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Running in Iten/How the elite Kenyans train

  • 07-02-2022 5:45pm
    Registered Users Posts: 3,180 ✭✭✭ demfad

    Hi all

    Spent two weeks in Iten Kenya recently and spoke to some very well known figures about training.

    These included Moses Kiptanui, Brother Colm, Patrick Makau, Renato Canova and others.

    Also ran twice a day as part of a group paced by a couple of elite Kenyan runners. Got first person visuals on how they run and carry out their runs and sessions.

    I had planned to write a more structured report as OP but it wasn't starting so maybe would be best this way and fire any questions you might have.

    I think we learned quite a lot there and much of it is applicable daily.


  • Registered Users Posts: 2,900 ✭✭✭ Duanington

    Thanks for the offer. We often hear about how the training is simple but super consistent, is that your take on things?

    I'd love to hear that and your thoughts on the following;

    Recovery\easy pace - how frequent and how slow is slow (is it really as simple as its as slow as the body wants\needs?)

    Any sign\talk of fartlek training over there? The 1 min on\off sessions are legendary, any insights gained into the adaptations achieved ? I assume its threshold specific?

    How much emphasis is placed on the strength of the group?

  • Registered Users Posts: 5,138 ✭✭✭ AuldManKing

    Will be great to get insights - thanks T.

    (1) Kenyan Hills - I read that they dont do Kenyan Hills in the way that we do them?

    (2) How long did it take you to acclimatize to the altitude?

    (3) Is 'everyone' in the local training groups wearing Nikes (or do other brands exist out there?)

    (4) Any insights gained from Brother Colm?

    (5) How & Why did Canova take the pi$$ out of you - elaborate!!

    (6) Food: give an average days worth of food for the locals runners.

  • Registered Users Posts: 4,193 ✭✭✭ squinn2912

    Love that we have this thread to pick up tips, thanks for doing it!

    just curiosity but do they run to watches or feel? Is there a coach prescribing their sessions or do they run that 20/10k routinely every day?

    I was in Kericho in 2014 and got to visit very briefly a running academy but just got to speak with one runner. Still quite fascinating. He asked me how often I run and was astonished that I only trained 5/6 times per week!

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  • Registered Users Posts: 3,180 ✭✭✭ demfad

    They run by feel which is hugely important (see relaxed running in previous post) but a good few seem to have watches now.

    The watch/pace should be an afterthought not the guide for easy or recovery running. Watch can't knw how you're feeling.

    So in Kenya there does not seem to be one runner or a group concensus monitoring pace. It's by feel for easy runs.

  • Registered Users Posts: 214 ✭✭ E.coli

    Great thread always interesting to get insights of different cultures in the sport

    roes the group dynamic extend beyond training? Is it part of life and the group of runners/friends or do they simply show up for the group runs and then go about their own lives?

  • Registered Users Posts: 3,180 ✭✭✭ demfad


    While waiting more Qs we met this man for a fascinating hour in his office in Eldoret.

    Kiptanui set world records at 3000, 3000 Steeple and even took the record for 5000 off Haile Gebreselaisse.

    His historic run to break the 8 min barrier for the steeple is still iconic to this day.

    Extremely articulate, charismatic and outspoken he was a perfect man for our group to listen to and question.

    I'll give my recollection of that hour but here is the last 5 laps of the sub 8 Steeple:

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  • Registered Users Posts: 2,247 ✭✭✭ Laineyfrecks

    Very interesting read, thanks for sharing. Most questions have been asked...

    Was there much or any focus on strength & conditioning training?

  • Registered Users Posts: 10,028 ✭✭✭✭ Murph_D

    Canova sounds like a proper charmer. 🙄

    Given the vast material and cultural differences between here and there, whIch of these practices, habits, techniques etc are likely to be most successful for mid-pack Irish runners like most of us?

    Post edited by Murph_D on

  • Registered Users Posts: 3,180 ✭✭✭ demfad

    A few more comments:

    As alluded to earlier the fartlek etc. are not part of the training programme for the elite runners in camps. Easy runs/recovery would be generally by feel particularly in earlier stages of a cycle. There may be exceptions in those stages where someone's mechanics are just too poor at slow paces, and they may be given a lower limit for recovery runs. Sessions etc are tightly prescribed by coaches and easy/steady paces would be more precise as training gets more specific and less general.

    I mentioned Canova and Brother Colm a bit but we met another elite coach and had a discussion with him over a good 90 minutes. I'll summarize that in another post. The point is that many of these European coaches are quite old now and manage more than coach I guess. Most of the coaches are now Kenyan albeit trained by Europeans

  • Registered Users Posts: 2,900 ✭✭✭ Duanington

    Super stuff - thanks for that

    So easy is easy, relaxed, natural, not forced pace etc - back to the fartlek, does the structure change week by week ? Is it actually structured at all?

    Those elites that are joining in while regaining fitness, they just tag along and do whatever the group is doing in the knowledge that it'll help them back to a level where they can rejoin their elite groups?

    Did you get any exposure to the elite group training?

  • Registered Users Posts: 2,298 ✭✭✭ diego_b

    Just want to say I'm really enjoying the thread and thank you for sharing your experiences. I have recently finished reading Running with the Kenyans by Adharanand Finn so it's nice to get a new update from someone who's just recently been there.

  • Registered Users Posts: 3,180 ✭✭✭ demfad

    Going to post later about a talk given to us about elite training from a previous winner of Seville who now coaches with the main German agency.

    In the meantime had a few more thoughts on the above.

    I mentioned running every step relaxed and running in groups.

    --They also run their main run first thing in the morning. Nearly always.

    --HILLS!!! Nearly every run is very hilly off-tarmac terrain. So the best in the world spend very little time on tarmac. To picture these roads the VERY BEST would be same quality as a forest fire road we have here. All of the roads have ruts either side from the motorbikes. Some have worn down to where there are many protruding stones, rocks. Lesser roads have less motorbike ruts but these are basically roacky trails or grass, and hilly, always hilly, steep things. They are accustomed to this, this is easy running. In truth, we had almost 'flattenned' those hills before we left. The famous Iten Fartlek is run on such terrain.

    Lesson? Based on this (if hills are available) start to make runs hillier a with a view to making most/all hilly save those you need to run fast on a flat surface. A runner who does 50 miles on hilly ground is stronger than a runner who runs 50 miles on flat ground.