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Masai magic and Choge class in Body Helix Mile, Iten Kenya

Athletes jostle for position at the start of the men’s Body Helix Mile.

By Myles Edwards in Iten, Kenya.

As most people in the UK rose from their beds this Sunday morning, 36 Kenyans lined up to take part in the first ever BodyHelix Mile in Iten, Kenya.

Excitement was high in the build up to the big race at The Kamariny Stadium, home of distance running champions.  Both men’s and women’s races had to be delayed by 1 hour due to heavy rain overnight, which had made the famous dirt track more like a cross country course than a platform for some of the world’s best athletes to perform.  Undeterred, the athletes still went on to impressively produce some scintillating performances.

Maggie Masai outsprinted her training partner, Phenencia Chemtai to win The BodyHelix Mile women’s race in a time of 5 minutes 0.1 seconds, beating her lifelong friend by 0.4 seconds.  With a track session of 6 x 800m two days previously and a long run of 1 hour 20 minutes less than 24 hours before the race, both athletes had not planned on competing until a last minute change of heart.  It is not only this that makes their victory so impressive but also the fact that they had been sipping tea and eating the famous Kenyan food of chapatti only 20 minutes beforehand.  In a time of 5 minutes 23.5 seconds, Monica Chebet came home to scoop third place and the final cash prize.

Magdaline Masai (left) out sprints Phenencia Chemtai to win gold in the women’s mile.

Speaking after the race with Maggie, the younger sister of 2009 World 10,000m champion Linet Masai, she said:

“The preparation was not how we would normally warm up for a race but I was ok and still felt strong.  I am very happy to win this race but I will not be preparing like that ever again.”

The inaugural men’s BodyHelix Mile saw large numbers of athletes line up to try and scoop the title.  The field was packed with talent and it was 3 minutes 37 second 1500 metre runner, Raymond Choge who emerged victorious, outsprinting his compatriot, James Kangogo to win by 2 seconds in a time of 4 minutes 13.9 seconds.  Alex Lagat came home to scoop the bronze medal in a time of 4 minutes 17.3 seconds.

Coached by the explosive combination of Gabriele Nicola, Renato Canova and Joseph Cheromai, Raymond looked in great shape as he crossed the line to complete his first ever mile race.  He gave some insight into what the victory meant to him:

“It is a very good feeling to win the BodyHelix Mile.  I thank god for giving me the strength to win and beat some very good athletes who I was fearing slightly beforehand.  I was tired from a track session yesterday of 3x600m, 3x300m, 3x400m but I worked very hard to secure the victory.”

Raymond Choge sprints away from his rivals to win gold.

Race organiser Myles Edwards, Liaison Manager for BodyHelix in Kenya said:

“It was a truly spectacular occasion and really enjoyable to see the smiling faces of athletes who won prize money that will make a big difference to their lives.  Having trained here myself for 6 of the past 9 months, it fantastic to give something back to the community in Iten, Kenya and this would not have been possible without the BodyHelix team’s input.

“The race would not have occurred were it not for the phenomenal support of world renowned physiotherapist, Jeroen Deen who’s impressive efforts made everything run smoothly.  Thanks must also go to Dan Mulhare of Run Kenya and the local children who filmed and photographed the race, with the latter also creating posters to advertise the event over the past couple of weeks.

“I look forward to being part of this event for years to come and seeing it evolve into something truly special at the heart of the distance running world here in Iten, Kenya.”

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Returning to my home from home: Iten, Kenya

By Myles Edwards

Twitter – MylesEdwards

At 6pm last night I returned to my home from home.  Not that I needed any extra enthusiasm towards my return to Iten, Kenya but a phone call from Cambridge athletics legend, Mike Turner on the eve of my arrival sent my excitement and determination levels through the roof.

A hero of mine and close friend and inspiration of my father’s, the former English Cross Country Captain and GB Team Manager at the 1988 Soul Olympics has sadly experienced some ill health in recent months.  However, his granite-like grit and trademark resolve are shining through more than ever as he embarks on the recovery process.  To hear a double British Universities and double Inter-Counties Cross Country champion say – “Myles, you’ve never lacked ambition and have all the attributes to be a top athlete” – has given me an incredible buzz and increased determination to make this 3 month spell of altitude training as successful as possible.

The journey from London to Nairobi consisted of sleep, sleep and more sleep.  A hectic week with work and catching up with friends followed by the English National Cross Country 7.5 mile race on Saturday had clearly taken its toll as for the first time in my 23 year career, I declined a meal.

With only 2 flights leaving Nairobi to Eldoret each day I had missed the first one and was not hanging around Eldoret Airport all day until evening.  This left me one option – a 500 mile journey by matatu. For those of you who are not familiar with the matatu, count yourself lucky.  Packed in like sardines is an understatement.  The 14-seater mini bus at one point had 22 passengers and this was including my two 20kg bags taking up two of the ‘seats’.  Safe to say my backside and I were relieved and jubilant when the ordeal finally came to an end.

As soon as I set foot on the famous red dirt roads of Iten, I felt at home.  Within seconds a couple of locals, whom myself and training partner Dan Mulhare had made friends with on our previous trip, recognised me and came running over to greet me.  Local children refused to take no for an answer as they fought to be the one to carry my bags for the 5 minute walk to our place, secretly hoping that they would be full of goodies from the UK.

I write this after waking up on my first morning back in our compound owned by Moses and Linet Masai.  It has been absolutely fantastic to see everyone again.  Either Linet has transformed into a very annoying Rooster who seems hell-bent on disrupting my sleep or the feathered creature awaits her as a gift to mark her return from a fantastic 3rd place finish in Puerto Rico’s World’s Best 10km.

I cannot wait to get stuck into some serious training over the coming weeks but plan to be careful in the next few days to acclimatise and not risk injury.  As many of you know my previous trip to Kenya, whilst being truly inspirational, was unfortunately marred by a shin injury which stopped me doing almost any running.  Thanks to Aberdeen-based Physiotherapist, Ron Coutts, I am confident that I have the tools to manage the injury this time around and make this trip a springboard to future success in the sport.  I am hugely grateful for the unwavering loyalty, support and enthusiasm from my parents.  My father, Mel Edwards, has been an inspiration throughout my life and in particular during the times I have spent on the sidelines due to injury.  Grant Smith’s guidance, advice and coaching played a huge role in my success last season and solid training over the last 3 months and I look forward to carrying out his sessions in Kenya.   The trip would also not have been possible without the support of Body Helix, Fugro Subsea Services, Petrofac and in particular Paradigm Flow Services who have shown great faith in me as an athlete – something which makes me all the more determined to achieve my goals and repay their loyalty.

In half an hour or so I will be heading out for my first run of the trip and hopefully my first pain free run on African soil, with the words of Mike Turner ringing in my ears.  Iten is a truly magical place where you can witness athletes achieving their dreams all around you.  Who knows, I may even be on the shoulder of World 800metres champion, David Rudisha in years to come. Sorry, it seems the altitude has gone to my head already.

Kwa heri for now and thanks for reading.

Myles

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