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Project Africa athletes making their mark

Ciarans Collins flaned by Kenyan athletes Tanui and Koech

Ciarans Collins flanked by Kenyan athletes Tanui and Koech

TWO elite athletes, based in Omagh and running under the Project Africa banner, having been making their mark at a number of major athletic events in recent weeks.

Kenyan athletes Daniel Tanui and Eric Koech finished second and third in the Belfast City Marathon at the beginning of last month before the former raced to victory in the Virgin Media Night Run through Dublin City Centre in a time of 29.23 minutes.

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Tanui also ran a world class 5K three days later in 13.57 minutes.

The pair, under the tuition of local man Ciaran Collins, will complete their tour by running the Derry and Cork City marathons this coming weekend, before returning to their training base in the mountains of Kenya’s Great Rift Valley.

Collins, who founded Project Africa Athletics, said Tanui and Koech had again demonstrated the quality of these elite athletes from his training camps in Kenya and Uganda.

“It is great that we are building a reputation among major marathons throughout Europe with regards to providing world class athletes for their races,” said Ciaran. “However, for me, my biggest achievement is bringing the likes of Dan, who has a world class PB of 13:57 for 5km and 63mins for half marathon, to our local races, integrating them into the local running scene here in Omagh and throughout Northern Ireland for our local athletes to experience running with world class runners first hand.

“We hope that it can only inspire our locally based athletes to go on and achieve greater things in their running.”

Since establishing Project Africa by setting up a high performance training camp at high altitude in the Great Rift Valley, Collins has been managing a number of elite and sub elite distance runners from rural East Africa.

There are presently 12 athletes, including Tanui and Koech, training out of the Kenyan camp.

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The double act are certainly making a big impression while posted in Omagh and have been training regularly along with top local athletes Stevie Duncan, Marty Cox and Paul Barbour.

Project Africa, through Collins, has helped a number of athletes from rural East Africa earn a living by competing in elite races throughout Ireland, the UK and Europe as well as securing a sponsorship deal with Asics UK.

So far this year one of the athletes competed in the Barcelona Marathon as part of the elite field, as well as the Bath Half Marathon in England.

Later in the year Project Africa athletes will compete among the elite runners in the Dublin City Marathon, Cardiff International Half Marathon as well as the Jersey Marathon.

It is anticipated that some of these athletes will again be based in Omagh in preparation for their participation.

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