Kiwirunner, who is well known to many here from the race circuit, and helped pace the sub3 group in the Dublin '10, is staying in Iten, Kenya, for a month of high-altitude training. His goal is to improve his marathon pb (currently 2:39), by a significant amount in the upcoming London event.

Knowing the interest this would have to many on the forum, I twisted his arm to write a diary of sorts for Boards, and he has kindly agreed. He specifically asked that it be pointed out this wasn't a vanity project, or any pretense that he is an elite athlete, more that he has a huge love of running, and has dramatically improved his times over the past few years, by applying more dedicated methods to his training structure, something very similar to many on the forum here. There will no doubt be a large number of readers on Boards who will have a huge interest in the type of training schedules and set-up that Iten offers, so the format will be Jase writing a bit every few days on what his training consists of.

Internet connection isn't so accessible in Iten, so updates may only occur every two or three days, but you can post any questions or queries here, and he'll try and answer as many of them as he can during his stay, he arrives there on Jan 3rd. Thanks to Jase for agreeing to share this experience with the forum, it will no doubt be a very interesting and useful read.

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Magnet Registered User

That`s great, outside of that actual training schedules I`d love to know what a week`s worth of food looks like.....
Thanks and Good luck with the training

seanynova Registered User

fair play to ya Kiwirunner!

i tried to run 5miles in Bogota last june at 2600m ASL and i was knackered after it, but i bet it really makes a difference after a month!

hope we have a 2:45 pacer for DCM '11

looking forward to the updates...best of luck with the training for London.

Slogger Jogger Registered User

Good luck Jase. I look forward to seeing some of the Kenyans coming over to try the Wicklow Round and the like that I'm sure you'll be telling them about

kiwirunner Registered User

In the summer of 2010 I was browsing through a copy of the Irish Times when I saw an article about an Irish Brother (of the Catholic church) who lives in a small town called Iten in the Rift Valley of Kenya. The article explained that Brother Colm O'Connell had moved to Iten in the early 1980s to fill the role of principle at a Catholic high school called Saint Patrick's. During Brother Colm's time at the school he developed an enthusiasm for the sport of running, and began coaching students. Brother Colm was very successful in this role, and the school developed a reputation for producing some of Kenya's (and the worlds) top runners. This article sparked my interest in the area, but further investigation revealed a bigger picture. I decided to spend a few weeks training in this remote village in January 2011.

Iten has developed a fierce reputation as a centre of excellence in the international running community, because the area has produced a raft of world beaters in the last three decades. As a result, the small village has become something of a Mecca for the running community of Kenya, as well as globally. Kenyan runners come here (or are recruited by training camps/agents here) as a stepping stone to entering the professional running arena. Curious runners like me come here to investigate the mystery that surrounds the success of Kenyan running, and hopefully improve our own running.

The environment here is perfect for running. It is located right on the equator, and is perched on the edge of an expansive plateau that looms over the Rift Valley, at an altitude of 2600m. The altitude means a cooler air temperature is conducive to training year round (though it gets hot between 11am and 4pm), and that the athletes here are teaching their bodies to operate on oxygen deprived air. After training up here for an extended period of time, running at sea level is like attaching a turbo charger to your engine.

The Eldoret Road is the only tarmac road that passes by the village. Which means that most runners use the extensive network of red dusty trails that span the area. There is no need to negotiate peak hour traffic here, and the soft underfood conditions means less injuries for runners. The undulating fire trails twist through forests and between small farms, providing an excellent training ground for runners. There is also a popular cinder track here, though you might want to give your lungs some time to adjust before hitting the speed work! Plenty of hills too for those nasty hill repeats.

Iten's location, with impressive views over the Kerio National Park from far above, also means that runners are greeted with an impressive sunrise while they're out jogging every morning.

Kerio District is full of world class runners, and all of them are sharing the same trails, tracks and hills for their training (up to three times a day). For a visiting runner, the experience of going out for a morning-run and stretching in the company of these athletes is a huge buzz: imagine a Leinster fan throwing a ball around with O'Driscoll and Sexton, or a tennis player having a hit around with Roger Federer. A visitor to Iten will find themselves in the company of their running heroes.

But perhaps more noticable for the visiting runner, is that you find yourself in a world where you are surrounded by other runners, wherever you go. The dusty trails are packed with other runners. The difference is that here, you become the (relatively) stocky slow guy gasping for breath, while the locals jog past effortlessly. Nobody is impressed that you woke at 6am and ran 12k before sunrise, because they were all there too.

There are several running camps in Iten that house elite Kenyan and other East African athletes. I am fortunate enough to be staying with Kenyan runners in a running camp that is affiliated with Saint Patrick's High School (through a friend). But most international visitors stay in either the Kerio View Hotel or Lornah Kiplagat's High Altitude training camp, which are nice hotels. These hotels are popular with individuals as well as international running squads (presently hosting the British Olympic running team, and a team of elite runners from Sweden). Beds cost between $30 and $60 (food included) per person per night, which is expensive given that lunch costs about $1 in a local restaurant in the village. But they have good facilities, and are probably good value on the whole.

Photos will follow if I can figure out how to turn them into a URL address, but in any case you can check out pictures on my blog at www.adventuresofjase.blogspot.com

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Kenya brings back many graet memories. Say hello to my good friend Martin Lel if you see him out 'jogging', I hope he has recovered well from his setback before New York

Hard Worker Registered User

Magnet said:
That`s great, outside of that actual training schedules I`d love to know what a week`s worth of food looks like.....
Thanks and Good luck with the training

You are cordially invited to the Dublin Marathon ugali party 2011

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Hard Worker said:
You are cordially invited to the Dublin Marathon ugali party 2011

Ooooh, we'll be gatecrashing that if you're not careful. MrsA grew up in Zimbabwe where Ugali is called Sadza and she's got lots of happy memories of eating it as a kid, I've tried to get it for her in African shops over here but no joy.


--amadeus-- said:
Ooooh, we'll be gatecrashing that if you're not careful. MrsA grew up in Zimbabwe where Ugali is called Sadza and she's got lots of happy memories of eating it as a kid, I've tried to get it for her in African shops over here but no joy.

Ugali is indeed very tasty, although we have our own ugali at home, namely potatoes.

earlyevening Registered User

I'm in Ethiopia at the moment. Maybe I should bring home a load of the local delights so we can start a Boards African runner's nutrition programme??

PS Plenty of people out running at 5am. They've even named one of their main streets after Haile GS.

Blueskye Registered User

Sounds fantastic. Was living in a remote village in Kenya a few years ago...no running unfortunately but loved it. Brings me right back.

Slogger Jogger Registered User

An ugali party on your return Jason? Are there specific training ideas that you would immediately apply to your own training regime? Are there things you were doing that you would stop?

kiwirunner Registered User

Don't get me started on Ugali! They eat it by the bucket load, and as a consequence so (now) do I. I would have to say that I prefer Irish ugali (potato), but Ugali is a good source of energy so I'm happy to keep eating it!

@ slogger jogger: There are so many ideas that I'm picking up by the day here. I'm conscious of not jumping the gun and writing about things before I fully understand them.

But the obvious things that I have immediately applied to my training regime are stretching and core work. I'm told that as athletes get older (I guess over 25) and have more mileage in the legs they are coached to spend more time stretching and building core strength and perhaps a bit less time running (even at elite level).

Everyone seems to spend a lot of time stretching. Probably partly because you can't get away with running 2/3 times a day without it, and also because stretching seems to be 'social time' here. The Kenyan runners don't normally speak to each other when they run/jog together. Complete silence, so much so that I feel guilty when my garmin bleeps every kilometre! But they stretch for at least half an hour together after the run and chat away. It helps that they can be outside in the fresh warm air at a park, rather than sitting in snow at bushy park freezing cold.

So far this experience is a massive learning curve. My next post is about adjusting to the altitude (how it affects training), then I'm thinking to write some observations about the lifestyle of the elite runners here, training programs and examples of sessions, diet, and any other things that come up along the way.

Just watched Emanuel Matai (2nd place Rotterdam marathon 2010, 2nd place Berlin marathon 2010) beat a strong field in a rough-as-nails 12k x-country race in the large scrubby and hilly field next to our house! Meanwhile, a 2:15 marathoner from the UK got completely hammered by the field. Crazy stuff! I'm thinking of racing x country in Eldoret next week, just for the craic :-)

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I don't normally thank posts but I had to thank the original one. Looking forward to reading the reports from KiwiRunner.

Here's a short video from the BBC about running in Iten, including Brother Colm.


2 people have thanked this post

any chance of making this a sticky

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