Monday, 14 January 2013

Guest Blog 1 - Tom Fairbrother from Kenya

As I've not been doing any travelling for a while now, and have very little to blog about these days, I have invited some other athletes to contribute guest blogs about their adventures at altitude.

Below is the first post from Tom Fairbrother who is spending some time in Kenya at the moment.  The postgives an interesting insight into his first impressions of Kenya, how easy it is to meet famous athletes there, and the drawbacks of trying to train at altitude when not fully fit.

Tom will be blogging regularly on his own blog: during his stay in Iten.  If you're training at altitude and have some interesting ovservations to report or photos to share, please do get in touch (


Kenya - Week One

Having spent a great Christmas and New Year's Eve with all my friends and family, I set off for my three month stay at the High Altitude Training Centre in Iten, Kenya.

Since booking the trip in September, I ran a great first Half Marathon in 1:12:30 but unfortuantely picked up a calf injury at mile 21 of my first Marathon, eventually finishing in 2:38:55 in Munich, which was 4-5 mins slower than I hoped for.

This subsequently heavily affected my training up to Christmas. I had a three week spell where I literally did not run at all and I had to pull out of several races, missed the whole XC season. When I did start to feel better and get back running, I found I would pick up little niggles that would mean 2-3 days off.

However, I still set off to the tiny village in Africa, which is still home to numerous WR holders and Olympic Champions from 800m to Marathon. I arrived after what seemed like an eternity, leaving my house at 3:30pm on Wednesday and not reaching the Camp until Friday at 10:30am.

I did not get through unscathed as I somehow managed to lose my bank card in transit, so I had to cancel it and request a new one. Natwest will only send it to your home address, so I will need to get my mum to post it out to me. Luckily I have enough cash to last a while.

On my internal flight and bus transfer to the camp was a UKA team, consisting of numerous high class athletes. Amongst them were Scott Overall (2:10 Marathon), Lynsey Sharp (Olympic 800m runner), Tom Lancashire (1500m), Michael Rimmer (800m), Eilish McColgan (Steeplechase).

Last by no means least is Mo Farah. He arrived today, with his room being fitted out with his own sofa, his own TV (the only other is in the lounge) & his own pillows/duvet! 

It will be great to watch him train, although it is probably optimistic hoping to tag along to one of his easy easy runs as I imagine he will keep himself to himself. I may however try and make sure I am conveniently starting my run as he heads out, and see what happens!

Training in Iten poses many challenges; for a starters it is located at an altitude of over 8000 feet, which is almost twice the height of Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the UK! In addition, the miles and miles of orange trails are very firm and rough, with the routes themselves extremely undulating. 

As well as the British athletes, in the camp are a Dutch Marathon runner (forgot his name) ranked 5th in Europe & USA 1500m Olympic finalist Morgan Uceny, with more UK athletes expected next week. 

After unpacking and relaxing, I ran an easy 4m at just under 8:00 mile pace. The first run at altitude is always tough, simply due to the lack of oxygen being this high up. I actually felt okay, but am very conscious not to push things this early. A general rule is that your pace will be around 30secs a mile slower at altitude. 

My first full day (Saturday) I headed out at 7:10am with a runner called Nic from Colchester for an easy 5m (7:30 pace). Due to the location of the camp, which is situated on the top of a hill, the last 2 and a bit miles were all up hill, so I was blowing a little towards the end, although I did drop Nic with about 1 mile to go. 

After an hour of stretching, followed by a gym session, I had a massage as I was struggling with quite a sore back from the flight. The therapist who massaged me said he has worked with many champions at St Patricks School. He informed me that David Rudisha will be in Iten from the end of January and will be using the gym here at the camp.

The massage itself was brutal, lasting over 1 hour 15 minutes and costing only £11. He found my agonising pain hilarious, and said UK massages are to easy! 

I was relaxing in the Lounge and met Lornah Kiplogat, multiple World Champion and owner of the Camp, as well as the Chairman of the Kenya Athletics. As you do.

Saturday night I felt quite tired, which was definitely the case as I slept for 10.5 hours! I headed out for an easy run to check out the infamous Kamariny Stadium, where all the great Kenyans past & present do their track sessions.

Located 1.5 miles from the camp, I arrived at around 9am to find it completely empty, so I couldn't resist running on it. I ran 6 easy laps around the track. There is much speculation as to how long the track actually is, from 400-410m!

I then headed 1.5m back to camp, reaching 6:55 pace. However, I still managed to get dropped by a local wearing jeans and a shirt who I ran past. He was walking when I passed him, so I can only assume he couldn't resist smoking a foreign runner!

I did some more stretching on my return, followed by a core session in the gym and more sunbathing (29 degree again!) and then an easy 2.5m recovery run, making 7m total for the day.

So after my first two and a half days in Kenya, I have managed 17m and two gym sessions, so productive but still very watchful and cautious. I would say the biggest benefits of training in a camp is the extra time you have, normally occupied by work/family etc.

You have so much more time to warm-up, stretch, workout in the gym & mix with other runners. In addtion, the food is all cooked for you and is all perfect running fuel, low fat carbs, organic veg, protein etc. 

I am missing my friends and family, but the camp has wifi so I am in regular contact through FaceTime, and more successfully, WhatsApp, and I am only here for 13 weeks and will be home in no time.   

Being around such top athletes is certainly inspiring, so hopefully on my return in April I will be a leaner, stronger and faster runner, and more importantly have learned and benefited from the experience of living in Africa for three months. 

Tom Lyle Fairbrother, 6th Jan 2012  


  1. Hello There,
    I just wanted to see if you were currently interested in additional guest bloggers for your blog site.
    I see that you've accepted some guest posters in the past - are there any specific guidelines you need me to follow while making submissions?
    If you're open to submissions, whom would I need to send them to?
    I'm eager to send some contributions to your blog and think that I can cover some interesting topics.
    Thanks for your time,

  2. Hi Babu,

    Yes I'm accepting guest blogs, but only from people that have been to altitude, or have specific experience of altitude training. If you fit the bill, then please, by all means get in touch. The email contact is