Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Christmas Day

My Christmas day started early, rising at about 5.40a.m. to start my run at 6a.m. Two and a half hours later I had finished my 35km run and could breathe a big sigh of relief that for the rest of the day I could relax. After a cold, refreshing shower and some breakfast my next port of call was to all the kids that live close to my house. I had purchased about thirty packs of biscuits and handed them out to all the kids. They all seemed really happy to be getting a little present no matter how small, as I'm pretty sure for most of these kids it was the only present they would be getting. All the parents that I saw seemed really happy that I had given their kids something and they all wished me a Merry Christmas.

That was my good dead done for the day, next stop was to the Run-Fast camp to meet Edwin before we went to Kens house for our Kenyan Christmas dinner. Edwin told me we would leave at about 12, but in true Kenyan fashion we left closer to 3p.m.! Whilst walking up towards Kens house his neighbour drove by and offered us a lift which we duly obliged, we stopped off at her house and were soon presented with a meal, I though this a little strange as we were meant to be eating at Kens but obviously couldn't say no. After finishing up our food we said our goodbyes and walked the rest of the way to Kens. On arrival we met Ken and Helen (his wife) and had a walk around the farm collecting some fruit for our meal, we then went inside to be greeted by Kens children and a few other close friends and family. about 2 hours after finishing our last meal we were presented with our main meal, it was a bit like having a late lunch and an early dinner, I ate as much as I could but was pretty stuffed and couldn't indulge in as many chapatis as I wanted, never mind!! After dinner a large range of fresh from the farm fruits were laid before us, one of which I had never seen before. Edwin said it was a "sweet tomato" but he didn't know the Kenyan name for it. You had to bash it up a bit then bite off the top before squeezing the insides into your month, and it was delicious, I must try and find out exactly what it was.

The selection of fruits (with the "sweet tomato" on the right)


After all the food the children entertained us with a little play which was nice. I must say it was a lot more "Christmasy" than I thought it would be, Ken had a Christmas tree in his house and a few decorations and to spend the day with him and his family was great fun, I felt really privileged that I had been invited to spend such a day with them.

Ken drove us all back home just after 8p.m. and it wasn't long before I fell asleep after a thoroughly enjoyable Kenyan Christmas day.

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Merry Christmas

My big news on Christmas eve is that I got my official invite to the wedding of Charles Koech and Mary Keitany.
My official wedding invitation
It is being held on New Years Eve and I am really excited for a number of reasons. First, I've wanted to go to an African wedding for ages as they sound as though they are really good fun. Second, it's a proper celebrity wedding as in Kenya Mary is a huge superstar (and well know in most running circles around the world). I have been told that many of the top Kenyan athletes will be attending so I must make sure that my camera is fully charged. Third, it will be a great way to end 2011!

After receiving my invite I realised that apart from running gear (not very appropriate for a wedding) I had nothing to wear! So I took a trip to the market in Iten with Gavin and got myself kitted out in a nice suit (Hugo Boss!) and shirt for the horrendously expensive price of about £6!!! Now I'm all ready to bust some moves on the dance floor come the 31st of December!!

Looking very smart!!


Talking of Mary Keitany, it was the Shoe 4 Africa Women’s 5km in Iten today and probably one of the only chances that any women would get to beat Mary as she jogged round near the back with some of the children! It was a really good event, all the entrants were given a free t-shirt and the first 10 finishers got some good prize money, including $500 for first place and a $1000 bonus for breaking the course record (which the winner did today). We did see one women cheat and jump in for the last 100m but she duly got disqualified. After the race they have a raffle where all the raffle winners get a pair of donated shoes.

Mary jogging the Shoe 4 Africa 5km


For a treat on Christmas day coach Gavin has given me a 35km run but once I finish that I get the rest of the day to relax :-) I have purchased loads of packs of biscuits for all the kids that live near me and will hand these out some time in the morning as I bet most of them don't get anything. I have also been invited to have my Christmas lunch with Ken Kibet, Helen Kimauti and their family which should be really good fun.

I hope everyone I know has a really good Christmas. To all my Kenyan and international buddies keep training hard and to all my friends in the UK I will see you in 2012!!

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Quiet Days

After my few sleepless nights all is back to normal again, thank God! In fact I would say that Iten is quieter than normal, it seems that quite a few of the athletes take a short break at this time of the year, maybe a week, to rest up and visit family for Christmas. The Run-Fast camp is closed up as Ken Kibet (the coach) gave all the runners the week off and told them to go home. Saying all this there are still hundreds of runners whenever you go out running so I'm not getting lonely!

I've been trying out some new places to eat recently to try and get some more variety in my diet. This (the variety in my diet bit) is proving difficult as everywhere serves the same thing. The more "high class" establishments like Kamogich or Sitet for example will have a varied and extensive menu but more often than not you will only have the choice of a few things, generally beef stew, chicken fry, liver fry or ndengu, these come with a choice of either ugali, chapati and sometimes rice. The not so "high class" places like the one I went to today which are very, very cheap normally only have one option, in most cases this will be githeri and chapati which I really like but after a while you do want something different. One funny thing about a lot of these places is that they have menus with lots of stuff on them, none of which they serve. One place I ate in had a menu and the only thing being served wasn't even on the menu!! But when you get an entire filling meal plus a drink for well under 50pence there is no need to complain!

Today's "fine dinning" establishment
Running has been tough over the last few days as recovery from hard sessions takes much longer here at altitude and I really pounded my legs in the tempo run I did the other day. I probably need another day of easy running before I attempt the next hard session. still hot and sunny here and no sign of the Christmas rain that I am told will be coming. That does remind me it's Christmas day on Sunday, it's so different being out here compared with being back in the UK around this time of year. Back home you are constantly bombarded with reminders about Christmas, buy this, buy that etc etc. Here if you didn't know it was coming up to Christmas you wouldn't have a clue, I kind of like it in a way. I'm told Christmas out here is a really big family occasion so I'm looking forward to spending it with Edwin and the rest of my "Kenyan family".

Monday, 19 December 2011

Sleepless Nights and Nearly a PB....

For the last two nights I have hardly had a wink of sleep, this is not because I'm worried about anything, not because I'm not tired from training but because my neighbour is a drunk. This has been my worst experience in Kenya so far, the night before last was truly terrible. This guy came back steaming drunk and for the entire night had the biggest domestic ever. We had furniture being smashed, the wife screaming, the children in hysterics, the only half lucky thing was that there was no violence. The next day the wife packed her belongings and fled with the kids and who can blame her, there is no excuse for this type of drunken behaviour.

Scene of the crime, "highrise 1" my luxury apartment

Last night the guy came back to find he had lost his key and who did he decide he was going to ask for help, that's right, me. I was very rudely woken up by a stinking, covered in sick, drunk guy banging and shouting at my door “Kiprop”, “Kiprop”, “I need help, I can't get in”. I told him that I couldn't help and he eventually left in the search of a hammer to bash his lock in. Thirty or so minutes later he had found a hammer or maybe just a rock and started repeatedly smashing his door, not what you want to hear in the middle of the night! It all went quiet and I assumed he must have got in. Unfortunately not and again I heard “Kiprop”, “Kiprop”, some more shouting of “no” and “go away” and he left me be to get on with some more smashing and bashing. Eventually it finished and luckily the landlord came round this morning to inspect the damage and to evict him, hopefully tonight I will have a peaceful, long uninterrupted nights sleep!!

After the past two nights I wasn't expecting to run to my full potential on my 8km tempo run today but I was in for a shock as I nearly broke my pb, my sea level pb that is! Running 24.31 which at this altitude is really encouraging and I think proves that the training that Gav Smith is giving me is working, I really hope I can turn this good form into race results when I'm back in the UK.

A few days of relaxed running now before my next tough session which I have been advised will be 90 second hill repeats, sounds fun :-O

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Honey

I do like a nice bit of honey but a plate full is a bit too much! I was at the Run-Fast camp the other day and one of the guys came in carry a big tub of asali (honey), now the honey in Kenya is not like the honey in the UK, it tastes the same but is not quite as refined, when you get it here it comes with bees, honeycomb and other bits and pieces that you generally wouldn't want to eat. As I told the guy I liked honey he quickly went to get a plate and a spoon and dug out what must have been 250ml worth of honey and handed it over to me with a big smile on his face. Not wanting to be rude I tucked straight in, carefully avoiding eating any bees, luckily he left me to it and I put most of it back in the tub, as eating all that honey certainly would have been a sugar overload!

I seem to be getting rather obsessed with spending as little money as I can while I'm here in Kenya, which is starting to cause problems. Instead of getting £20 worth of shillings out of the bank which would easily cover me for the next couple of weeks, I'm trying to stretch out my last 500 shillings (about £3.50) as long as I can while I wait for some money that I am owed. I always forget but it is something I should be used to by now, and that is things always take a lot longer in Kenya than back home. I was told I would have the money I am owed by Monday, but now I'm told it will be next Tuesday (and if I get it then I think I will have done well). That's one of the reasons I haven't updated my blog for a while, no credit and no money to buy any! I guess as long as I have enough money to feed myself then I'm happy.


Had a decent track session the other day, 8 x 1000m, I did this at the Kamariny track in Iten, when I was here earlier in the year I always went to the track in Eldoret (which is about 1000ft lower) for this type of session and boy does it make a difference! A friend recently told me that if you can train well on the Kamariny track then every other track in the world will be a piece of cake, and after that session I'm sure he is right!

Kenyans training at the Kamariny track in Iten

Still glorious weather here in Iten, I've actually started to catch the sun! But I have been told that every year they have Christmas rain, which can last anything up to a week. I was told this will definitely happen but I'm not so sure, I guess I will have to wait and see.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Embarrassing

It is very embarrassing when the bill for your entire meal comes to less than 50pence and you haven't got enough money to pay for it and that's exactly what happened to me tonight :-O Luckily it was at my favourite “restaurant” Kamogich and as I am now a regular they were more than happy for me to pay the balance tomorrow.

Kamogich Chai and the "dogbowl" of sugar
Today started well with a good 2 hour run through the Kenyan countryside with Gav, as Iten is on the top of a hill the finish of every run is always up hill and probably the last 7km of this run was up this dreaded hill, I actually felt quite strong and thoroughly enjoyed the run, plus I got the rest of the day to relax, the first day since I've been in Kenya where I haven't trained twice.


The night before I had the legendary Run-Fast Sunday meal, when I was here once before we had, pasta, rice, potato and chapati all in the same bowl, last night it was just rice, potato and chapati, still a mega carbo overload and a good way to set you up for a long run! The Kenyans don't seem to think too much about how they put together their meals, they like potato, rice, pasta etc so why not put it all together? Rather than in the western world where we would use one carbohydrate add some protein, some veg etc. But as long as it tastes good and it fills me up who cares?!


We have had some really fantastic sunsets over the last few weeks and although taking a photo on my phone can never really do them justice I thought I would include them below:

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Perfect Timing

On Friday I took a trip to Eldoret with Gav Smith as I had to check an issue with my visa at the local immigration office and it turned out to be quite an eventful trip!

Even before the trip started I got to meet Florence Kiplagat who won the Berlin marathon this year, the World Half Marathon Championships last year and the World Cross Country Championships in 2009, not a bad runner!! She told me I must run quicker over the marathon soon otherwise she will overtake me!

Once Gav and myself flagged down and boarded a matatu we started the journey to Eldoret, due to all the heavy rain they have had here in Kenya the road from Iten to Eldoret was still flooded on one part and causing the usual Kenyan chaos. It seems these kinds of things are entertainment for the locals as there were loads of people just standing around watching as lorries and matatus got stuck on the flooded road.

A lorry stuck in the flood
Our matatu was not willing to risk the crossing so we had to walk through the water, trying to avoid cars that were willing to risk it, motorcycles and other pedestrians, but we made it unscathed.

Gav having succesfully crossed the flood
After the flood we got another matatu for the rest of the journey to Eldoret. In this matatu Gav was sat next to a mother with a young baby. The baby didn't look too well and was eyeing Gav quite suspiciously, I got out my camera and with perfect timing caught the baby in mid vomit directed straight at Gav!!

baby vomit!!
We finally arrived in Eldoret and went to a furniture shop where Gav and his wife Lauren had ordered some hand made sofas which they had been told were finished and awaiting collection. Unfortunately when we arrived although the sofas were ready they were nothing like the ones Gav and Lauren had ordered. For some reason they had used a totally different (rather horrible) material than the one that had been chosen and even the sofa design was different, so they had to send them back to be remade, and on top of this in true Kenyan fashion they had already been weeks late with the promised delivery date! Next stop was the immigration office where I found my visa was fine so I hadn't needed to make the trip. The final stop was the Eldoret Running shop as Gav wanted some new shoes, he had previously been told that the shoes he wanted were 8000KSH but had sent some Kenyan friends in to see what price they would get and found Kenyans would get them for 7000KSH, so all Gav wanted was the true price of 7000KSH. When we arrived Gav was told the price was now 9000KSH!! After some argument's the price dropped slightly to 8000KSH but not to the true price so in the end Gav didn't get his shoes.

So we went to Eldoret had to trek through a flood, got vomited on by a baby didn't get anything we wanted but did have quite a fun day! Luckily the trip back to Iten was a lot less eventful.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Weather Report


Weather Report: No rain this week only blue sky and sunshine, life is good :-)

Beautiful Weather, Beautiful Scenery

The other day I arranged to meet Gav for a steady run in the morning, I was a little nervous for this as Gav has been here in Iten for months now and I was still struggling on most of my runs. It was a great morning for running and due to the improved weather most of the tracks and trails had dried off, Gav took me on a new route which was good and the first 40 minutes of the run was very pleasant, we then hit a long steep climb which immediately stopped are chatting, unfortunately once we reached the top of the climb there was another 15 minutes of uphill running until we reached Gavin’s house which was the end of our run. My only conciliation was that Gav was struggling as much as I was! So it never really gets any easier to run up the hills here in Iten, damn altitude! The run actually gave me a good bit of confidence, knowing that it wasn't that I'm unfit it's just it is very tough to run when you are 2800m above sea level.

The rest of the UKA athletes left yesterday so the number of wazungu (white people) has drastically reduced, unfortunately I didn't get the chance to run with Paula Radcliffe as she always seemed to be running in the opposite direction to me whenever I saw her, she has such a distinctive style that you know it's her from a mile off!

I had a decent hills session yesterday and will be doing my first big long run in a couple of days time, so far I have been really pleased with how my training has been going, hopefully this continues and I can make 2012 the best year of my athletics career.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Misty Mornings

Hopefully we have seen a change in the weather here in Iten, with no rain during the past two days (although there was quite a bit last night). With the sun being so strong at this altitude the roads dry within hours. Most mornings these days we have a lot of mist which is pretty cool and normally makes it a nice temperature to run in.

The view from my house first thing in the morning
I was meant to do a track session this morning but due to the rain during the night I decided to switch it for the afternoon and just do an easy run in the morning. This was a good decision as by the time I got round to doing the session I had beautiful blue skies and a nice cooling breeze. My session was 15 x 300m off 1 minute jog recovery and I managed to hit some really good times only about half a second down on what I did a few weeks ago at sea level, so really pleased with that.

I have made good friends with my neighbours now and they have invited me round for dinner one night this week which should be fun, the little boy Kemboi has taken a real shine to me and follows me about whenever I'm home. This morning I was doing some washing in my sink, turned round and there he was standing beside me, made me jump out of my skin!! He loves my camera and phone and likes me to help him put his shoes on, my new best friend!!

Me and "best friend" Kemboi
There are loads of kids around where my house is and they all know me as Kiprop now, they always ask me where I am going and when I reply in Swahili it always makes them laugh, probably due to my baya (bad) Kiswahili!

Saturday, 3 December 2011

£2 a day....

Out for a nice afternoon easy run with Hywel Care yesterday and about ten minutes from home the heavens opened and we got caught in a torrential downpour, within minutes there was rivers of water flowing down the roads and are pace turned from easy to a near sprint as we tried to get back as quick as we could. Hywel turned off back to the Run-Fast camp as I headed for my place dreading the road to come as I knew it would be a complete river. As I turned the corner I wasn't disappointed as none of the road could be seen under the muddy, smelly water. As the road at the best of times has lots of ruts and holes in I didn't hold out much hope of staying upright and down I went straight into the mud, by the time I got back to my house I must have looked like the creature from the black lagoon!! As I was so wet and dirty, and it was raining so hard I decided to strip off and just have a natural shower in the garden! It was actually my only option as when I got inside the water wasn't working anyway! I hope none of the neighbours saw me, I think they already see me as some sort of nut case!!
After drying out the rain eased off slightly and I took a walk down to Kamogich to get some dinner, bumped into my old pall Wilson Kipsang and then managed to get a lift back with Gilbert Koech (husband to Edna Kiplagat) which was good as the rain had started to get heavy again and it stopped me getting too wet.
I've been back in Iten nearly two weeks now and was working out how much it is costing me to live. Including rent, food, drink, Internet, everything really I am spending around £2 a day!! And that is with me eating out most days!! I can't believe it is so cheap to live out here.

A visit to the Run-Fast Camp with the UK guys

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Getting My Heart Racing

On my morning run yesterday just minutes before I finished I had a very strange sensation come over me, suddenly I felt sick, dizzy and had to stop, my heart began to beat at a ridiculous rate, as best as I could count it was above 210 bpm! Luckily this feeling went within a few minutes and I could jog back home, but not a good sign as I was due to do my first real hard session the following day.
The second thing that got my heart racing was during the night we had another storm this time with thunder and lightning, just as I was dozing off between the thunder, bang, lightning hit my house and something exploded in my room!! After making sure nothing was on fire (luckily there isn't much that could catch fire) it took me a fair while to get back to sleep.

After not the best nights sleep, I awoke to more rain which meant my track session for the day was a no go, we decided to swap the track session with a tempo run that I was going to do later in the week anyway. I arranged to meet Gav Smith up by the High Altitude Training Centre as he was going to follow me in a car timing and measuring the 6km tempo. Fortunately at the same time a group of UK guys & girls (Luke Gunn, Lee Merrien and Helen Clitheroe were doing a similar tempo run at the same time so we joined forces, now having two cars following us down the road. For my first hard session I managed to keep the quality high running the 6km at sub 5.10 minute mile pace, most of it with Gunny, so I was really chuffed with that.

After lunch I met up with Lee Merrien, Luke Gunn and Hannah England to take them on a little tour of Iten, Lee was flying back to the UK today so we didn't have too long but I did manage to show them the Run-Fast camp and my house. It was funny when Edwin realised who Hannah was, but once I told him she was 2nd in the Worlds this year he was very excited and couldn't wait to have his picture taken with her!! I've know Gunny and Hannah for years now but haven't seen them properly in ages so it was good to catch up. I think it's great that the UK athletes come and train up here in Iten but I do wish they would experience a bit more of what Iten has to offer, hopefully I can get a few of them down to the famous Kamogich this weekend as it is the one place in Iten that is an absolute must!!

Hannah England & Edwin Kipyego (Edwin was excited even though he looks rather bored in this photo!)

Monday, 28 November 2011

What am I doing???

I just made it back to my house before the start of another torrential downpour, opened the door and found no electricity, no running water and all that awaited me was a small bed in the corner of a bare room with concrete floors, I thought to myself what am I doing here??? When the water does work I have to either make the most of it and have a quick freezing cold shower or fill a bucket so that I can wash with freezing cold water at a later date! The "en suite" to my room where I have to wash isn't the most enticing place to wash either:

The "En Suite" complete with "bath" (the bucket) and "toilet" (the whole in the ground)
To be honest for some strange reason I actually love my little "house" and even with no power and water I feel quite at home here.

Yesterday I was reading my book on the bed and looked down to find a little friend staring up at me:


My new pet cat!

I had left the door opened and she had wandered in for a little exploration!

On the training front I have completed a week of acclimatising and did a light track session yesterday which was ok, it was good to get my legs moving at a decent pace. Hopefully running will keep getting easier (because it is still a real struggle at the moment) and I can start getting some decent sessions in. One of the annoying things about the rain we are having here in Iten is that it seriously restricts the options you have for running routes as most are too muddy to run on, but as long as I can get out running I'm not going to complain too much.

I think some of the people that follow my blog may remember me talking about my best Kenyan buddy Edwin Kipyego, well unfortunately about ten days ago on a fartlek training run Edwin pulled up with an injury and hasn't been able to run since, hopefully it isn't too serious and he can get back training soon. For an injured athlete Iten has got to be the worst place in the world to be, seeing all these runners every day when you can't do anything, I would hate it and I know Edwin is already getting frustrated.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Mud (not so) Glorious Mud

This is not how I remembered Iten, the last time I was here we had endless red dirt trails to run on, these have now turned to deep, cling to your shoes and make them weigh a tonne type mud, turning the run from a reasonably pleasurable experience to a complete slog!

It pretty much rained all of last night so I put off my morning run until 8.30a.m. which didn't help much but at least I got it done. A short stint of sunshine at about 2p.m. raised my spirits but this was short lived and by about 3.30p.m. more rain. We are coming to the end of the rainy season here in Iten so hopefully it won't carry on for too long but I guess running with ten tonne shoes will make me strong if nothing else.

The road to my house

To add to the woes of the weather, yesterday I got attacked by a cow! I'm sure this will amuse my mother as she is always telling me how cows are killer beasts, but to be fair this one was pregnant and I think I startled it a little as I walked by and it decided to head-but me, no harm done but I will be a little more cautious around the pregnant ones in future!

One last thing to mention, more of a note to myself than anything. Don't ever order the chicken from Kamogich, I'm not sure what it was but it didn't look like chicken to me!

Thursday, 24 November 2011

The Luxury Apartment

On arrival at my new pad (that costs me the pricely sum of £23 a month) I was pleasantly surprised that I had a bed complete with mattress, and more room than I remembered. I have electricity but unfortunately at the moment I don't have running water! There is a bore hole so I can get some water to use for flushing the toilet (or the hole in the floor as I like to call it) but that is about it. Hopefully the water will come on in the next few days or I might start to smell rather bad!!
My new house (the one nearest the gate)
I have met the neighbours who all seem pleasant enough, two young kids next door seem slightly weary of me but interested at the same time. We also have a guard dog in the enclosure but as the dog has never seen me before this might cause a bit of a problem, lets hope his bark is worse than his bite!!

My neighbours (the one on the right is called Kemboi)

All I need now is for the water to start running and to get myself a little gas stove and I will be all set :-)

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Back in Iten

After a long wait in Nairobi I finally got the plane to Eldoret, on arrival I was pleased to see three friendly faces waiting for me, Ken, Kiptum and Edwin. It was great to see them after so long and on the trip back to Iten we stopped off in Eldoret for a nice dinner of beef stew and ugali. By the time we got to Iten I was shattered from all the travelling so I pretty much went straight to bed.

The next morning I was up at 6.30a.m. And out for an hour “pole pole” run. I puffed a bit up the hills but apart from that I felt ok. On the run I bumped into a few familiar faces which was nice and finished it off at the Run-Fast camp for a hot shower (bonus!) and the good old Kenyan breakfast of slices of white bread and sweet chai.

As the Run-Fast guys were doing a track session I decided to go and watch. It's always an inspiring sight to see hundreds of runners burning up the track first thing in the morning and today the Kenyans were joined by the UKA group including Paula Radcliffe.


After the track I went back to camp for some lunch and then moved into my new luxury apartment....... more on this soon........

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

The Return of Kiprop

It's been four months but I am finally back in Kenya, fit, injury free and looking forward to living and training in Iten for the next few month. Hopefully I've learnt the lessons from my previous stints at altitude and I can take the steps forward I need to progress as an athlete.

I had quite a busy last day in the UK, starting with the Gosport Half Marathon. Unfortunately the race didn't go quite as planned and for some reason I got a killer stitch after about 2 miles and pretty much jogged the rest of the way. At least I got to see some friends I haven't seen for a while (thanks to Rich and Kat for putting me up the night before the race) plus I got to see my cat whom I haven't seen for nearly a year (it was an emotional reunion!)

After the race I had to shoot straight off to get back to Essex, pick up my bags, check in online, shower, quick lunch then drive to Heathrow with my mum for the flight to Nairobi. The M25 was it's usual joyous self, moving at about 10 miles an hour for most of the last 30miles. Luckily we had left in plenty of time so it wasn't a problem, although my mum does like to panic!

A good flight where I managed to get about 5 hours sleep, arriving in Nairobi at just after 9a.m. Kenyan time. My flight to Eldoret wasn't until 5p.m. So I had plenty of time to kill. About 10 minutes after I found myself somewhere to sit to female “athletes” asked if I could help them get a race, I must look like a sports manager! As their pbs weren't the best I reluctantly informed them that I couldn't help and that was the end of that.

Anyway Kiprop is back in Kenya, next stop Iten!!

Thursday, 10 November 2011

The Essential, Non-Essential Running Gadget

Living in a village and with the days getting shorter running can become a bit boring when you only have 3.5miles of roads with street lights to run along. I was recently given a Silva Trail Runner Head Torch which has re-opened all of my summer runs any time of the day or night. I had never thought about getting a head torch before but since getting one, I don't know what I would do without it! The model I have is relatively light weight with a super strong light beam and once you have it on you pretty much forget it is there.

Silva Trail Runner Head Torch
I'm not really one to recommend or review products but I do think a head torch is something that not many people would think about getting, but as it has stopped a winter of boredom I thought I would mention it. If you fancy getting yourself one I know Alton Sports sell them.

I think it is going to be really useful when I get back to Iten, especially for the early morning runs over some of the ridiculously rutted dirt tracks they have out there.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Plymouth 10km

After last week working at the Great South I was looking forward to racing myself at the Plymouth 10km. The evening before in true Kenyan fashion I cooked myself and my dad ndengu and ugali (with maize flour from Eldoret) to "make me strong" for the forthcoming race. It was my dads first experience of ugali and I think he was pleasantly surprised!

Unga wa Ugali
Up bright and early Sunday morning as the start of the race was at the rather unsocial time of 8.15a.m.! When I arrived in Plymouth I went to pick up my race number and was told I was running for the England team, bonus!! I knew there was an England team competing but didn't know I was going to be part of that team, it always gives you that little bit of extra motivation when your running for your country so this was definitely a good start to the day. The elites were well looked after by the race organisers which is always nice. When we lined up for the start of the race it was obvious it was going to be a hard battle between the English and the Welsh team and it turned out to be!

After a relatively modest 1st km, Dewi Griffiths of the Welsh team pushed hard getting himself a lead of about 20m quite quickly, a group of 4 including myself stayed together but the gap to Dewi grew to nearly 80m by about the 5km mark. The course was on an out and back route and after about 6km we turned to come back, the gap to Dewi was starting to fall but unfortunately for me two of the guys I was running with started to drop me :-( Luckily I dug deep and started to pull back the gap on any uphills I encountered (all those hills in Torquay and Iten have obviously done some good!) and with about 1km to go we caught and overtook Dewi and it looked as though the win would come from one of Jonny Gilby (England), Phil Matthews (Wales) or myself. With 200m to go I took the lead and sprinted all out to the finish winning by 2 seconds from Phil in 30.35. Happy Days!

Myself with the womens race winner Kate Roberts
After a warm down, an interview with radio Devon and the prize giving we headed back to Torquay to fill up on some more ugali. Maybe this is the secret to why the Kenyans are so fast!!

On a separate note, a huge congratulations to Adharanand Finn who not only smashed his marathon pb in the New York City marathon running 2.55 but also broke his half marathon pb on route as well!! Well done mate.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Wilson Kipsang

Sunday saw another Kenyan run ridiculously fast in the Marathon as Wilson Kipsang ran the second quickest legal time ever, only 4 seconds short of Partick Makaus recent world record. Wilson is based out in Iten and is friends with a lot of the guys I train with when I'm in Iten. I regularly see Kipsang (the Kenyans generally use surnames when talking to each other) at the popular Kamogitch cafe in the heart of Iten. In fact he owes me about three cups of tea that I have bought for him, and as he is a lot richer than I am I will make sure he pays next time!

Kipsang is one of the Kenyans who uses the typical Kenyan training routine, the tuesday track session, the thursday fartlek and the Saturday hard progressive long run, which obviously works for him. He has a big following of athletes that he trains with all hoping that they will be the next big thing.

Wilson Kipsang training on the track in Eldoret (the one in second place on the inside, blue vest). Photo courtesy of Adharanand Finn
My training has gone well apart from a total washout of a session last week. I have a grass track down here in Torquay which normally is great for running on, unfortunately due to a lot of heavy rain I had to do my session around a very water logged track which is not very good when you are trying to run fast! Sometimes you just have to get a session done and this was definitely one of those times!

For the second year in a row I worked for Toby Lambert at the Great South Run as his shop Alton Sports had a stand. Sunday was crazy busy and a very long day but good fun and I got to see some old friends that I haven't seen for a while.

This Sunday (6th November) I will be racing the Plymouth 10km and with a bit of luck with the weather hopefully I will have a good race and come away with a decent time.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Getting old but feeling good

I may be getting older (turned 32 on October 18th) but after a few weeks of good injury free training I am starting to feel like a proper runner again! I have my flights booked for the 20th November to go back to Iten and starting last week until I fly out I am working on my strength an speed whilst also building up my basic endurance. This training phase includes fast reps, hill reps, strengthening exercises, tempo runs and the good old long runs. I definitely have no problem finding hills in Torquay as where I am living is on the top of a 400m long hill.

Last Sunday I cycled to Totnes to join Adharanand Finn for a long run, he is doing the New York marathon on the 6th November and this was his last long training run. Apart from getting soaked on the cycle to his house the weather turned out to be beautiful and we ended up doing about two and a half hours around the countryside and country lanes of Dartington/Totnes. The first part of the run was on the route of the Totnes 10km which must be one of the most picturesque 10km in the country but probably not the best course for a pb! All in all a great run and I'm sure Finn will run a good time in New York.

Adharanand and myself in Iten
This week on my birthday I was treated to a tough hill session and then got stung by a wasp on my evening run, lovely birthday presents! Looking forward to seeing my Kenyan buddy Edwin Kipyego who comes to the UK next week for another series of races. He tells me he is in good shape so hopefully if he gets a good race with good conditions he can break his half marathon pb of 61.23. It seems this year that half marathon and marathon running has really moved on with a number of people running 58 minutes in the half and 2.03 in the marathon, crazy stuff!! Edwin really needs to knock a minute off his time to start becoming competitive with a lot of his fellow Kenyans.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Tiptree Champion..... Nearly Essex Champion.....

Another step forward in training this week as I took part in the Tiptree 10. Some unexpected competition in the form of Kent ACs James Connor who recently came fourth in the Bristol Half marathon. Fortunately for me James was using this race as a marathon pace training run (aiming for 52.30) so I used him as pacemaker especially into the wind in the second half of the race, then with about a mile and a half to go I pushed on getting the win in 52.22.

video


This year the Tiptree 10 was also the Essex 10 mile Championships and as I am eligible to run for Essex I was looking forward to receiving my county gold medal. Unfortunately as I couldn't find my club vest (I think it's waiting for me in Kenya) I got disqualified from the county championship race :-( not sure what difference wearing a Winchester & District AC vest would have made but rules are rules I guess!

Back off down to Torqauy this week as I need some proper hills to run up, Essex is far to flat!!

Monday, 3 October 2011

Churston Champion

After not being able to break six minutes for a mile a few weeks ago the sea air down in Torquay seems to have done the trick and yesterday I won the Churston Flyer 5 mile road race in 25.49. Not a spectacular time but if you had told me even last week that I would be running that time I wouldn't believe it.....

I had some family support at the race with my mum finding her new vocation as a camcorder operator getting a few short videos of the start and finish of the race.

video

video

As I've said before Torquay is great for training and I even joined in with Torbay AC for a few of their training runs, a really nice group of guys and it always makes a run go quicker when you have someone to chat with.

Hopefully my training will continue to improve and I can start to look forward to racing well this Autumn.

Monday, 19 September 2011

The Tour of Britain

Last Thursday the Tour of Britain cycling race was in Devon and part of the stage was only about 15 miles north of Torquay, having got into cycling in a big way over the last few months I had to go and have a look. Luckily (or unlucky) the nearest point to Torquay was a category 1 climb from Bovey Tracey up to Haytor, 6km of some pretty tough climbing, it was a really good cycle and at the top there were some really big crowds.

One of the more enthusiastic members of the crowd
As we all waited for the cyclists to come through the atmosphere slowly built as more police motorbikes than I've seen in my life went through clearing the road followed by some of the team cars then in the distance we could see the helicopter meaning the cyclists weren't far away. The cyclists were really shifting considering the gradient of the climb with some looking as though they were finding it harder than others. I managed to see all the big contenders including Mark Cavendish and the gold jersey.

The Gold Jersey (Leading rider in the tour of Britain)
After all the cyclists had gone through along with the broom wagon there was mass exodus by all the cyclists that had come up to watch. I took a scenic route back through Dartmoor back to Torquay.

Up close and personnal with the Tour of Britain cyclists
My training is progressing just about as well as I could have hoped for and on Saturday morning I met with my good friend Adharanand Finn. This was the first time I have met Finn on English soil as we met out in Iten. Finn moved out there about the same time as I when I first went out and we met at a cross country race in Eldoret. Finns reason for being out in Iten was that he was/is writing a book called "Running with the Kenyans" (which you can pre-order on Amazon) I can't wait for the book to come out as in some ways it mirrors the experiences I had whilst living out in Kenya so to relive it through someone Else's eyes will be brilliant.

Finn out in Iten proudly displaying his "Iten Town Harriers" racing vest

Monday, 12 September 2011

Jogging Along

It's been a while since I last posted and I am now based down in Torquay as my injuries seem to have cleared up and my training is progressing quite well. I love it down here for running although the wind isn't much fun at the moment but I guess that would be the same wherever I was based in the country.

Haven't been up to that much over the past month but I did spend a day at the Notting Hill Carnival with my "fresh from Amsterdam" friend Mark. It was a good day out with a good atmosphere although I probably won't go again.

Notting Hill Carnival
There were some great GB performances at the recent World Championships, I was really pleased to see Hannah England win the silver medal in the 1500m. I've known Hannah since she was 14 or 15 and feel she was unlucky not to make the GB team for the last Worlds and Olympics, but a brilliant performance and a definite chance of medalling next year on home soil. Another superb performance that didn't get much notice was Dave Webb in the marathon, gaining a top 20 finish which counts as an Olympic A standard, pretty much guaranteeing his place on the GB team for next years Olympics. I have also known Webby for many years, living with him while we were at Uni in Birmingham. Webby was one of those runners who was never the best as a youngster but through perserverance, hard work and some smart training has turned himself into one of the top distance runners in the UK, a real inspiration for runners like myself.

Webby and his wife Sian after this years London Marathon
I paid a visit to my Kenyan palls in London this weekend just gone and even managed to keep with them for a 40 minute run through the streets of London. Some good reults for the Run-Fast team, Edwin retained his title at the Bristol Half Marathon with another Run-Fast athlete Allan in second. We had both the winners in the Robin Hood Half Marathon as well as the Cardiff 10km where one of our new guys Milton in his first race outside Kenya ran a blistering 27.44, winning by nearly two minutes!!

Hopefully I can stay injury free and get in some good consistent training and look at possibly racing some time in October.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Longest Run, Longest Ride

A vast improvement on the injury and last week I managed about 25miles in total with a longest run of 40 minutes yesterday (Sunday), I followed this with my longest bike ride to date, a 143mile round trip from Tiptree to Southwold (and back).

Lunch stop in Southwold
The weather was absolutely perfect for a nice long ride, warm but not too hot with only a slight breeze, and Southwold was a great stop for lunch where I had the best sausage roll ever, it was worth cycling there just for that!!

So with my injury nearly cleared up I can concentrate on building the miles up and getting back into some sort of shape. I think a marathon this year is probably out of the question but I'm sure I can start racing again in a month or so.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

The long slow road to recovery

First post for a while as I haven't had too much to write about. First things first, the beard has gone, much to my mothers delight.

With Beard
With Moustache (definitely now gone!)
My injury seems to be clearing up and last week I managed a total of 4 miles for the week, consisting of 4 x 1mile runs. On each run I still had some discomfort but every day it takes a bit longer for the discomfort to start. This week I have upped the run length to 2miles, it's all going in the right direction but it's going to take some time before I'm firing on all cylinders.

On a brighter note, I purchased myself a second hand but pretty much brand new road bike and have been keeping fit with cycling and absolutely loving it! I have to keep reminding myself that I'm a runner not a cyclist, but like I say at least it's keeping me fit.

My new bike (the smaller red one)

Monday, 1 August 2011

Still Injured

Still injured and instead of heading back to Iten as originally planned I'm heading back to the physio :-( After two weeks of no running I headed out on Saturday for a short ten minute test run, all felt good with only a dull ache in my lower back, unfortunately the injury was slightly painful during the rest of the day and after another short 15min run on Sunday and 20mins today I realised the pain was only getting worse and if I pushed things at all I would set myself back considerably.

One good outcome of this injury is I have really got into cycling. It's funny, as I have been running for years I know quite a bit about training, i.e. if someone runs 100 miles a week this is good going, more than 140miles a week is pretty hard core (obviously this applies to distance running not sprinting). But when it comes to cycling I haven't got a clue what is considered "hard" training or a lot of miles, is 50miles a day decent going, or 100miles a day??? I've just been going out on my dads "town and trail" bike until I get bored or I run out of road. Definitely considering getting myself an entry level road bike.

I think if I couldn't cycle or do some sort of exercise I wold go crazy, but none of them give me the same feeling as running, I've just got to take my time getting back from this injury, it's just frustrating not being able run when I am so used to doing it every day....

By the way my beard is coming along nicely, more on this later....

Monday, 25 July 2011

Weizoloop

Still can't run but I'm rather enjoying cycling at the moment at least I can keep some sort of fitness.

I was meant to be racing last Saturday in a 10km called the Weizoloop in Holland but as I can't run, no race. As my plane ticket had been paid for I decided to take the trip to keep my mate Mr Mark Tikkel company. I had a very enjoyable weekend staying at Mark's parents house (who were really friendly and welcoming), beating Mark at ten pin bowling and then watching the 10km race that included two Brits, Scott Overall and Neil Gamester, both of whom had solid enough runs I think.

Here is a short video of the start of the race:
video

My injury isn't improving as quickly as I would like but I guess that is normally the case with injuries and hopefully I will be able to run at some point this week. The race I had planned for next weekend is probably out of the question but you never know.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Injury Strikes

As my form had just looked like it was on the up injury strikes! After finishing a tough session last Saturday I got excrutiating pain in my lower back, I couldn't even stand up, not a good sign! After a visit to the physio on Monday she diagnosed it as inflamation of the sacroiliac joint. Luckily it doesn't seem to be serious and it has already eased off a lot but I still haven't run since Saturday so my race this weekend is definitely a no go. Lots of rehab and cross training in the meantime until I can hopefully start running again soon.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Back with the CATS

When I was ten years old (a long, long time ago) I joined my local athletics club, Colchester and Tendering AC or the CATS. The Cats train on a Monday and Wednesday evening at the Colchester Garrison athletics track, and this was where I did the vast majority of my training between the ages of ten and eighteen.

As I'm staying with my parents in Tiptree at the moment, last night I decided to go and train on the track in Colchester, when I arrived the first person I bumped into was one of my old friends Mr Adrian Sharpe. Adrian is a truly inspirational person, he used to be a police officer and had a very bad car accident resulting in brain damage. The doctors told Adrian that he probably wouldn't be able to walk or talk again but through sheer determination, perseverance and hard work he taught himself to talk and walk again. These days Adrian coaches at the athletics club and helps at local schools teaching rugby and educating people about head injuries, like I said a truly inspirational guy.

It brought back lots of good memories training at Colchester, it even had a familiar smell?!? or maybe my vest just needs washing!

The track and clubhouse hasn't changed a bit and as always it was pretty windy but my session of 10 x 1000m, 5 x 400m went to plan. All in all a good night.

I posted the video of Asbel Kiprp doing a 400m on youtube so if you want to view it click HERE

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Back in Winning Ways....

After the flight from Nairobi I finally arrived at my parents house at around 19.30 yesterday (Saturday 9th July), a short jog and some strides to help get the journey out of my legs then an early night before my first race for a while, the Felsted 10km.

Shortly after the start of the Felsted 10km
I wasn't expecting too much in this race but felt fine on the warm up. Soon after the start it was clear I was going to have a lonely run. The first half of the race was fairly flat and I passed through half way in around 15.25, the second half was a lot more undulating slowing me slightly as I finished in 31.20ish. Always nice to win a race and it's given me a good boost to my confidence, I'm sure I can get close to 30mins in my next few races, which will put me in a good position to start marathon training in August.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Speeches

Apart from having no power for the best part of three days, things have been going very well here in Iten. I did my best tempo run ever at altitude and definitely have a good feeling that my training is heading in the right direction, there might be hope for me yet!
On Saturday I took a trip to Edwins youngest sisters boarding school with Edwin, Kiptum, Edwins Eldest sister and her young son. The school was having an open day for friends and family to visit. Edwin told me we were going to leave at 9.30a.m. I had finished my breakfast by 9a.m. and was ready to go, I felt a little tired so thought I would take a little rest in my bed until Edwin came to get me. I awoke at 10.30 with no sign of Edwin so went outside to find him in the middle of washing the car! At 11.30 we finally departed, or so I thought as we took another hour making various stops around Iten. Leaving three hours late it was an hours drive to the school through some torrential rain.


When we arrived at the school it soon became obvious that I was the talk of the town, as I was probably the first mzungu to visit. We met with Edwins sister and had a nice lunch in the car. After lunch we were introduced to some of the teachers, who asked me as I was such a special guest to give a speech to the students including some words of encouragement! I managed to come up with something which they seemed to enjoy, I even slipped I a few jokes which made them laugh! After the speech lots of the students wanted pictures with the mzungu which I duly obliged, then off home to Iten.


Less than a week until I return to the UK where I have three 10km races planned, then back to Kenya to start the hard work of training for an autumn marathon.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Iten District Track & Field Championships

Nobody really knew what time it all kicked off but the general consensus was that the 10,000m would start at around 9.30a.m. I arrived just before 10a.m and had only missed the first few laps. Not a very eventful race but one of my friends and former Run-Fast camp member Eliud Kipserem kicked away on the final lap to win in around 29.40. Surprisingly during the race people that were getting lapped too many times were “red flagged” and pulled out, I'm not sure this would catch on in the UK due to sportsmanship but it's a good way to keep the timetable to time (not that they had a timetable here). Following the men's 10,000m was the women's 10,000m, this was very dull with only 5 or 6 starters, for supposedly the heart of distance running in Kenya and possibly the world I wasn't very impressed with the standard!

There were some highlights of the day, Asbel Kiprop just winning the 400m (I did get this on video but can't upload it for a few weeks), a muzungu (one of the New Zealand twins) nearly winning the 1500m and the crazy drop out rate. In the mens 5000m there must have been 25 starters and even after 300m people were dropping out! I think over the day there must have been a 50% drop-out rate! How can you only make 300m in a 5000m race??!

Anyway it was a good days entertainment, if not the quality I had expected. Next week is the provincials which should be of a much higher standard.

I did my first long run yesterday, a steady 30km in two hours, feeling fitter with every run now.