Charles Koskey, a 29-year-old hotelier, was among hordes of athletes whose excitement was palpable upon completing the inaugural marathon at the China-built Nairobi Expressway Sunday.
The amateur athlete said that his participation in the race was motivated by a firm belief that the 27.1-km modern thoroughfare heralded a bright future for his motherland amid seamless mobility, enhanced connectivity and trade.
“Once the expressway is opened for use by motorists, we expect traffic gridlock in Nairobi to reduce and position the city as an attractive investment destination,” Koskey told Xinhua during an interview Sunday. He completed a half-marathon race along Nairobi Expressway’s course, organized by Kenya’s Ministry of Sports ahead of a trial run by motorists expected to commence on May 14.
More than 10,000 amateur and elite runners participated in the inaugural Nairobi marathon dubbed Uhuru Classics in four categories, namely a 10-km race, five-km fun race, 21-km half-marathon and 42-km full marathon.
Koskey said the race elevated the stature of the modern thoroughfare, whose operationalization will cut travel time from western parts of Nairobi to the main airport located in the south from the current two hours during peak hours to 20 minutes.
“This is a good infrastructure for the country. It has created beautiful scenery in Nairobi and our visitors will be happy to enjoy traffic-free rides to the airport,” said Koskey.
According to Koskey, the expressway has already given Nairobi city a much-needed facelift besides positioning it as an attractive trading, transport and logistics hub.
President Uhuru Kenyatta said during an award ceremony for marathon winners that the thoroughfare is embedded in the infrastructure modernization master plan for East Africa’s largest metropolis.
“As a result of developing modern infrastructure projects like the Nairobi Expressway, the country will reap multiple benefits chief among them ease of travel, improved trade, investments and environmental health,” said Kenyatta.
He revealed that the expressway will be opened to motorists on a trial basis from May 14, adding that other expected spin-offs include job creation, the growth of tourism, manufacturing and financial services sectors.
Amina Mohamed, Kenya’s cabinet secretary for Sports, Heritage and Culture, said the Nairobi Expressway, having been certified as an ideal course for hosting long-distance races by Athletic Kenya could boost sports tourism in the country.
“It will be possible to host international athletic events along the expressway’s route in the future. This will be a boost to the country’s stature as a powerhouse for elite races,” Mohamed remarked.
Brimin Misoi, the 32-year-old winner of the men’s full marathon, said he was delighted to race along the Nairobi Expressway’s route, adding that the country required such a modern infrastructure project to thrive.
A native of Kenya’s northwestern county of Elgeyo Marakwet, often described as the home of champions, Misoi said that socio-economic benefits to be derived from the thoroughfare might spill over to the hinterland.
Stephen Ole Marai, the treasurer for Athletics Kenya South Rift region, said since the road connects the airport to densely populated sections of the city, it will improve the ease of doing business, attract foreign tourists and facilitate smooth travel for Kenyan athletes to foreign countries for major races.
The construction of the Nairobi Expressway has generated jobs for local skilled workers and provided income streams to suppliers of construction materials.