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Paul Koech, the cross-country king who reigned locally dies

Former World-Half Marathon champion Paul Koech has died, throwing the country’s athletics fraternity into another mourning period.

The Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) Major who represented the country in numerous World Cross, Country Championships in the mid and late 1990s passed away on Monday after a bout of short illness.

His death comes less than a month after another former world champion Nicholas Bett (400m hurdles, 2015) perished in a grisly road accident.

Koech, who dominated the local cross country arena at the latent period of Kenya’s and Paul Tergat’s dominances over the grass running event, complained of a mild headache before be was rushed to Forces Memorial Hospital in Nairobi where he succumbed.

Identically, alongside Tergat, he started his running career at the same time after joining KDF where he served as captain based at Kahawa Barracks at the time he dominated the local cross-country scene.

He remains the highest ranked officer to have represented the country at any event while still in active running career. After quitting active athletics, he honed his skills at administration, serving in the Athletics Kenya (AK) administration as a committee member.

Koech was born in Burnt Forest area of North Rift and attended Ngarwa, Uasin Gishu for his primary education, where he tried sprints, but nothing came out of it until the late bloom in his late teens.

He later joined Arnesens Secondary School for his higher education between 1984 and 1987 but did not involve himself with athletics for the first two years.

He later moved to Wareng High School for his Advanced Levels between 1988 and 1989.

He then joined the Armed Forces Training College after a short teaching stint and was based at Kahawa Barracks in 1994.

Koech will be remembered for winning the silver medal of the men’s long race in Marrakech, Morocco, in 1998 just behind Tergat, the current National Olympic Committee of Kenya (Nock) president..

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