Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Competitive would be understating it

My Kenyan training trip is almost at an end now but it was been a fantastic experience and certainly the best training camp I have been on… the Kenyan way is a very simple lifestyle but a very effective one in terms of getting the best out of your running. Our lifestyle has involved little else other than running, eating and resting, perhaps the odd game of table tennis and a few hands of cards.

In terms of training last week for me saw me top over 120miles for the week for the first time and the terrain and altitude will have certainly given my body some good conditions that I wouldn’t find anywhere else in the world. I’ve got some good long runs in here too with runs building from 2hours at the start of the camp to 2hr 30 by last Sunday. The pace of these has been good too at a little over 6minute minute mile pace, which is certainly a lot more taxing than it would have been down at sleep level not to mention the inclusion of the hills here. The only other session I did last week was 40min tempo run, I had the company of Reid Coolsaet from Canada who is one their fastest marathon runners (with PB of 2.11.23). It was a good solid tempo run for us, I believe Reid’s first in a while and we managed to average under 5.30 per mile over undulate 4km circuit. I have been pretty rubbish with my photography here in Kenya but checkout Reid’s blog for some great snaps of the sort of things going on out here.

It’s certainly not difficult to understand having been here why Kenyan athletes have been so successful over recent years. I have read various articles in the past that cite a variety of reasons for the success of distance running here and of course like most things it a combination of various circumstances but it does strike me that there are a few stand out reasons. Such as everybody runs here!, where as most other countries have a variety of other sports to choice from there doesn’t seem to be the options here so pool of people is far larger. Of course the environment/climate is a key factor, particularly the altitude that most elite distance runners seek out, that’s part of the reason why I’m here after all. Then there is the desire, as the Spanish 1500m athlete Casado put it to me the other day… ‘you can see it in their eyes’. Whilst I’m not say that I lack desire nor does any other elite athlete in most cases but I think it’s a little different here when the desire is to escape poverty. Plus there is also the fairly cut throat approach to the free food and housing that many of the training groups here provide, as these privileges are soon removed if you are not performing and there are no shortage of athletes to fill the spaces. I was aware that Kenya had many athletes of a world class standard but there are even more than I realised here, many of whom will never get the chance to race outside of Kenyan as there just so many vying for the same thing. When you have half marathon won in 62mins (at over 2000m altitude) and regular fields of over 500 runners all trying to be noticed in their discovery XC races it little wonder the standard is so high.

Also in my last post I think I mentioned there seems to be an incredibly number of children in Iten, a quick search on google reveals that the average age of Kenya is in fact 18years old, so this explains things. Iten is also famous for one of its schools in particular, ‘St Patrick’s’ although one of many Christian school here this one is a little different, it’s a boarding school which is sort after as not only does it have a good reputation in terms of education but it has a bit of history of producing world class athletes. I believe it has produced more Olympic runners than any other school, they have trees planted with names of the athletes who have been to an Olympics, with more than 30 in total. Wilson Kipketer (former 800m world holder) being one of many Olympic medallists to attend the school.

This trip has been a real eye opener but I have enjoyed it tremendously, so much so that I will be coming back here in March for a further 3 and half weeks as part of my final build up into the London Marathon. I must admit I do continue to find it difficult being apart from the family, whilst I realise these sort of camps are essential to coming a better athletes I miss out on funny things that Thomas seems to do on a daily basis... one of his xmas presents was Toy Story the movie and he is apparently now walking around with his hands on hips, a serious look on his face and stating I am Buzz Lightyear! :-)