Running with the Kenyans
In the town of Iten, Kenya, running is part of daily life. The relatively small town attracts runners from all over the world, for good reason. It is situated on top of a mountain, at 2400m above sea level, making it ideal for altitude training. Moreover there is a combination of perfect weather, great off-road running routes and readily-available sports facilities.
After having personally experienced this lifestyle for almost 4 weeks, it became evident to me that despite the obvious benefits of these elements being all present in one place, they are not the most important reason for why Iten is such a running hotspot.
From my point of view, it is the mentality of the Kenyan athletes which makes all the difference. I found the determination and resilience with which they carry out their training to be inspiring in its own right. When you also consider that most locals manage to train at the highest level with limited means and in relative poverty, it becomes a truly inspiring story.
During our experience in Kenya, one of the most inspiring moments was when we were invited to meet Brother Colm O’Connel, a Irish sports teacher at the local Saint Patrick’s High school. He came to Kenya with very limited experience in athletics and through determination and a strong belief in the spirit of sport, he managed to build the foundations for some students who would go on to become the best athletes in the world. The hall of fame of this school boasts names such as David Rudisha (current 800m world record holder).
For me, the experience of running in Kenya stands as a reminder to what attracted me to the sport in the first place: the simplicity of running and the satisfaction which striving to be the best version of yourself brings.