Tag Archives: Running

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!

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Athletics Kenya could run into trouble

Kenyans training session: 10 x 1km. Kamriny Track, Iten. September 20th 2011

By Myles Edwards.  Reporting from Iten, Kenya

Athletics Kenya, this morning announced that all Gold medal winners from the recent World Championships in Daegu will be selected for the London 2012 Olympics. 

This would be standard practice for most countries and require virtually no announcement nor analysis.  However, look into this a little deeper and you see just how bold, and potentially foolish, this statement is.  World 5000m gold and 10,000m silver medallist, Mo Farah – barring injury or a catastrophic drop in form – will be selected for Great Britain at our home Olympics.  The same goes for Dai Greene following his impressive 400m hurdles gold medal in Daegu earlier this month.  The difference being that UK Athletics do not have to deal with the possibility that other athletes could potentially break world records between now and London. 

Kenya has a bottomless pit of talent at their disposal across all distances above 400 metres.  This is most comprehensively demonstrated in the marathon, particularly in the male event.  What makes the race inLondon even more special for Kenyan athletes is the tragic passing of current title holder Sammy Wanjiru earlier this year.  His run to victory in Beijing captured the hearts, not only of a nation, but the world as a whole as he won Kenya’s first ever Olympic marathon gold medal. 

Abel Kirui wins World Championships Marathon in Daegu. (reuters)

Each country is allowed to select 3 representatives for the 26.2 mile event at London 2012.  This morning’s announcement guarantees Abel Kirui one of those berths.  Along with his personal best of 2.05.04 (Rotterdam 2009) his impressive 2.06.54 to scoop gold in Daegu has cemented his place.   Also on the plane to London is newly crowned world record holder Patrick Makau who, on the streets of Berlin, took 21 seconds off Haile Gebreselassie’s previous mark to run a time of 2 hours 3 minutes 38 seconds.  Already Kirui and Makau have welcomed the decision saying that they will give Wanjiru a fitting tribute by regaining his title inLondon.  This leaves one slot up for grabs. 

  • Speaking with Wilson Kipsang last week, he is in good shape to get close to the world record inFrankfurt, a month from now. 
  • Emmanuel Mutai, the reigning London Marathon champion is due to run the New York City Marathon in November.
  • Geoffrey Mutai recently clocked 2.03.02 inBoston to make him the fastest man in history.  Unfortunately the IAAF did not deem the course to meet their criteria for world record eligibility due to the percentage of downhill from point to point.  He will also runNew York.
  • Finishing four seconds behind Geoffrey in Berlin was Moses Mosop who already this year has a world record to his name over 30km on the track, running 1.26.47.  Just last week, in preparation for the Chicago Marathon on October 9th, he completed a training run of 40km in 2 hours 6 minutes.

Whilst today’s announcement undoubtedly contains an element of controversy, the selected athletes have come out in full praise, saying that it gives them ample time to prepare properly for the event.  However, in relation to the mens marathon it is far too early to make such a bold statement.

In the highly possible event that the world record was to be broken once or even twice in the coming months, it may force Athletics Kenya to reconsider their stance.  Whatever their final decision there will surely be complaint.  Standing by their announcement would potentially deny a man who has run quicker than the current world record the chance of becoming an Olympian.  Backtracking and picking the fastest people would look highly unprofessional and completely mess up the racing and training plans of Abel Kirui, a proven championship performer with a fast time of his own.  Their actions show a total disregard for the individual athlete.  In effect it may well not matter who they pick as they posess such strength in depth.  However, in effect all they are doing is forcing someone to run a world record time.

Sir Alex Ferguson thinks Danny Welbeck’s from gives him a selection headache.  Javier Hernandez just needs to work hard in training and bide his time, the World Marathon champion from Daegu may have to contemplate running another marathon and potentially break the world record in the process to solidify his place.

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Athletes can inspire stars of future, says legend Moorcroft

By Myles Edwards

Great Britain athletics legend Dave Moorcroft believes that Aberdeen’s athletics past can provide inspiration for athletes now and in the future.

The former 5000 metre world record holder and Commonwealth gold medallist feels that the success of Aberdeen’s past marathon greats – such as Fraser Clyne, Mel Edwards, Graham Laing and Alistair Wood – proves that anything can be achieved in the world of athletics, providing the correct attitude is adopted.

Moorcroft said: “You can be world class and not leave Britain.  You do not necessarily need to go to Africa or to altitude, but it helps if you have an ‘African’ mentality.  It has been done and can be done again.  Numerous people in places such as Aberdeen have proved that you can work full time and still be very successful.”

It was not so long ago that Aberdeen was home to a number of international class marathon runners.  The fastest being Evening Express contributor Fraser Clyne, who clocked an impressive 2 hours 11 minutes 50 seconds in the 1984 California International Marathon.  Colin Youngston and Donald Ritchie were others to make their mark in the long distances, with Ritchie still holding the world record for 100 km on the track.

Published in the Evening Express Saturday, March 27, 2010

Many of the current crop of athletes at Aberdeen AAC possess great potential and the club also has a number of excellent coaches for a wide range of events.    With the correct attitude and level of dedication these athletes have the capability of achieving great success.

Ian Garioch and Ellie Workman are two of these promising up and coming athletes.  Workman’s impressive improvement and Garioch’s 400 metre gold medal performance at the British Universities Indoor Championships last weekend indicate there are athletes in the Granite City capable of achieving great things.

Moorcroft says that it is essential for athletes to believe in themselves in order to reach their potential.  “You must believe that for that period in your life you are a serious runner and you shape your life around it.  Everything you do slots into making you the best runner you can be.  A lot of it is about making the choice that you will be tough, train hard and cleverly and developing a strong belief in your own ability.”

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