Kenya is our featured country for January. This is a great time of year to visit the East African country, either to prepare for international success, or to achieve your own small running and fitness goals, and later this month numerous British Olympians and Olympic hopefuls will we heading out on one of their intensive winter training stints in the Rift Valley town of Iten.
As those who have read my book, or followed my blog, will well know, I have been to Kenya six times (and am well overdue a trip). To say that I love the place would be an understatement. It is probably the closest I have found to a home from home. The Rift Valley is, in my view, second only to the Grand Canyon, in terms of awe inspiring natural beauty, and sitting on it's edge is one of the most relaxing activities one can engage in. The people are the friendliest I've come across, and the laid-back atmosphere has yet to fail in rejuvenating me or recalibrate for me what is important in life. Even if I wasn't a runner, I think I would find Iten and the surrounding Rift Valley region a great place to visit.
But it is the opportunities that it offers runners, that is the real jewel in Kenya's tourism crown. The altitude, above 2000m, is perfect for altitude training. The climate too is almost perfect, and apart from a few weeks of heavy rain, training is possible here almost year round. The locals may complain about the cold in the winter months, but daytime temperatures rarely drop below 20 degrees, and with low humidity (as a result of the altitude), the weather is rarely unpleasant for training.
Most roads are unsealed, undulating dirt roads that meander through the countryside, and even the surfaced main roads have dirt trails alongside them, so there is no shortage of forgiving surfaces on which to complete high volumes of training. Many of the tracks are dirt too, though Lornah Kiplagat has recently opened a Tartan track in Iten for guests of her world famous HATC.
Training facilities are improving all the time, and since it opened in 1999, Lornah Kiplagat's HATC has continued to develop to meet the needs of its foreign guests. It does, however, maintain a distintively African feel, and guests have the opportunity to sample Kenyan food and way of life in relative comfort. There is an outdoor swimming pool and a well equipped gym at the camp.
While Lornah's place is well established and well known, on the other side of Eldoret (next to Eldoret Airport) is the Rift Valley Resource Centre, a relative newcomer to Kenya's altitude training offer. This centre, located in Mosoriot, is open to students, athletes and community volunteers. Lel, Cheryiout and Rotich are among the athletes who have trained on the nearby trails. The centre has links with a number of local schools, health clinics and community projects, and visitors may have the opportunity to volunteer during their stay.
Further information on training in Kenya can be viewed on some of my previous posts, including the following summary post about Training in Kenya, and these reports from my visit in 2010: This is Kenya and Jambo Sana.
Iten, Kenya is just one of the venues featured in Notes from Higher Grounds: An Altitude Training Guide for Endurance Athletes. Other training sites in Kenya also receive a mention.