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Home of Champions: part one

By Darren O'Toole | In Fitness, Marathon training, Outdoor, Workout | on December 8, 2018

Following an insanely long journey which involved choosing to stay awake on the first 7 hour flight (when I had three seats to myself) so that I can sleep on the second six hour flight (where I was stuck with two parents and their one year old boy, crying for the duration), I then had a six hour wait in Nairobi airport before finally boarding the flight to Eldoret. Only, within 5 mins of this tiny, old plane taking off, enjoying a bit of shut eye so that I can forget that I was in a toy box of a plane, the nervous local next to me says: “Are you going to sleep the whole flight, I get more nervous if you sleep!”. Anyway, I did finally arrive in Iten, Home of  Champions, tired but excited.

Iten, Kenya - Darren O'Toole

As an early arrival, the first morning was a solitary run, trying to get used to the altitude of 2,400m which made breathing difficult. With the arrival of my fellow camp mates, we set off for an ‘easy’ run for the Monday morning. A 6.30am start. Given a first meeting, everyone soon set out at a speed that was anything but ‘easy’. Track Tuesday took us to Tambach. It’s a dirt track used by the locals for their track sessions. This gave us our first opportunity to stretch our speed a touch whilst also observing some local athletes going through their paces.

Wednesday was another ‘easy’ run but adding a little more distance. Following this we then did some drills working on out technique at Lornah Kiplagat’s track, a tartan track used by nobody due to its entrance fee of 1000 shillings for locals (approx £8). The afternoon culminated with a brutal core session with Timo, a class which had the fastest women in the world over the marathon distance, Mary Keitany. Fans of Paula Radcliffe will disagree with that last fact, but for an all-women race ie, no male pace pacemakers, Mary Keitany holds the record.

Mary Keitany and Darren O'Toole

Afternoons were often spent in the gym or going out for a second light run which we organised between us. Thursday afternoon, however, was our first brutal session. After a 15min run, 3 sets of 80m strides and 3 sets of hill sprints, we then undertook some dynamic stretches. Then our coach, Hugo, told us, “right, now we’re ready to start the session”. Madness! The session proved to be 6 sets of 5 mins running at threshold speed with a 2 minute recovery. Dinner went down well that night.

Darren running in Iten, Kenya

As far as food is concerned, we’ve all been eating like horses. The food has been healthy, home-cooked affairs with local ingredients. It’s been very carb-heavy but has fuelled us well.

Although we are in a group with running enthusiasts, the High Altitude Training centre also houses athletes. I always pride myself in sporting knowledge but wouldn’t declare myself an expert on all individual sports. The result: chatting to a guy, Jamie, about his chances of qualifying for Tokyo 2020 Olympics in his sport, Modern Pentathlon, only for him to inform me that he is current 2 X World Champion, so he fancied his chances.

Friday saw a return to the core class, after the morning’s 50 minute run. This time I was prepped for Keitany with my phone resting in my shoes ready to get a picture post-class. Success!

I’m writing this blog post whilst laying by the pool after this morning’s long run. For me, that was 16km along the dusty Moiben road. A road which promises to be one of the flattest in Iten. Probably true, but flattest in Iten doesn’t mean flat!

Tomorrow is safari day and that is where part 2 of my update will begin.

Week 1

Total distance: 78.8 km
3 x gym sessions
3 x core sessions



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