Iten, Kenya
Friday 28th October 2011

Well, I’ve broken the first rule of keeping a blog!  All the rules say that you have to maintain a routine of updates & don’t break that routine.  Mmm, I think 2 weeks without a posting certainly smashes the routine of postings that I have become accustomed to broadcasting over recent weeks.  So, err, sorry?!!!?!

To make amends, I’m going to take on the inconsistencies of the rural Kenyan telecommunications system & attempt to post a regular basis.  This will no doubt be a challenge given our internetual experiences over the 2 days since we touched down on the tarmac in Nairobi.

To give you some background, we are out at Lornah Kiplagat’s High Altitude Training Centre, which is located on the outskirts of the small town of Iten, about a 45 minute car journey from the airport town of Eldoret.  The athletes are here for varying blocks of time over the next 8 weeks, whilst the support staff members are here on average for about a fortnight at a time.

The purpose of the training camp run by the collaborative resources of UK Athletics & the London Marathon, is to contribute to the physiological base for the athletes that will be supplemented by a further camp to Kenya in January & two camps to Font Romeu in April/May then June/July.  The camp at Iten is somewhat higher than Font Romeu at about 2,400m above sea level & the trails here are basically the dirt roads that constitute the local infrastructure.

The camp itself is a purpose built complex with supposedly the best gym facility in Kenya, a pool & physiotherapy facilities.  The accommodation is basic but comfortable & our group is the first to stay at the recently completed (2 days ago) new accommodation wing.

After flying into Nairobi on Wednesday night, we stayed in a hotel on the very edge of the Serengeti National fact we had breakfast overlooking the rugged plains.  On Thursday, we rose early to fly out to Eldoret & then take the short car journey up to Iten.  Short it may have been, boring it wasn’t! 

The first vehicle we encountered en route was a tanker with “Dangerous! Petrol!” scrawled on the back – normal enough, except the steering was so badly damaged that the driver was struggling to navigate it up the road as the front wheels were out of synch & the vehicle was moving forwards on a diagonal!  Absolutely remarkable.  We passed cyclists with milk churns & crates stacked high on the backs, shacks, “hotels” that were barely more than two rooms large, Toyota taxi vans so over-full with people that they were hanging on the back & most people just stopped & stared at the white people in the van.

After lunch & spending some time with John Rogers (our doc), Barry Fudge (our exercise physiologist) & Becky Ellis (our soft tissue therapist) organising the medical room, the group congregated for the first easy session.  John, Barry & I opted to explore Iten & the surrounding trails on bikes & my eyes were opened immediately.  The poverty was everywhere, but the people wore genuine smiles & not being greatly aware of any other way of life, seemed to be far from dissatisfied.  Everywhere we went we were greeted by confident children shouting “How are you?  How are you?”, whilst everyone stopped to stare & most shouted “Hello” or “Jambo”. 

I am sure Kenyans coming to the UK would get a very different response…in fact children would probably nudge, comment behind hands or point at a rare racial encounter, rather than greet them so warmly.  However, given the cultural diversity in the UK, a Kenyan would probably not even draw a second glance.

After an early night, we rose at 7am with the first main scheduled group session on the agenda.  Instead of waking to sun, we were faced with a cold, foggy morning after a night of heavy wind & rain.  The tracks were slippy & before long the red mud was caking our trainers & the backs of our legs.  I ran with John & Spencer (Barden), our group leader & managed a steady 4 mile out & back encountering a few testing hills on the way.  The athletes took on a variety of sessions varying from 4 miles to a 45 minute stretch.

A good breakfast followed by a warm shower put the world right & now we are in clinic awaiting our first athletes of the day!  So, I will attempt to post this online later with the odd photo too.

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