Fund race a win for Kenyans

With a brisk finishing kick, the fundraising campaign to bring two impoverished but talented Kenyan runners to Sacramento to compete in the California International Marathon surpassed its monetary goal by noon Tuesday.

The “Kenyafornia” effort, begun several weeks ago by running enthusiast Conyers Davis, got a boost after it was highlighted Tuesday in a story on the front page of The Sacramento Bee. Donations flooded the site and quickly reached the $6,000 target.

“It’s awesome. I am blown away by the generosity of people in Sacramento,” said Davis. “I was beginning to wonder if I was crazy taking this thing on, and I was worried I was going to let these guys down.”

Davis, who lives in Sacramento and is director of programming at the USC Schwarzenegger Institute for State and Global Policy, decided to raise money to get unsung distance runners Japhet Koech and Shadrack Chepyego to the starting line at the marathon Dec. 8. The race starts in Folsom and ends in front of the state Capitol.

Davis got the idea to raise funds after reading about the two in the best-selling book, “Running with the Kenyans” by British writer Adharanand Finn, who moved to Kenya with his family to live and train at elite training camps. Inspired by the book, Davis hopes to run his first marathon at CIM and best the 4-hour mark.

The $6,000 goal included airfare, lodging, food and the cost of documents for the two to make the trip. Davis said extra money will be used to cover additional costs.

Davis said he told the two runners the good news via a message on Facebook.

“I told them to keep training,” he said with a laugh.

Davis will now move forward to secure the proper paperwork and plans to get the two runners to Sacramento a week early so they can recover from the trip, get acclimated to the weather and rest before the race.

CIM officials had already waived the entry fees for Koech and Chepyego, and granted them elite status so they would start toward the front of the large field.

How they will fare is anyone’s guess, though Finn has suggested they have the potential to run world-class times if given the opportunity.