Britons look to Kenya for Gold
Britons try it the Kenyan way
Team GB members including Mo Farah and Paula Radcliffe are in the home of distance running, looking to find the secret to Olympic glory,
Take a sharp right turn when the rutted road from Eldoret climbs up to Iten, a tiny town of tin and wooden shacks perched on the precipitous edge of the Great Rift Valley, and you wind down a trail to Lornah Kiplagat's High Altitude Training Centre. "University of Champions", it says on the gate.
Straight ahead – past a row of chalets with running shoes propped against the steps of each billet and the red, white and blue of Great Britain training kit hanging on the washing lines – is the dining room. Sitting in the shade is the British distance runner who graduated to world-champion status last summer.
"Sunday is a rest day," Mo Farah says. If you can count a 24-mile morning run through the steep, red, dusty trails as restful, that is. With no afternoon run planned, and the rest of his week's 130 miles of training having been conducted at close to or bang on race-speed, for Farah that is what the group run happens to be, as he puts the foundations in place for his London Olympic challenge here, at 7,800ft above sea level in the thin air of Iten.
Since mid-December, the 28-year-old golden boy of British athletics has been grafting away in this Kenyan hotbed of distance running, at a national endurance squad camp funded jointly by UK Athletics and the London Marathon.
"It's a snapshot of the world that has made the local runners you see haring along the trails at high speed in mass numbers into the planet's pre-eminent distance runners. Kenya boasted 81 of the 100 fastest marathon runners in 2011, including all of the top 20. They won 17 medals in endurance events at the World Championships in Daegu in August last year. Still, Farah planted a Union flag at the global summit in Daegu with his thrilling victory in the 5,000m final. He also got pretty close before having to settle for a silver medal in the 10,000m.
"What he has benefited from, in being here, is a lot more than training. It's an attitude. It's a feeling,
Ian Stewart, who has overseen a turning of the tide in British distance running in his role as head of endurance at UK Athletics, was one of the generation of great British distance men who were in at the start of experimentation with altitude training. So was Dave Bedford, the former 10,000m world record holder, now joint race director of the Virgin London Marathon. Both men are in Iten, at the high altitude training camp built and run by Kiplagat, one of Radcliffe's long-time rivals, and her husband, Peter Langerhorst.
""With the present team, we put a lot of research into ending up with a base here –. We went to pretty much every altitude centre worldwide and this is as good as it gets. "I'm not a five-star hotel boy. I want it basic, military-style, which is more or less what it is here. Good bed, clean sheets and a shower. We have a doctor, two soft-tissue physios and that's pretty much it.
"It's simple. That's all we need. And the great thing about it is there are no distractions. You get up at 6.30am, go for an hour run, come back, have a shower, get some breakfast, have a sleep, go to the gym in the afternoon, then go out for another run, an hour-and-a-half. That's 25 miles a day during the week and one long run on a Sunday.
"Everybody's really good. If they weren't they'd soon be found out. There's no hiding place here and that's the way it should be. Some of the sessions are brutal."
Source The Independant