Kenyan coaches are sweating over a decision by a number of elite runners to skip the World Cross Country championship, in pursuit of lucrative road races in Europe and America.
Just days to the national cross country trials, where the country intends to select its best 24 athletes for the World Cross Country championships in Bydgoszcz, Poland, two cross country legends Eliud Kipchoge and Geoffrey Kipsang, announced their withdrawal.
The Kenya national cross-country trials will be held in Nairobi on Saturday.
Kipsang, the World cross country 8km junior men champion two years ago in Punta Umbria, Spain, will not be defending his crown as he chases down the 250,000 US dollars at stake at the Ras Half Marathon in the United Arab Emirates on Feb.15.
"I have a race in UAE and will not be wasting my time to run in the cross country and there is nothing significant to take home. I have confirmed participation at the Ras half marathon," Kipsang said on Monday from Eldoret.
The sentiments were echoed by a veteran of cross-country, Eliud Kipchoge, who has lost interest in the discipline.
"I have opted to skip the cross country championships to try my luck on the road races. This is a planned move since I have been thinking of moving up the cadre to the marathon distance," Kipchoge said.
"There are many more younger runners who can step up and fill our void and challenge for the title in Poland. Many senior athletes are looking at the monetary value in the event compared to the road races and it is logic for them to jump ship," said Kipchoge.
Already defending champions Vivian Cheruiyot, silver medalist Linet Masai have announced their withdrawal, though Masai's move was prompted by a calf injury.
Kenya has a long list of athletes competing at the Ras Half marathon including Berlin marathon champion Geoffrey Kipsang, who was fifth at the last cross country meet in Spain.
"I am done with cross country. I only wanted to gauge my speed and preparedness ahead of my return to UAE where I will try and reclaim the Ras Half marathon title, which I last won in 2011," said Mutai.
Ras Half marathon, which is in its seventh edition, is an annual half marathon held in Ras Al Khaimah, United Arab Emirates. The first edition, in 2007, saw the late Samuel Wanjiru breaking the world record. In the 2009 event Patrick Makau won by running what was, at the time, the second fastest half marathon ever.
Other Kenyans in the line-up are Stephen Kibet (58:54), Ezekiel Chebii (59:05), Micah Kogo (59:07), Pius Maio Kirop (59:25), Geoffrey Kipsang (59:26), Geoffrey Mutai (59:30), Joel Kimurer (59:36), Stanley Biwott (59:44), Daniel Chebii (59:49), Emmanuel Mutai (59:52).
The women's World record of 65:50 was set in 2011 by Kenyan Mary Keitany, while the men's course record is 58:52 by compatriot Patrick Makau in 2009.
The total prize and bonus monies offered of more than US Dollar 250,000 don't do any harm of course, but the RAK Half has never been easy and worthy champions are two of the few certainties.