It may not have been in the record time he recorded at London 2012, but David Rudisha became the first man since New Zealand’s Peter Snell in 1964 to retain the men’s Olympic 800 meter title in Rio Monday.
The imperious Rudisha is just one of scores of Kenyans to excel in middle to long distance athletics. At the World Championships in Beijing last summer, the East African nation finished top of the winners table with a total of 16 medals.
Yet despite Kenya’s long-term success in track events, the country is still to reap the economic opportunities this merits, according to two entrepreneurs.
“If you think of the global running industry, in shoes or apparel, it’s almost a $50 billion industry, and we don’t take in that at all,” said Navalayo Osembo-Ombati, a Kenyan law and accounting graduate who is mother to two.
“We’re saying that for a country that is so prominent in the running field, it’s time for Kenya to benefit as well.”
Osembo-Ombati teamed up with Weldon Kennedy, an American campaigner based in Kenya, to create the country’s first high performance running shoe — the Enda Iten, inspired by Kenya’s athletic prowess.
Lessons from Kenya’s athletes
Enda means “Go” in Swahili and its logo is based on a spear, a traditional hunting tool that is also celebrated on Kenya’s flag.
Having met over Osembo-Ombati’s plans to build a new sports academy in Kenya’s west, the two entrepreneurs raised enough money from friends and family for a prototype.
They approached New York-based design studio Birdhaus, which has worked with Under Armour and Reebok, to create a running shoe “based on the advice, skills, and experiences of great Kenyan athletes”.
Between 10 to 13 versions later and the final shoe is set.
It features a light upper, wide toe box and 4 millimeter “drop” — the sole to floor spacing that “can make a big difference on the way you run,” according to the brand’s website.
The aesthetic is also locally-inspired, with triangle motifs found in traditional fabrics, the colors of Kenyan flag and twelve grooves to represent the country’s Independence Day, December 12.
Justin Lagat, an experienced Kenyan marathon runner and columnist for RunBlogRun, has been helping to shape the product.