Train like a Kenyan Runner – The Kenya Experience

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Iten in Western Kenya is the Mecca of running. Iten has produced more champions than any other part of the world and is the training ground for the world’s best runners – including Britain’s Mo Farah. What is the secret of training in Iten? What is it like to train like a Kenyan Runner?

Alice Reed went to discover the secrets of the Kenyan runners in Iten courtesy of The Kenya Experience and we chatted to Alice when she returned from her adventure…

 

Hi Alice, thanks for talking to us. Please can you tell us why you were first interested in going to run in Kenya and how you went about organising it?

I have always enjoyed running and so the chance to run in Kenya is something that has always been appealing to me. However the real push to make me go to Iten was to gather research for my dissertation that I’m currently doing for university. The fact that the Kenya Experience made it so accessible for me to run and talk to Kenyan runners and coaches of all abilities meant it was perfect for me.

To be honest my mum did most of the organising for me while I was doing my exams at uni! But it was all very easy. Once the camp and flights were booked, I then checked the vaccinations I would need and that was that!

Was Iten what you expected?

I was expecting it to be a rural town, but considering it is ‘the home of champions’ I thought it would be more developed than it was. I found this particularly interesting as athletes who are producing incredible times, have huge potential, and are trying to ‘make it’, are living in the poorest conditions with no running water and electricity. And even those athletes who have made it chose to live in basic conditions when they can afford to live in better conditions.

I also didn’t realise it was so hilly!

How did you find the running in Iten, especially given it is at high altitude and you live at sea level?

The first few days we took it very steady so we could get used to the high altitude. Personally I never had altitude sickness. Iten is very hilly and I found the hills tough for the first few days, but as my body got used to the altitude I found breathing much easier and was able to increase the speed of my runs.

I liked having local guide runners with us on our runs as it meant we were never under pressure to go faster than we wanted. This was especially helpful for me when we did the track session as I couldn’t keep up with the boys. Having a pace maker with me meant I was pushing myself at my own ability.

As a single female traveler did you feel safe in Iten especially whilst out running or walking around?

Absolutely. I always made sure I was never walking or running on my own in the dark, but apart from that I never felt at risk once. All of the Kenyans are very friendly and always say hello and ask how you are, so I felt safe all of the time!

Kenyan Runner

What advice would you give to someone interested in attending a training camp in Iten?

If you are interested then 100% go and do it, you will not regret it. Take any old running clothes/trainers that you don’t wear anymore and give them to some of the athletes training in Iten. They will be very grateful and appreciate them. Take a camera – the morning runs are incredible!

What were the key lessons from your time in Iten?

The commitment and determination that the athletes have is inspiring and something I have really taken away with me. In fact, I have started training with my old athletics club again! No matter what conditions these guys live in they will wake up every morning at 6.00 to run.

And of course Songok’s three rules: train, eat, sleep. I’ve definitely taken that one home with me!

What were the highlights from your time with The Kenya Experience in Iten?

Running up Fluorspar hill has to be one. Although it was the hardest run I have ever done I am so glad I did it. Not only can I now say I have done a run only few have done, but I also got to see some amazing scenery!

The run through Singore forest was also amazing and a personal highlight for me because I love running through forests and trails. The run gave me a real sense of adventure through the Kenyan countryside!

The safari was also a highlight. It was a nice break from running and we were really lucky to see rhinos and lions in the same day!

Would you recommend a Kenya Experience camp to other runners?

100%! I couldn’t recommend the camp enough. It really is for all abilities and there is something for everyone, whether you’re a recreational runner looking for a different running experience, or an elite marathon runner aiming for a PB. If you enjoy running then the Kenya Experience is an absolute must!!

Running Travel

Alice Reed attended the June 2016 Running with the Kenyans camp organised by The Kenya Experience. The Kenya Experience organise year round running camps in Iten and each summer organise a special edition camp guest hosted by author Adharanand Finn, author of the award winning book ‘Running with the Kenyans’.