Fifth Season significance not lost on Team Duma runners

Team Duma, of the Minneapolis area, are Kenyan and Ethiopian athletes

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The Team Duma runners appreciate the quality of racing at the Fifth Season 8K, Cedar Rapids’ annual road race.

Even more so, they appreciate the community and the meaning of the day. The annual Fourth of July race, now in its 31st year, has been dominated by Kenyan athletes recently, many from the Minneapolis-based distance running team.

Abraham Chelanga won the event last year, and his coach, William Kosgei, plans to bring his athletes to Cedar Rapids for another race for a number of reasons.

“The people of Cedar Rapids are pretty nice and pretty welcoming,” Kosgei said. “The other thing is the organization does a tremendous job making this a race that is more friendly, and there’s the symbolic nature of the day and what we celebrate.”

Kosgei will run as well, although he said he will not be as quick as his athletes. He said although the prize money for the race has dropped from years past, Team Duma returns each year for the quality of the race, and for the competition.

“I wish it paid a lot the way it used to, but it doesn’t,” Kosgei said. “When we first started coming to this race, the competition was very high.

“I have a tendency of thinking a clean race is runners who do it right is fair. If you kick my butt, that’s fine. If you’re using something to kick my butt, that’s a problem.”

He said race director Colin Flynn and others do a good job of making sure athletes caught doping or on banned lists are not allowed in the field.

Among the Team Duma athletes are Chelanga, and Edward Tabut, another talented runner who placed sixth overall last season on the men’s side. Pauline Mutwa took fourth overall on the women’s side.

“We’ve got a really strong field of Kenyans coming in,” Flynn said. Tabut, the 2014 winner, has been confirmed, as has Chelanga, who won the Lincoln, Neb., and Fargo, N.D., half marathons. Elly Sang, another Duma runner, could challenge the course record, Flynn said.

The course is the same as in years past, starting and ending near Greene Square in Cedar Rapids. Flynn said the United States’ Track and Field Olympic Trials have not cut into the field of professional runners. He said many of the athletes use this race to gear up for 10K races.

“When you get into Marathons, you know, it’s such a different distance those guys look at this distance as a sprint,” Flynn said.

For Team Duma, there are other races around the Midwest they could run. However, Kosgei’s loyalty lies with the Fifth Season Race.

“I always like being loyal, if I find a race where we’re treated as nice, we’re treated with respect, then I try to go back,” he said.

Kosgei acknowledged it’s not any easy task to put a race together, especially as the prize money has gone down, and credited the organizers for putting on a great event.

As for the meaning of the day, running on the Fourth of July is a time to reflect. Kosgei said he’s explained the meaning of the holiday to athletes in the past.

“I think about all the opportunities this country has given me, a young man from Kenya,” Kosgei said. “Coming here and looking at all the opportunities this country has laid on me, and being able to extend that hand to a couple of elite runners ... goes a long way in being able to appreciate what we have back home.”

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