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


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


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!)