A small taste of life sleeping on a mud floor

A small taste of life sleeping on a mud floor.

By Myles Edwards. 19/11/15

A series of events over a number of years led to myself and GEF Operations Co-ordinator, David Sagida spending Monday night on a mud floor in a house with no electricity or furniture. Here’s how it all came about.

We first met 19 year old Zeddy Chirchir from Kibendo in April 2015. Two years earlier, she had fallen pregnant during Form 2 (her second year of secondary school) and dropped out of Kibendo Secondary School. A friend of the family, Rose, had encouraged her to return to school and complete her education. It took some time and effort but eventually Zeddy returned to Form 2 in 2014 with Rose scraping together enough of her own money to pay her fees. Early in 2015, Rose was really struggling to afford the tuition, food, boarding and uniform fees and approached me to see if the foundation could help in any way. Inspired by both Zeddy and Rose’s efforts, David and I visited the family to find out more about their situation.



Zeddy Chirchir


We were both struck by how determined her mother, Margaret was to ensure Zeddy got her education. Not only was she looking after Zeddy’s baby boy, Mallon, but she had also collected a large amount of heavy stone as a form of payment to the school for fees (this is often accepted in Kenya as the schools can use them for building or improving classrooms). Unfortunately, despite her efforts, she couldn’t afford the transport to get them to the school. Following the visit we shared Zeddy’s story on the Gathimba Edwards Foundation Facebook page, asking if anyone could be in a position to sponsor Zeddy each month for £35. Almost immediately, Shona Duthie kindly agreed to support her and so the next day we were able to clear the £225 fees due for Form 3, which Zeddy is now about to complete. Zeddy loves volleyball, reading books and is also the school netball captain but she dislikes running due to the fact she feels she is not good at it. Thanks to Shona, she now looks forward to her final year of secondary school and her dreams of becoming a lawyer.

Zeddy's mum calculating school uniform costs

Zeddy’s mum calculating school uniform costs on her arm

This year, we started to make formal follow up visits to each of the 230 children we are supporting across Kenya to monitor their academic progress and also identify any needs which they may have at home such as beds, bedding, food and clothing and to check on their health. During our follow up visit to Zeddy we realised that her home situation was far more desperate than we could have imagined. Her mum has 7 other children and they all sleep in a single room mud house with no furniture and only a couple of blankets. They use old empty maize sacks instead of a mattress and the light from the charcoal fire to do their homework. The father of all 8 children ran away earlier this year, fearing the responsibility of looking after so many children. This also highlighted for us just how important sex education is for families here and it is something which we will cover in our seminar on 24th November in Iten and also push to have included more in the school curriculum in Kenya.



During the past 18 months since we started the Gathimba Edwards Foundation this was definitely one of the most shocking living conditions we had seen. I knew immediately that we had to do something to change this.

I came up with the the idea of staying there for a night to raise awareness for their struggles and hopefully transform their lives. Without taking much time to consider it, I decided to run the idea by my good friends and GEF volunteers Dan Mulhare, Sarah Campbell and Nicola Henderson. With their typical enthusiasm they all said “GO FOR IT”, and so go for it I did. David being David, he wouldn’t let me go alone and insisted that he accompanied me for the adventure. David is one of the most loyal, honest and hard-working people I have come across since my first visit to Kenya in 2011 and it is a huge pleasure to now have him as a full-time member of our team. He faces his own struggles each day with his 9 year old son Daniel paralysed from the neck down due to contracting meningitis at 2 months old, but despite this he never stops smiling and helps others whenever possible – even giving up 3 days of his work as a motorbike taxi last month, before he was employed by us full-time, to help with our building work 8 hours away from Iten in Karatina.

We contacted Margaret and explained why we wanted to come and stay for a night and she was absolutely delighted to welcome us. Prior to our departure, we set up a Total Giving fundraising page – http://www.totalgiving.co.uk/mypage/kibendokids – with the hope that we could raise enough money to buy and deliver several items to them the next day.

We arrived in the dark at around 7pm after a 40 minute motorbike journey in the rain along slippery, bumpy, mud roads. It wasn’t the most comfortable of journeys due to us also carrying two bags full of donated goods. We were able to pack the bags full of lovely clothes and games which our 51 building volunteers had brought with them last month. On arrival we were given a warm welcome by Margaret and all of the children who had come out of the house and walked down the wet, muddy hill with no shoes to greet us and help with our bags.


Walking up the steep hill to their house, I followed some of the children who were all bare foot. As they sped along the narrow path in the pitch darkness, I slipped and tripped in their wake, unable to see a thing. The house was also in darkness, the only light coming from the kitchen charcoal fire. As we entered the house, David and I immediately struggled to keep our eyes open due to the burning smoke from the cooking fire. The room was split into four sections – kitchen and 3 sleeping areas. The children sleep on the old maize sacks and use their hands as pillows, huddling next to the cooking section to gain warmth.




With the children staring at us and our bags, wondering what was inside, I decided to open a couple of donated board games – Connect 4, Snakes & Ladders and also some jigsaw puzzles. Excitement levels went through the roof. They pushed and shoved to be the first to play each game but eventually some order was restored and we explained each game to them. They had never seen a jigsaw before so I also explained how they could construct them.




We also brought a couple of solar lights for them to have in their house. Excitement levels rose again as they all looked and grabbed at them with intrigue. One of the young boys, Evans constantly stroked the back of my hands confused at why they were hairy. He then rolled up my sleeve and burst into laughter at my hairy arms….the others followed suit, filing the dark, smokey room with a warm, infectious laughter.


To get a break from the smokey fumes, David and I ventured outside. Collins, a 12 year old cousin to the family was standing outside smiling and chuckling to himself. I asked him why he was smiling. His smile beamed even bigger and he said: “I am just so happy.” It was a special moment. I think until that point I had been caught up in the excitement and let why we were there slip my mind. That comment from Collins brought it all back to reality and filled me with a huge feeling of inspiration that we were in touching distance of achieving something special for this lovely family.



As Margaret and her sister Baziliza prepared dinner, David and I sat outside chatting with eldest son Boniface. After a few minutes I sensed that he felt quite awkward so I asked if he knew why we were staying the night. He responded with a concerned and sheepish: “no I am not aware.” I then explained to him what we wanted to help them with and how I felt that by us staying the night it would give readers a better understanding and appreciation of how tough life is for him and his sisters. He immediately relaxed, would not stop thanking us and began opening up about school and home life. He told us how each night he studies with a small bottle of burning paraffin and then goes to sleep early because there is nothing else to do. Having scored 747/1100 he stands a good chance of realising his dream of becoming a teacher if his fees can be paid.

We returned inside to pray before dinner and were then served chicken, ugali and sukuma wiki. The family usually eat ugali and sukuma each night but had slaughtered a chicken for our visit. One chicken was to feed 14 of us – the 7 children (Zeddy was at boarding school and Mallone with the grandmother), Margaret, Baziliza and her three children, myself and David – all of us squeezed into the small house. The children eventually took their dinner after refusing several times in favour of playing with their new board games and puzzles.



Chatting to Margaret at dinner I asked how many of her children of school age were in full time education. To my amazement, she told me they were all in school as she saw giving her kids an education as a priority over furniture. This really struck me hard as my parents were never faced with a choice like that for me growing up in Scotland. David told me that in remote areas like Kibendo they have a real sense of community and there is a pressure from village elders to make sure your kids are in school even if their shorts are torn to the degree that buttocks are showing – something you see quite frequently in Kenya.





After some more time spent chatting and playing games, at 10pm it was time to go to sleep.  I took a walk to the toilet which is 50 metres away.



Margaret offered David and myself the blankets which the children were to use. We refused and explained again to her that we were there to gain a real life experience of the tough conditions which some of them face each night and so we settled down onto our maize sack, using our arms as pillows. The room was still filled with a burning smoke and I could feel it seeping into my lungs and eyes.


I remembered about a new blanket which we had brought for the family and so I gave it to Margaret. She placed it over four of the boys and removed the old blanket. Twenty minutes or so later one of the boys jumped up in excitement when he realised he had a new blanket – another memorable moment.


One of the boys was clearly suffering from a chest infection as he coughed and sneezed all night, only sleeping a maximum of 1 or 2 hours. One of the girls was snoring with the volume of a rhino, much to the amusement of the others.


I was unable to sleep for the first 6 hours due to the discomfort of my hips lying on the cold, hard ground. Our sleeping area was also only approximately five feet in length so I was unable to stretch my legs out fully. Eventually I took my jacket off, folded it up and used it to cushion my side – buying me an on/off 2 hours of sleep. Waking up, I had pain on both hips and also my arms but this was outweighed by a real sense of gratitude and determination to change this family’s life. Margaret said to us in the morning that she didn’t think I would stay the whole night and the she was very happy to see me wake up smiling.


We had brought two pillows with us for the kids but realised they hadn’t used them. When I enquired as to why they had not slept with them, they said they didn’t know what they were for.


After taking a cup of tea for breakfast we opened up the suitcases and called each child individually to hand them some new clothes and toys. It was an amazing feeling to see the smiles on their faces as they received more gifts than they ever had in their lives. This photo of little Valentine, fascinated by bubbles, really stood out for me as one which shows how important it is to give kids in Kenya the things so many of us take for granted at home. It may only be bubbles but the principal is the same whether it is clothing, education, food or shelter.


Faith, one of their cousins, washed her legs and feet on a stone in the morning and told us that she was scared to wash too much because she would just get dirty again that night when she put the old blanket over her and her siblings.




As we walked down to the road with Margaret, around 50 neighbours had to come out to see the ‘mzungu’ (a term used to describe white foreigners) who had chosen to visit and sleep on a mud floor. Smiling with pride, she said to me:

“This is a great day, these people will talk about this sight for days to come. Nobody believed me when I said you were coming but now they believe. You are the news of this area today and it is good news. Neighbours wanted to sing songs to us because they had witnessed something special which they had never seen before. It is good to show others in this world how others live. Thank you to all those who made this happen, donated clothes and changed our lives. May God bless you all.”


David and I then departed for a busy day of shopping in Iten. Thanks to the incredible kindness and generosity from several people, we managed to raise £366 which enabled us to purchase bunk beds, mattresses, cups, pots, blankets, chairs, solar lights, plates, bedding, pillows, a kettle and a flask. We then travelled back to Kibendo by car – I don’t think Kiprotich, a friend of David’s and our driver for the day knew what he had signed up for until we started filling his car with all the items. We got stuck in the mud twice on route to the home – local villagers helping us out on both occasions. We also drove past Zeddy’s school and she spotted us from the playground and waved excitedly as she knew where all the items were headed. Due to the muddy conditions we couldn’t get the car as close to the home as we would have liked so ended up having to pay around £3 for five local men to help us carry the beds and other items up the steep, slippery hill face.


The beaming smiles on the children’s faces, particularly little Noah’s (below, middle), when we arrived with the new items were priceless. They had come sprinting down the hill to greet and help us. As we got into the house we quickly realised that the bed parts were not quite the right size, so we had to chop them down ourselves with a panga (machete type knife). This took a couple of hours but it was well worth it to see their smiling faces again when the beds were complete.


Some of the younger ones had never seen beds before as their friends in the neighbourhood all sleep in similar conditions. It was fascinating and humbling to see them touching the mattresses and wondering if it was all real. Margaret said:

“In life we never thought we would own our own beds. Before, the children used to rarely study but now with the solar day lights and our new table they will be motivated to study regularly.”



Meshak, Noah and Justin with new bed




The following morning, we called Margaret to find out how their first night sleeping on a bed had been. She said:

“They used to jump up in the morning to go to school but this morning they wanted bed time to last forever. I said to them ‘you must go to school in order to improve your lives and sleeping can come later’.”

That next night I slept for 12 hours – the first time I have done so since my school days. David and I both also experienced nose bleeds – I guess from breathing in the smoke of the kitchen.

A few people have said to us over the past few months that they feel we should focus on only one area out of food, clothing, education or shelter but this experience cements even more the importance that all these factors must be improved for a child to prosper. How can you thrive at school if you are sleeping on a mud floor, doing your homework under a dangerous candle, wearing torn uniform and not eating regular meals?

I will never forget how inspired and shocked I was by seeing how the kids of the Pavilion Village children’s home lived back in 2013. With our regular visits to Kenyan families these days, we see so many poor living conditions. I think to a certain extent you become a bit hardened to it, but only a bit. However, as I lay on that mud floor in the darkness, I totally appreciated how lucky I am to have a big, warm bed with comfortable duvets and pillows at home. The experience will keep my fire burning to continue helping as many disadvantaged kids as possible in the coming years. The sad thing is that we will never be able to reach all the children living like this in Kenya, let along the world but I believe if everyone does something small to make a difference to a child’s life then we will start to see real change in this uneven world.


It amazes me how one night of discomfort for us can mean transforming a family’s life. Margaret called us the next day to say: “Enjoying life has just begun for us.”


Justin, Noah, Zeddy, Valentine, Meshak, Mallon, Boniface, Joanne and Evans will never sleep on the floor again. They may have been on the floor for years but now, the sky is the limit.

Thank you for reading and thank you to everyone who made this possible.


Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Running for Neil

Missing out on Glasgow 2014….is it all over?

A couple of people asked me earlier this year if because I didn’t qualify for Glasgow 2014 would it mean I would give up athletics, or train a bit less, or start going on more nights out.  Is it all over now?

No….this is just the beginning. Ask me the same questions when I’m 80 years old and I’ll say the same thing.

I got into athletics at a very young age because I loved the sport and wanted to do my dad proud. Nothing has changed in that respect.  Every year there are new goals but the same target is always there – to improve.  Even if it is by 0.12 seconds like last year, it shows things are going in the right direction.  The 2 main things for me are that I am enjoyinMyles and Neilg what I do and that I’m improving.

As many of you reading this will know, we lost a very special person in tragic circumstances just over 5 weeks ago.  Neil Jaffrey meant so much to hundreds of people and his death is still very hard to accept.  I know he would be very proud of the way his family, friends and the running community have rallied round in his memory and this will never stop.  I will really miss his texts before and after races and also his messages after each blog I posted.  Since Runnerslife.co.uk closed down I haven’t posted a blog but Neil has inspired me to start again and stop being so lazy when it comes to writing.  I know I’m not the only one who thinks of him daily and on every run. I have found myself in many situations thinking ‘what would Jaffers want me to do here?’  Whether it is in training, a race, work or in my personal life the answer is always either PUSH HARDER or GO FOR IT.  I am never going to wait for things to happen.  His enthusiasm, determination and interest in others was second to none and massively infectious.  I don’t know why but he had a never ending belief in what I could achieve and because of that I’m going to spend the rest of my life trying to fulfil my potential as a runner, person and with the Gathimba Edwards Foundation work in his honour.  For his family to have donated the donations at his funeral to the kids we are helping in Kenya really is the biggest honour myself and the foundation will ever receive.  Neil will have played a huge role in everything I achieve and I’m sure that is the same for so many others who miss him so much.

I turn 26 in a couple of week’s time and I’m more determined than ever before to achieve my goals.  Flights are now booked for 6 weeks in Kenya, before flying back in time for Xmas.  This trip is going to be really exciting for me because it will be the first time there since I started working full time for the charity thanks to prosource.it paying my salary.  I’ll be visiting all of the children we are currently supporting as well as various others who we hope to be able to help in the near future.  I’ll be meeting up with 10 families in Kitale who have 83 kids between them and through our Bulls for Schools initiative we hope to be able buy each family a cow which will enable them to them to fund their children’s education.  A cow costs £340 but generates £1,500 in the first year so it can make a big difference to many lives.  I’ll also visit a family in Iten who’s house was accidentally burned down.  Since the fire the children have been separated and unable to attend school.  Our aim is to build them a house and return the children to school.  None of this would be possible without the incredible support the Gathimba Edwards Foundation has received from so many of you and for that I am extremely grateful and humbled.

If I can shake off an achilles injury then I plan to race the Scottish National Cross Country Relays on 25th October, the Dash to the Finish Line 5k in New York on 2nd November and then the Scottish National 4k Cross Country Championships on 9th November.  There are lots of events and initiatives through the foundation planned for 2015 which I am really looking forward to and I am excited to be focusing more on 1,500m racing.  I can’t wait to get back over to Iten to hang on for dear life to Jake Robertson in track sessions and on long forest runs at 8,000 feet above sea level.

Bring on the next 26 years and beyond!



Filed under Uncategorized

Back on WordPress :)

Just a brief post to say it has been a pleasure to write for Runnerslife over the past couple of years and sad to see it close down.  Best of luck to Simon Jones with his new adventures, I really appreciated the opportunity to write for such an enthusiastic runner and an exciting website.

I look forward to re-opening this blog and writing about my experiences living, training and now also working in Kenya as well as race reports from home soil and abroad.  I hope everyone will find them interesting.  



Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Myles has moved websites

Hello everyone,

I have now moved to writing on a new website.  Please visit: http://runnerslife.co.uk/myles-edwards/profile to follow my up to date blogs and articles.



Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Learning 2012

Expectations which arise from impressive performance or a spell of great training, can result in an athlete’s target race going either one way or the other. Team GB and Kenyan performances from London 2012 provide plenty examples of how some athletes thrive under extreme pressure and others, for whatever reason, are unable to produce the goods when it matters. Despite not yet being at that level of competition, I am able to relate to and draw comparisons between the London 2012 Olympics and my own season.

Firstly, what an incredible Olympics it was – certainly the best I have witnessed in my 23 years on the planet. From organisation to determination and the inspirational to the spectacular, London 2012 had it all and was undoubtedly a resounding success. The added bonus for me is that I have a gut feeling that the Paralympics will inspire me further more.

Sir Steve Redgrave kicks off London 2012 by passing on the Olympic flame to stars of the future

As always with positive and successful events in life, there are always going to be negative people clutching at straws to find faults and criticisms. Thankfully these straws were the small kind you get with Ribena packs and the pessimists were drowned out by the billions of people who have been thrilled, inspired and motivated by the performance which London put on for the world. The stage was well and truly taken and I believe a generation has been inspired.

Whilst trying not to sound hypocritical, the only negative area which I will touch upon is that thankfully drugs cheats grabbed much less of the headlines than in previous years, however they were still there. It amazes me how Nadzeya Ostapchuk could have been naive enough to think that she would not get caught doping in this day and age. It baffles me equally as much that she could take satisfaction from winning a tainted medal and therefore deny other athletes their reward for years of hard work and sacrifice. Articles are going to be about the only ceremony Gong Lijiao of China will receive after she was bumped up from 4th to the Bronze medal position as a result of the Belarusian’s cheating in the women’s Shot Put competition. Valerie Adams of New Zealand was rightly promoted to Olympic Champion and Evgeniia Kolodko of Russia was moved up from bronze to silver.

Ostapchuk (centre) with her tainted medal

Anyway enough of the negative. What was most inspiring for me was that at one point during the Games, the north-east of Scotland would have been sitting 10th in the medal table had they been a nation. The reason this provides me with increased motivation is not because of some misguided pro-Scottish feeling, but because living in Kenya has showed me that when your neighbours achieve great things, this automatically raises the bar and sets the standard for others to go and at least match.

For whatever individual reasons, the Kenyan team did not enjoy the success they had hoped for and which they have become accustomed to. It was lovely to see that the message coming out of Olympic Marathon favourite (but finished 4th), Mary Keitany’s camp was along the lines of “win or lose, it will always be together.” Another example was in the men’s Marathon where pre race favourite, Wilson Kipsang (bronze medallist) said afterwards: “some days you win and some days you don’t.” We can learn a great deal from the Kenyan attitude despite their relative lack of success in London 2012, as I am sure it has played a huge role in their past triumphs.

My summer track season started promisingly after returning in late May from 3 months of altitude training in Kenya. I enjoyed 5-6 weeks of personal bests and winning performances but unfortunately suffered from chest infections and bugs for the best part of a month after that. Now back fully fit and training well I felt disappointed after relatively good performances in the Division 1 British Athletics League match on Saturday just past in Windsor. Having had a few days to reflect and take on board advice from my Dad/co-coach, Mel Edwards and my other coach, Grant Smith I have realised that you cannot expect personal bests in every race just because you are feeling in great shape. With 2 races left this season (BMC 800 metres tonight in Watford and BMC 1500 metres in Bedford on Saturday) I aim to relax, stay positive but not overly optimistic and just go out there and enjoy my racing and hopefully a personal best or two might come in tandem.

Maybe, and I hope, one day there will be no need for me to draw these comparisons between the world’s best and my own.

David Rudisha leads home the fastest 800m race in history in what was ‘only’ one of two gold medals for the Kenyan team in London

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Reflecting on three incredible months in Iten, Kenya – Home of Champions

Mary Keitany winning the 2012 Virgin London Marathon,becoming the third fastest of all-time.

As I sit on the roller coaster-like bus journey from Eldoret to Nairobi, it gives me time to reflect on the 3 month trip to Iten, Kenya as a whole.  In between getting thrown from window to window and launched off the roof in jack-in-the-box fashion, I realise that I have definitely taken being able to train injury free for the whole trip for granted.  The fact is I have just been enjoying it so much and relishing the opportunity to push myself to new limits.  But that is what you do when you are happy, you go for it and do not look back.

However, when I think back to what the previous trip between August and November last year was like due to shin problems and the worries I had before this one as a result of that, it really sinks in how grateful I am to be training injury free thanks to my physiotherapist, Ron Coutts.

Blogs and interviews have been a lot less frequent this time around as a result of me actually doing what I was here to do – run.  It is a sacrifice I have been more than happy to make and hope it pays off on the track this summer.  Nevertheless, I have been lucky enough to conduct two of the best interviews of my journalism career, which more than made up for the lack of other articles.

Spending time training and relaxing with Kiwi twins, Jake and Zane Robertson was a ‘Macced-out’ experience.  After leaving home aged 16 in 2006, the pair are now on the cusp of the highest echelons of the sport.  They are living proof that if you make sacrifices and follow your dreams to the bitter end then you will succeed.  As I concluded in my article with them in VO2 Max Magazine earlier this month, these boys prove people wrong for a living.

Jake and Zane Robertson, per 1500m final in Kitale, Kenya.

Two days ago I was also incredibly lucky to interview the charming and charismatic double London Marathon champion, Mary Keitany for the second time in my career.  What made this interview all the more special for me was that not only did it focus more on the personal side of her life than the running but she trusted me enough to ask any question I wanted despite one journalist not so long ago abusing this trust and writing unpleasing material.  This was made possible largely thanks to Jeroen Deen, one of the world’s top physiotherapists who is based in Iten.  Without Jeroen, I would not have achieved half the success I have done in the profession today.  He and Mary will be friends of mine for life.

There have been far too many people to name that have contributed to success and enjoyment of this trip.  One friend in particular was instrumental in helping us get set up in Kenya last year.  Both myself and Dan will miss his company and horrendous humour now that we are heading home.  Both trips would not have been the same without him.

From left to right: Ciaran, Nelly Masai, myself, David Rudisha, Dan, Linet Masai.

As an individual and as an athlete I feel very solid mentally and always have a positive mindset. Having had my fair share of injuries over the past few years I have often felt like I just needed the physical side of my running to catch up with the mental side.  During the first few weeks of this trip I had a handful of sessions with Klemens Weigl, as part of a sports psychology programme and already I am feeling the benefits. The sessions have filled me with belief that I can take the mental aspect of my running to an even higher level and as a result I am certain my times on the track will improve. His techniques and thought-provoking advice really gives you the feeling that you have an extra weapon in your artillery. I feel empowered and I look forward to a long and successful partnership with Klemens, even if it is via Skype.

Iten truly is a place where you can realise your dreams.  That said, you have to have a higher than ever commitment and desire to achieve your goals.  I came to Kenya knowing the results I wanted on return but would have to admit that to a certain extent, I naively thought it would come almost magically just by being here.  In week one something my training partner, Dan Mulhare said really hit home: “No one coming to altitude is going to improve unless you train harder than you would at home.”

My attitude has always been spot on thanks to my Dad’s inspirational advice over the years, but at home as a result of injuries and distractions which I won’t go into, my application and commitment has been lacking. Not now. Not ever again. This is the time I make sacrifices, work to fulfilling my potential and put smiles on the faces of those who support me.

Dan has definitely had a big influence on my training and commitment over the past 3 months. Anything I achieve this year would not have been possible without Clockwork Mulhare’s 6am screams at me: “Myles are you running this morning or what?” Had he not been here I would probably still be in bed rather than writing this article or running anywhere near the times I feel I can this year.

Dan and myself during track session at Kamariny Stadium

Gideon Gathimba is a Kenyan international athlete and world record holder (4x1500m relay) who won the mile race in Aberdeen for the opening of the Sports Village in 2009.  He kindly invited me to live with his family and train with him for 5 days in the middle of my trip.  It turned out to be the best 5 days of my life – filled with some incredible experiences.  We met his 122 year old Great Grandmother who had never seen a white person before.  As I entered through the gate at the bottom of her garden and she caught a glimpse of me, she started dancing around and shouting ‘mzungo, mzungo’ –  a term that many Kenyans use to refer to white people.  It was heart warming to see how delighted she was that a mzungo had come to visit her and also brought her some small gifts.  It is an experience which I will take with me to the grave.

Myself and Gideon’s 122 year old Great Grandmother, Adelaide

Gideon plays an active role at his local church when he is not jet setting around the world as part of his life as an international athlete.  By taking me along to Sunday service as his guest, we created a little bit of history.  No white person had ever attended and again their welcoming warmth towards me was inspiring.  Little did I know they were expecting me to get up on stage and give a mini speech.  I through in as much Swahili as I could muster and thanked them for their kind welcome and greetings.  It seemed to go down ok and I quickly migrated back towards my pew.

Myself, the Pastor and his daughter at Sunday service

In the final part of my trip we both competed in the Athletics Kenya track meeting in Thika.  My first race on Kenyan soil and I was the only mzungo in the whole stadium.  Racing in Kenya gives you a tougher than ever mentality that makes nerves in Scottish championship  call rooms fade into insignificance.  All eyes on were on me.  Thankfully this inspired me and made me more determined.  I knew I had been training hard and most importantly I knew that I had more ability than almost anyone in the stadium thought I had.  Racing below race distance at 400 metres, I ran 0.5 seconds outside my lifetime best and placed 4th out of 8.  I am told the announcer shouted on the microphone, halfway in to the race: “who is this mzungo and why is he beating our boys?”  We hope to raise sponsorship to get Gideon into the Aberdeen Union Street Mile road race this year.

Gideon taught me the importance of ‘shape’.  ‘Shape’ to Kenyans means more than just being in good shape, but being in shape to compete against anyone on any given day.  Previously I had been naive and in some ways lazy, thinking that 4 weeks of hard training with some weights and core mixed in would get me into prime shape.

Right now I am the fittest I have ever been but what Gideon and Kenya to a certain extent too has taught me is that there is no reason why this is anywhere near my limit.  It gives me huge confidence that if I could run 1.53.07 for 800 metres last season, off the back of 6 weeks hard training which had been preceded by months of messing around, then this year can be hugely improved.

Day 1 of the 2011 trip, not in ‘shape’

You can learn a lot from the Kenyan athletes.  You can also learn how not to do things.  So many train in groups that follow the lead/fastest runner’s programme.  These are not suited to everyone and it is why many runs themselves into the ground and into an early retirement. The rain here is indeed far worse than home. Almost every road is un-run able at times when the skies decide to open. However, they need to toughen up and run in the rain sometimes, they think we are crazy when they see us running in only a small bit of rain.  Another way that this can be looked at is that they do not feel the same pressure as we do at home to complete every session that is planned for them.  It is flexible and they can easily miss one here or there.

Coming into ‘shape’

Thanks to BodyHelix I was able to organise a mile race at the Kamariny Stadium in Iten.  It was a huge success and we hope to build on it greatly next year.  With winning times of 4.14 for the men and 5.00 for the ladies, there was a high standard turn out which was great to see.  It felt fantastic to give something back to a place which has given me so much.

The BodyHelix Men’s Mile 2012

Things could not have gone any better for me this time around.  I recorded my biggest ever weekly mileage week at 75 miles in week 10 of 12.  Whilst my Dad urges me to not get too fixated on mileage like he did it is hard not to get excited but I remain careful and hold back when necessary.  The track sessions I have done here give me real hope that I can run the times I want to this year.  I was pleased to be hitting fast times in sessions on the slightly too long dirt track at 8000 feet above sea level.  My last 2 weeks have included some quality sessions but reduced mileage and I am beginning to feel fresh as the races approach this weekend. I will line up to run the British Milers Club Grand Prix 800 metres on Saturday followed by a 1500m and 4x400m relay in Aberdeen on Sunday in my first outing as club captain.  It will be fantastic to see my Mum again when she kindly collects me in Manchester and drives me back to sunny Scotland.

It’s clear to see that I absolutely love it out here in Kenya and I could easily live here.  However, it is a strange feeling to have that I still really, really want to come home.  I am looking hugely forward to seeing family and friends again but the burning desire to be home again comes from wanting to produce the results that all this trip’s hard work was designed to do and that many people have supported me in doing so.

Yesterday I completed my final track session on Kenyan soil.  It was only 5 x 200 metres and with a long-ish recovery to get the legs ticking over for Saturday’s race.  I was determined to hit one of them in 24 seconds and the first 4 went by in 25, 25, 25 and 25.  I said to myself before the last rep: “you will hit 24, now GO!!” Coming down the home straight I was thinking to myself ‘push as hard as you possibly can and leave it all on the track, you will not have another opportunity to rectify this if you don’t push hard enough now’.  I crossed the line in 24.94 and as I put the brakes on I went up onto the bank of the track and was confronted with the most incredible view across the Great Rift Valley.  It was one of the best moments in my running life.  That is the magic of Iten, Kenya – Home of Champions.

Elated at hitting the elusive 24 second rep!


Filed under Uncategorized

Braveheart Becky aims to follow in the footsteps of her mother

Written by Myles Edwards in Iten, Kenya.

The first in a series of in depth interviews with Aberdeen Athletic Club members features under 17 middle distance star, Becky Cheyne.  Cheyne chats to Myles Edwards about her aspirations for the coming years and what it is that drives her to succeed in the sport.

Born in Aberdeen in 1997, Becky tells us how she first got involved in athletics:

“My first ever race was a Primary Schools event at Chris Anderson Stadium (now Aberdeen Sports Village).  I was in Primary 5 and managed to come 4th in the 800m.  Although I missed out on a medal, I was very proud of myself because my only other races had been at school sports days.”

This race planted a seed within Becky which continues to spur her on today as she then went on to compete in all Active Schools events from 2007-2010 and scooped 1st age group place in every Race for Life from 2007 through to 2009.  She hopes to return to the Race for Life event this year as she has missed the past few due to other commitments.

Now coached by the legendary Grant Smith, Becky has won ‘Athlete of the Week’ three times since the introduction of the award in November 2011.  Becky says:

“I am proud of this achievement because it shows that I am improving and heading in the right direction.  I think the introduction of this award means that secretly we all strive to do better and that our performances are recognised.”

Coached by Grant Smith since 27th June, 2011, she goes on to describe the influence that Grant has on her progress and that of others in the group:

“Grant is a good coach for many reasons.  He emails our workouts to us beforehand so that we know what times we have to improve on.  He also emails us our times following the session so that we can write them in our diaries and make comparisons with similar sessions from the past.

“He also gives us little tips on how to improve our running styles and techniques. He is always happy to help and never pushes us too far, he just goes with our abilities instead of pushing us to breaking point. He’s always happy, encouraging and positive.”

With personal bests of 2.49.1 and 5.56.2 for 800 and 1500 metres respectively, Becky aims to improve on both of these marks this season off the back of some great training over the winter months.

Cheyne goes on to tell us why athletics is the sport which she most enjoys:

“Athletics is my favourite sport because nobody judges you, every member of Aberdeen AAC is very friendly and welcoming. The sport itself is very enjoyable – you can run from anywhere, for whatever distance and for whatever reason. You can also use it to take your frustrations out on really well.  If I’m annoyed, I simply think – ‘I will show them’ – and therefore run better because of it.

“I prefer athletics to team sports purely because my hand-eye co-ordination is a bit skew-whiff! However, I do still consider athletics to be a team sport as everyone is in the same club.  Also, in relays we are a team – even if you’re not picked to be in the squad of 4 you will still get a buzz from cheering everyone else on.”

Keen to find out what drives Becky to train harder and harder week in, week out, I ask who it is that inspires her:

“My Mum, Denise is without a doubt the person who inspires me most as it was not so long ago that she ran for Scotland.  Kelly Holmes is someone who I also greatly admire.  She didn’t have the best start to life and didn’t even like running to begin with.  Despite this, she never gave up and in the end her hard work produced two gold medals in the same Olympics and also got her a knighthood.

“I admire the attitudes of athletes such as Derek Redmond who battle through severe pain to get to the finishing line.” (Redmond famously pulled a hamstring during the 400m semi final at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics and had to hobble and be carried by his father for almost 200m to cross the finish line)

Becky goes on to say that she ‘holds athletes in high regard who, despite their talents continue to be modest and support younger athletes’ like herself.’

Next we move on to what Becky feels she can achieve within the sport of athletics:

“I am not certain of exactly what I can achieve but if I keep training well and getting personal best times then I will in myself feel that I have achieved an awful lot.

“I think it would be brilliant to run for Scotland one day, or compete in the Olympic or Commonwealth Games.  However, that is not a necessity for me to be satisfied. As long as I know that I can run for as long in life as I want to and that I am a lot fitter and more active than my peers at school, then I will be a happy chappy.”

The next interview will be with middle distance maestro, James Joy as he looks to improve on his 800m personal best of 1.53 from last year.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized