Saturday, 11 November 2017

Kenya - day 5 - Running with the Kenyans - Kericho track elite

Martin had organised a track session at the famous Green Kericho track where all the stars train. We were beside ouroselves.

The orchestrator is Coach Gabriel who coaches c.150 local atheletes and affiliated with the Kenyan National Team.

Speaking with Nick the head of the Impact Marathon Series, Gabriel is incredibly well respected and held in high esteem. He undeniably has the athletes interests at heart and ‘will sell a goat if need be in order to get one of his athletes to a race’. He’s incredibly humble too and will always insist that he buys the coffee.

The plan was for our group to run a few 400s with some of the elite conscious that the marathon was looming tomorrow.  I joined in a few but was more interested in talking with the local elite.

On the track there was already a session underway with a group of 5 including one with a Kenyan shirt. They were absolutely flying and running with immaculate form. It was a priveledge to get up so close. The session was 8 x 800ms (averaging 2.05s with 3 minute jog rest). When you consider that the inside lane was thick mud and throw in the 2,000m of altitude you begin to get the picture. 

On one of the 400s the call came to run wide to make way for the 800m group. It was one of the highlights and will live long in the memory as they flew past on the inside. Part of me wanted to sprint after them to taste what it would be like to run the remaining 300m with them. Not wanting to risk pulling a hamstring I wisely decided against.

After I got talking with the 800m group. The guy I targeted was the shorter fellow in the white and black Adidas vest who looked serene. Lo and behold he is one Isaac Langat who ran a 60 Half in Ustin in the Czech Republik a few weeks ago. Next week he is off to Frankfurt to pace the marathon (another earner) and shares the same agent as Dennis Kimetto, one Gerard Da Veen. He also pointed out Noben Kigen who was floating around the track, who ran  2.05.11 in Amsterdam. We exchanged numbers and wished each other all the best. Spoke briefly too with Eliud Ng’eny another big prospect.

Video - up close:

The next target was Josephine Chelangat who is currently ranked 4th in Kenya for the 800ms and narrowly missed out on WCs selection. She is though still the tender age of 19!!  With no hesitation she tells me she will run 1.58 next year and I will be tracking her progress.

I then spent time with the lovable Leonard Cheruiyot. Articulate, smart and funny he stood out from the rest telling me he plans to run 2.10 in Mexico City in December. My relationship with him will flourish but more on that later.

A fantasy morning and one that will live long in the memeory - getting up close to those guys was special. Apparently one of the female runners loitering was a 'Carol' who has won a Boston but did not get the chance to meet her.

After the obligatory photos and selfies Tommy and I wandered back through the dense markets before coffee and lunch back at the Tea Hotel. The markets were intense with thick mud underfoot and cows and many other animals roaming the narrow streets. We definitely stuck out like musungos (foreigners) exchanging some banter with the locals. The smells were a little hard to take and all the thick mud we were standing in smelt like human waste if you get my drift.

In the afternoon Martin invited 2 of the multiple local elite for a QandA session with the group. 


David Kilel - has a 5k PB of 13.11 (averaging 64 second laps). 3k 7.41, half marathon 61 minutes. David ran 5k to school each day. He knew then he could run long distance. 

Peter Karui (the talkative one) - 5th in the African 10k Champs. 4th in the Glasgow commonwealth games. 6th in 27.25 in the Degu 2011 world champs. 2.06 marathon PB in Frankfurt.

The questions went as follows:

How did he start running and when did you know you were any good?

Peter discovered he was an athlete when he ran 7k to school and back twice a day (coming back for lunch and dinner). He reckoned he had to run a lot too as his father had mutilple wifes and so to track him down he had to run all over the place to find him. This all started in Prinary school right through to secondary school. Not surprisingly at 14 he began to clean up in school comps. 

Why did he chose Kericho? 

Mainly for the altitude. Iten is though higher, nearer 2,700 meters.

Did he get picked into the Kericho group? 

No was simply word of mouth.

How often do you train? 

They now have a marathon plan which involves 3 times a day assuming it’s not raining. Every morning at least 20k. They do speed work. Today’s session was 12 x 800s (averaging low 2s with 3 minutes rest). They rest on Sunday. 

How did you go from good at national level to getting an international invite? 

They have agents but difficult to get as everyone in Kericho wants one. They basically need to excel at national champs to be spotted.

What was your first race overseas? 

Peter: 2008 - 10k in Barcelona

David: 2001 - world youth championships in Hungary in the 3,000 meters finishing 2nd 

How did it feel? 

Peter said he was terrified. He had never met a white male before and was in Barcelona for 4 months

What does it mean to your family when you come home after having competed abroad after having earned money - how does it impact your life? 

Peter: basically means he can afford a good life so that he can concentrate on running. Allows him to pursue the right diet too: Igali, vegetables (ie high starch and carbohydrate)

What did it feel like to run a race when you come down from altitude?

Peter’s response, an absolute classic: ‘it’s a big difference. It’s very difficult to get tired!’

Do you have help if injured? 

The default is to reduce training for a standard 3-4 days only

What enjoyment do you get - what is your motivation? 

Peter’s motivation is to buy cows as well as fitness (and does enjoy running) and ultimately to earn money in order to change the livelihood of their families. David will use the money for his tea plantation.

Who are your heros? 

Paul Tergat, Kipchoege, Kip Keno  (president of the Kenyan athletic federation)

What will you do afterwards? 

Help to train young athletes. They will continue to run post retiring 

Why are the Kalenji better than everyone else? 

They all live in high altitude was the response. I’ll add that their ankle and calf physiology is not far off perfect

Is everyone friendly? 

Yes we all train together despite effectively fighting each other for the resource commodity ‘success’

Questions I asked:

What has been your experience with European agents? 

‘Overall pretty good’. I am naturally suspicious and wonder how much they actually know!

How do you feel about the Ethiopian rivalry? 

It’s real. We are fighting for limited spots 

Is running still the #1 sport in Kenya despite the emergence of soccer? 

There are limited facilities for football so it won’t overtake running which is generally much more accessible 

Do you prefer pacemakers (ie Berlin) or without (Chicago)?

Definitely with. Peter paced Sammy Wanjiru to his world record. 

Do they take ugali with them abroad? 

Yes they take with or buy whilst there. A consistent theme is that they don’t like pasta as it does not taste of anything whereas we westerners say the same about ugali

What about doping - we hear negative stories in the UK press?

They admitted that some athletes have their own doctors which in itself sounds flakey at best

Martin made a really good point and spoke about his moral dilemma, acknowledging that any little help will serve as a massive game changer for their Kenyan families vs. the fundamental point that it is completely wrong to dope

In the evening we cruised around the Tea Hotel watching tomorrow’s election scenes on the TV, the biggest being the Nasa Uhuru park rally where Tommy and I were on Sunday morning.

Walk to the track:

Kericho Green stadium:

60 minute HM man Langat on the right hand side:

In-between 800m sets:

Revered coach Gabriel:

Coach in waiting - the other Lenoard on the right:

Sean taking it all in -  he will be neighbours with them soon:

Beating the Kenyans :)

Langat - the one to watch:

19 year old 2.02 800m Jo:

Tommy playing footie with the boys:

My favourite and to become a dear friend Leonard C:

Walking back thru the market:

 David and Peter

The massive rally on the TV where Tommy and I had been a few days before:

No comments:

Post a Comment