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The BG News
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November 30, 2023

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Kenya legend headlines 5K benefit

It takes a big event to bring together University students, international students, community members and a former Olympian.

The third annual Race Against AIDS organized by the BGSU/Kenya 5K Benefit Run plans to do just that on April 23.

The event will feature former Kenyan Olympian Kipchoge “Kip” Keino and will benefit The Youth Vision International, a non-governmental organization that promotes HIV and AIDS prevention and awareness.

The first Race Against AIDS, held in 2003, was the brainchild of former BG student Edward Manyibe and faculty advisor Travis Chapman. It drew about 40 runners and highlighted the need for the formation of an organization to organize the race and promote awareness of Kenya’s AIDS epidemic.

“Initially, the very first race we had, there was no organization for HIV/AIDS in Kenya,” organization president Joshua Otiso said. “There was an apparent need to create one.”

The following year, the BGSU/Kenya 5K Benefit Run became a student organization whose leaders are passionate about educating people about HIV and AIDS in Kenya.

“The last two years, we have been trying to get a point across to the school. One of the reasons for HIV and AIDS in Africa is ignorance. There is a stigma there,” secretary James Karichu said. “Our goal is to make it known to the world that we can speak out about this. We felt confident to speak out about this, to say, ‘we have a problem.'”

The AIDS problem in Kenya is very real. In the last 10 years, life expectancy has dropped from 59 to 49 years as a result of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Almost 900,000 Kenyan children are orphans because their parents died of AIDS and nearly 700 people die daily from AIDS in Kenya alone.

The leaders of the benefit run are determined to make the event “the fastest growing race in Ohio.” Last year’s race had over 100 participants, more than double the numbers in 2003. To attract more participants for this year’s race, the organization recruited the help of Keino.

“With Kip coming, we want to have over a thousand people,” Otiso said.

Keino, regarded by many as the “father of Kenyan distance running,” is most famous for beating American Jim Ryun in the 1500 meters. Keino won gold by a distance of 20 meters, which today remains the greatest lead in that race in Olympic history. Creating awareness of HIV/AIDS in Kenya, a cause close to Keino’s heart, convinced him to make the trip to BG from Kenya to support the race.

“Part of the reason he agreed to do this is he has an orphanage in Kenya that takes care of children whose parents have died of AIDS,” Otiso said.

The race organizers have had their hands full getting ready for this year’s event. They have publicized the race online, in Bowling Green and Toledo newspapers, as well as on WTOL. WTOL’s Jerry Anderson will host a televised talk show with Keino prior to the race.

“For us to get where we are right now, it’s really been a group effort. It’s been kind of hard, but we’ve had a lot of help from our advisor,” Otiso said.

Lorraine Haricombe, the group’s faculty advisor, emphasizes the wide scope of the race. The Race Against AIDS reaches not just into the university community, but around the state, country and globe, Haricombe said. She also stressed what a difference the students involved can make in the world.

“The vision and the thought was one person a few years ago. It’s a wonderful testimony to what one person can do. A lot of people don’t know about BG. This will put us on the map in terms of a university making a difference,” Haricombe said.

Otiso agreed with Haricombe, noting that all university students have the responsibility to make a difference.

“Each one of us, every student on campus, has unlimited potential,” Otiso said. “It is important for us to realize that potential and use it to make a change in the world.”

T-shirts with the BGSU/Kenya logo and entry tickets for the race will be sold in the Bowen-Thompson Student Union lobby leading up to the race. The cost to run is $5 for students and $12 with a t-shirt. There will also be race-day registration at the ice arena at 9 a.m. on April 23. The race will begin at 10 a.m.

The night before the race, a reception with Keino will be held in Olscamp 117 from 6-9 p.m.

For more information or to volunteer, contact Joshua Otiso at ojoshua@bgnet or visit the organization web site at organizations/kenya5krun/index.htm.

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