12 finish. The veteran talent of Rose Jepchumba leads the women’s team. Her career has been set back by injuries, she was ninth at the World Cross Country Championships in 2005 and ran a 2:29 marathon in 2016.