How Nyahururu runner Wacera is nurturing girls to take up athletics
Marathoner Mary Wacera has started to nurture a future generation of women runners in an exercise that is a reflection of her athletics journey to stardom.
The 2022 Boston Marathon silver medallist has convened girls who are the first cohorts of the girls-only Nala Track Club in Nyahururu.
The camp, which currently has eight girls, six of them in the junior category, is housed in a rented premise in Nyahururu town. Wacera said having gone through a camp at an early age informed the idea of giving back to society through empowering the girl child.
“The idea of empowering the girls became strong in me after the death of Tirop (Agnes). “First I came up with a caucus called Women Athletics Alliance that was meant to give voice to women runners through empowerment.
“But then there was also a need to help the girls to advance their careers in addition to empowerment and mentoring. That is how Nala was formed,” she said. Wacera launched her running career at the age of 16 years when, as a form two student, she joined MFAE (Mutual Friendship for Athletics and Education) training camp which was supported by a Japanese national, Masato .
In addition to having the runners in the camp, Marukawa also ensured they pursued education by putting them in schools and paying fees for them.
Wacera is following a similar script by placing the girls in local schools and paying their fees. The camp has a mutual agreement with the schools to be allowing the girls to attend athletics training sessions.
The marathoner has a dream of nurturing girls who will have the confidence to face life without looking up to another person for help.
“She should be able to face a muzungu manager and negotiate for a good contract without going through another person. She should also be able to own and manage her properties without any problems,” Wacera said.
Since the camp was launched in November 2022 her phone has been ringing constantly as parents seeking to have their daughters admitted to the camp to hone their running talent. But Wacera says she cannot admit more girls due to limited resources and infrastructure.
“Currently, I can have that limited number because the support I get from Nike cannot support a large number,” she said.
She said many parents are seeking to have their children in the Nala camp because they feel the girl child will be safe since it is a girls-only facility under lady coaches.
The two coaches are Beatrice Warindi and Lilian Wachuka who have ventured into the male-dominated field thus becoming the first in Athletics Kenya’s Central region.
Wacera said female athletes suffer in silence when being handled by male coaches ‘since there are many issues that need woman-to-woman communication.’
“I chose to have a girls-only camp after realising that girls live in fear and can’t express themselves freely when they are in men-dominated training camps,
She feels the rate of transition from junior to senior level among girls is low because many give up the sport because they feel frustrated.
Wacera said they are not locking out men completely saying she has a male coach, Francis (Master) Kamau who is helping the lady coaches handle the practical aspects of the athletes.
She disclosed that the name of the camp is derived from an African word – Nala, which denotes courage. “Nala means a lion, queen or lioness,” she said.
The marathoner dreams to see the camp grow to have its own land and buildings that can host many girls and provide a conducive environment for them to become international competitors.