Monday, January 3, 2011

Training camp in the Rift Valley, Kenya

In the summer of 2010 I was browsing through a copy of the Irish Times when I saw an article about an Irish Brother (of the Catholic church) who lives in a small town called Iten in the mountainous Rift Valley of Kenya. The article explained that Brother Colm O'Connell had moved to Iten in the early 1980s to fill the role of principle at a Catholic high school called Saint Patrick's. During Brother Colm's time at the school he developed an enthusiasm for the sport of running, and began coaching students. Brother Colm has been very successful in this role, and in recent years the school has developed a reputation for producing some of Kenya's top athletes.

St Patrick's college is a central institution in the small village, and is a production-line of running talent that feeds into into the local supply of aspiring elite runners. The success of St Patrick's High School as a production-line of high-achieving runners has lifted the profile of Iten within the running community of Kenya (and globally). Iten has become something of a Mecca for Kenyan runners wishing to enter the professional running arena, and also for curious runners from all over the world who are looking to learn from the best in the business. The village is now home to a number of training camps, where runners congregate to train and live together.

The article sparked my curiosity in the place, and I im

mediately began investigating the idea and planning a trip. The plan I came up with was to head away just after Christmas and spend four weeks training in Iten. I'm also treating myself to a few days on the beach in Zanzibar (a tropical island off the coast of Tanzania) to celebrate the New Year, and I'll probably climb Mount Kenya on my way back to Nairobi in late January.

After discussing the idea with a few friends, I was put in contact with a couple of lads who had been to Iten before. Dan (from Melbourne) and Markus (from Germany) were both helpful, offering some tips and contacts in Iten. After passionately recounting stories of previous trips to Kenya, Markus decided to join me for a couple of weeks in Iten. Markus arranged accommodation for the pair of us at a local training camp (affiliated with Saint Patrick's High School) through a friend.

So training camp in Iten is ON! Starting on 4 January. But first Tom and I are off to Zanzibar to welcome the 2011 in style.

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