Kenya Is A Great Running Nation And A Magical Destination

Kenya’s average annual family income is about $ 1,000. A meager income indeed. Yet this country remains a superpower in distance running. So powerful an athletics nation that it ranked second (in athletics) only to the USA, a global sporting and economic superpower, at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, Brazil. (see excerpt of medals standings below. Source: IAAF)

COUNTRY GOLD SILVER BRONZE TOTAL
United States 13 10 9 32
Kenya 6 6 1 13
Jamaica 6 3 2 11
Ethiopia 1 2 5 8
Great Britain 2 1 4 7
Canada 1 1 4 6
China 2 2 2 6
France 3 3 6
New Zealand 1 3 4
South Africa 2 2 4

 

Of Kenya’s total medals tally above, only one (silver) came from field events (the javelin throw). The rest were won in middle to long distance races. Save from the silver medal in the men’s 400m hurdles. While the other countries had entered a sizeable number of competitors in the field events, Kenya had only one- a precocious talent named Julius Yego. Julius burnished his raw javelin throwing skills by spending hours on end studying world class javelin throwers on you tube. For Kenya lacks the resources to train top level coaches in field events. Least of all for a highly technical discipline like the Javelin throw. Even as he “practiced” with you tube, young Julius never let go of what then seemed an impossible dream: That one day, a single throw will propel  him all the way to the podium of the biggest stage of all- The Olympic Games. That dream came to pass one warm evening in the summer of 2016 in Rio, Brazil.

In Cross Country and the Marathon, Kenya is completely dominant. At the 2010 IAAF World Cross Country Championships held in Bydgoszcz, Poland, Kenya made history by winning all the medals on offer in all the four race categories as below.

Junior women-  6Km

Junior men –     8Km

Senior women-  8Km

Senior men-     12Km

Four hundred and thirty-seven athletes representing fifty-one nations competed in this event. This was the first and only time that only one nation’s national anthem played during a medals awards ceremony at a global sports competition.

At the 2015 IAAF World Athletics Championships held in Beijing, Kenya topped the world. Beating Jamaica and The USA to the second and third places respectively. This is an outstanding performance. It is noteworthy that 205 countries took part in this edition of the Championships.  Below is the overall medals table courtesy of IAAF. G, S and B represent Gold, Silver and Bronze medals won respectively.

RANK COUNTRY TOTAL
1 KenyaKENYA 7 6 3 16
2 JamaicaJAMAICA 7 2 3 12
3 United StatesUNITED STATES 6 6 6 18
4 Great Britain & N.I.GREAT BRITAIN & N.I. 4 1 2 7
5 EthiopiaETHIOPIA 3 3 2 8
6 PolandPOLAND 3 1 4 8
7 CanadaCANADA 2 3 3 8
7 GermanyGERMANY 2 3 3 8
9 RussiaRUSSIA 2 1 1 4
10 CubaCUBA 2 1 0 3
11 Pr Of ChinaPR OF CHINA 1 7 1 9
12 NetherlandsNETHERLANDS 1 1 1 3
13 South AfricaSOUTH AFRICA 1 0 2 3
14 BelarusBELARUS 1 0 1 2
15 ColombiaCOLOMBIA 1 0 0 1
15 Czech RepublicCZECH REPUBLIC 1 0 0 1
15 EritreaERITREA 1 0 0 1
15 SpainSPAIN 1 0 0 1
15 Slovak RepublicSLOVAK REPUBLIC 1 0 0 1
20 AustraliaAUSTRALIA 0 2 0 2
20 CroatiaCROATIA 0 2 0 2
22 BahamasBAHAMAS 0 1 1 2
22 Trinidad And TobagoTRINIDAD AND TOBAGO 0 1 1 2
22 UkraineUKRAINE 0 1 1 2
25 BelgiumBELGIUM 0 1 0 1
25 BrazilBRAZIL 0 1 0 1
25 EgyptEGYPT 0 1 0 1
25 IsraelISRAEL 0 1 0 1
25 TajikistanTAJIKISTAN 0 1 0 1
25 TunisiaTUNISIA 0 1 0

At the 2015 IAAF World Cross Country Championships held in Guiyang, China, Kenya won both of the most coveted prizes in cross country racing: The senior men and women’s individual titles.

Of the top ten men’s marathon times ever recorded, seven are owned by Kenyans.  At the 2016 IAAF World Half Marathon Championships held in Cardiff, Wales, Kenyan women won all the three individual medals on offer.  While Kenyan men took the top two places. This is despite the men’s race winner Geoffrey Kamworor tumbling and being trampled upon at the start of the race.  The men and women’s half marathon world records are held by Kenyans.  This is phenomenal. No other country in the world has been more dominant.

At the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, Kenya swept both the men’s and women’s  marathon races. No other nation in the world has ever achieved this feat.

Even more confounding is that Kenya’s world beating athletes almost entirely come from one tribe- The Kalenjin tribe. The Kalenjin tribe comprises about a dozen sub-tribes and inhabits the Great Rift Valley; running from the South to the North Rift Valley of Kenya. The cream of these world beaters come from one particular area known as Iten, about 30 km out of Eldoret Town in the North Rift Valley.  Iten is the “Mecca of Distance Running”. Lying about 8,000 feet above sea level, Iten is beautiful country. This is home to top distance runners in the world. Led by Dennis Kimetto, the second fastest marathon runner in history (2hrs, 2 min, 57 sec.)

Numerous studies have been carried out over decades by scientists and anthropologists, to attempt to unlock the mystery that Iten remains the focal point of distance running in the world. Yet no definitive breakthrough has been arrived at.

Daniel Komen, the only human to date to have run two miles in under eight minutes (7 min, 58.61 sec.) was born and grew up Iten. In addition to this astonishing feat, Komen also holds two “superhuman” world records in the 3,000 metres flat (7 min, 24.90 sec. indoors and 7 min, 20.67 sec. outdoors).  Iten also boasts of the best steeplechasers in the world.  At the second edition of the IAAF World Championships in Rome in 1987, Joshua Kipkemboi of Kenya was on course to winning the steeplechase gold when he sadly tripped over a barrier in the fourth lap and consequently lost the race.  Since then, Kenya has not lost the men’s race in this event, starting from the third edition of these championships in Tokyo in 1991. At the 2007 IAAF World Championships held in Osaka, Japan, Kenya won all the medals in the men’s steeplechase. This is an outstanding record. Kenya’s performance  in the steeplechase at the Olympics is even more astounding. Kenyan men have won gold in this event at every Olympic Games it has taken part in, dating back to the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City. Kenya won all the three medals on offer in the men’s steeplechase at the 1992 and 2004 Olympic Games.  These are ‘astronomical’ statistics. It is noteworthy that Kenya boycotted the 1976 and 1980 editions of the Olympic Games in joint protest at apartheid in South Africa and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan respectively.

Perhaps to attempt to explain Iten’s rich and deep pool of world class distance runners, it is useful to note that:

Groups of children run for transportation to and from school. And run competitively. Usually about six miles to school in the morning and six miles back home at the end of the day. With a second round trip often squeezed into lunch break. These children are generally born to families whose average daily income is less than a dollar. They live in huts in open fields, without running water and electricity.  It is not uncommon for children in a family to number thirteen like in the case of Daniel Komen.  In between lessons, children can be seen practicing the techniques of the steeplechase using desks as ‘barriers’. Since running is the only talent that presents them with a legitimate chance to escape their circumstances, they seize it. They literally run from poverty.

Could it be in the food they eat?. The staple diet of this community is “kimyet” (pure millet flour mixed with water and cooked to a thick mould), cow’s hoof boiled to submission, wild growing vegetables and “mursik”, a traditionally fermented milk preserved in a gourd “treated” with medicinal herbs.

Iten is home to Moses Kiptanui, the first man to run the 3,000metres steeplechase in under eight minutes (7 min, 59. 81 sec.).  As well as to Saif Saaeed Shaheen ( the former Kenyan Stephen Cherono who has since been “imported” by Quatar), the only human to date to run the 3,000metres steeplechase in under seven minutes and fifty four seconds (7 min, 53.63 sec.).  Iten, Eldoret, Kapsabet and Kaptagat house a number of high altitude training camps, where budding and elite runners camp to train at altitude most of the year. Kaptagat (located about 50 km away from Iten) is the training base for Eliud Kipchoge, who holds the fastest marathon time in history (2hrs, 1 min., 39 sec.).  Eliud achieved this astonishing feat at the 2018 BMW Berlin Marathon. These are the bases from which Kenyan distance runners set out to conquer the world. Most elite Kenyan runners (from middle distance, steeplechase to the marathon) use the University of Eldoret’s track for the most grueling and punishing of workouts. It is an unbelievably basic running track. With no markings on it’s red dirt surface; no lanes, no start lines nor a finish line. There are no steeplechase barriers. No water jump. Not a single hurdle in sight.  Kenyan elite steeplechasers do not believe much in drills to refine hurdling technique. They harbour no “fear” for hurdles. Like warriors at war, they instinctively “attack” the barriers when they encounter them in actual competition. Of the 12 men who have run under the “magical” 8 minutes barrier in the 3000m steeplechase, 10 are Kenyans. However, according to a study by Prof. Ian Hunter of Brigham Young University’s department of excercise sciences, Kenya’s steeplechasers can achieve even faster times if they refined their hurdling technique. The most prominent of the training camps is The High Altitude Training Centre (HATC) in Iten (www.lornah.com). It was founded by Lornah Kiplagat and her husband Pieter Langerhorst and was opened in the year 2005. Lornah Kiplagat is a living distance running legend and a sports and fitness icon. At an elevation of 8, 000 feet, The HATC is an amazing facility. With stunning landscapes, beautiful scenery and breath- taking views of the Kerio Valley below.

Iten is only five hours from Nairobi via Eldoret, on an all-tarmac road. Daily flights operate between Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi to Eldoret International Airport. The flight time is under an hour. Iten is only 30 km from Eldoret via an all tarmac road.

 


The Centre is complete with excellent accommodation facilities, swimming pool, state-of-the-art gym and spa, as well as a private ultra-modern tartan track located two kilometers away. Running trails lead out from the Center to the wilderness where world as well as aspiring champions train. Professional athletes from around the world base themselves at the HATC in preparation for up coming global competitions. This is the official British Athletics’ altitude training base

in Kenya. British Athletics is the governing body of track and field in the UK. Elite Kenyan athletes, including  “King” David Rudisha also train here.

Our visitors will have, perhaps a once in a lifetime opportunity to interact and train at altitude with Kenya’s World and Olympic champions.  Lornah Kiplagat herself, is occasionally on site to give treasurable training and fitness tips.

On-site accommodation is available in 35 deluxe rooms (6 single and 29 twin rooms). Accommodation rates are based on full board and are inclusive of gym, pool, sauna, and use of the tartan track. The high season runs from 15th October to 15th April. The low season is from 16th April to 14th October. Massage, physio and resident coach’s services are also available as extras. Advance booking of accommodation rooms is advised.

Groups of visitors from around the world come to Iten every year to experience first hand, the “magic and atmosphere” of Kenyan distance running. Before breaking to the world famous Masai Mara Game Reserve and other game viewing sites in the African wilderness. WILDERNESS BREAKS KENYA will handle all ground arrangements for our visitors to HATC. From airport transfers, local flights, accommodation, transport in dedicated 4×4 safari vehicles to game drives. Please go to the page on  “Sports Safaris” on this website to view sports safari options available. Then confirm to us your choice safari.  We will then send you a quotation of the total cost of your choice safari package. We advise our visitors to confirm their travel dates at least six months to arrival in Kenya. This will enable us to secure accommodation and all other arrangements as early as possible. Please visit the “FAQ’s” page on this website for useful information for visitors planning to travel to Kenya.

KIMBIA KENYA HIGH ALTITUDE TRAINING PROGRAM

“Kimbia” is the “Swahili” word for “Run”.  Swahili is the Kenyan national language. And English is the official language. This is a special program researched and developed by WILDERNESS BREAKS KENYA.  The aim is to establish athletics synergies globally in marketing Kenya as a leading destination for sport tourism.  While providing our visitors from around the world, an opportunity to experience first-hand, the “magic and atmosphere” of Kenyan distance running. We seek to unite world cultures through sport. As well as contribute to social and economic improvement among disadvantaged running communities in Kenya. This endeavour has since earned us global recognition; winning the “Best Sports Safaris Provider- Nairobi” at the prestigious LUX Tourism Awards (UK) 2018

To realize our objectives, we have entered into strategic partnerships with :

  • Lornah Kiplagat’s High Performance and Altitude Training Centre (HATC) in Iten, Kenya (www.lornah.com).
  • Kipchoge Keino High Altitude Training Centre in Eldoret, Kenya
  • Global Sports Training Camp in Kaptagat, Kenya
  • IAAF Regional Development Centre in Nairobi, Kenya
  • Athletics Kenya (AK)
  • Kenya Tourism Board (KTB)
  • National Olympic Committee of Kenya (NOCK)
  • The University of Lincoln, UK
  • Track and Field News Tours(T&FN -Tours)
  • Platinum Edutainment, USA
  • Friends of Nairobi Denver (FOND)
  • Fly Emirates Holidays

Our program further focuses on liaison with international colleges and universities. Student athletes (of middle and long distance) from the University of Lincoln(accompanied by their coaches) will visit Kenya every year for high performance and altitude training . The highlight of this visit is an exciting opportunity to train together with Kenya’s famed distance runners. The full itinerary is as follows:

Two-week Running Expedition To Kenya(period of travel is between 16th April and 14th October every year)

  • Day 1: Arrival in Nairobi and transfer to your hotel for overnight on bed and breakfast basis.
  • Day 2: An early morning run in The Karura Forest with top profile Kenyan athletes. Our group of athletes comprises world class distance runners who share our passion for promoting sport tourism to Kenya. The Karura Forest is a a serene natural forest with great running trails. In the  afternoon, visit the Giraffe Center in the outskirts of the city.
  • Day 3: Visit the Athletics Kenya Museum and The Uhuru Gardens. The Athletics Kenya Museum is a unique museum where Kenya’s athletics heroes and heroines have been immortalized. As well as Kenya’s deep and rich running history preserved.  Uhuru Gardens is the venue for what is arguably, the most competitive cross country competition in the world. It is also where Kenya’s national flag was first hoisted at the dawn of independence.
  • Day 4-8:  Camp at the famed Kip Keino High Performance Training Centre in Eldoret (altitude 6,000 feet). Kip Keino is a living running legend.  Accommodation on full board. Activities include:
  • Interactive talks with resident coach
  • Train with famed Kenyan runners (the resident coach will draw a training program to cover the period of stay)
  • A run in the picturesque Nandi Hills; home to top class Kenyan runners including Eliud Kipchoge and Bernard Lagat
  • Visit training camps in Kapsabet near Nandi Hills
  • A whole day visit to the world renowned Global Sports Training Camp in Kaptagat (altitude 8,000 feet). This is the training base for Eliud Kipchoge and other world class Kenyan distance runners. The highlight of this visit is a run in the Kaptagat Forest. This is where Eliud Kipchoge’s feet pounded the ground countless times in training for “Breaking2” and for his world record feat in Berlin on 16th September 2018.
  • A visit to the University of Eldoret to join elite Kenyan runners doing track work outs in preparation for major competitions
  • Sight seeing tours
  • Day 9-13: Set up base at the Lornah Kiplagat High Altitude Training Centre in Iten (lornah.com).  Lornah is a distance running icon. The Centre is at an altitude of 8,000 feet, with an amazing view of the Kerio Valley below. Accommodation on full board. Activities include:
  • Training with elite Kenyan distance runners( the resident coach will draw a training program to cover the duration of stay)
  • Use of state of art facilities( gym, sauna, pool) and an ultra-modern tartan track
  • Interactive talks with resident coaches
  • An adventure run, down and up Kerio Valley with it’s stunning landscapes and breathtaking views.
  • Sight seeing tours
  • Day 14: Return to Nairobi for overnight at your hotel on bed and breakfast basis.
  • Day 15: Transfer to the airport for departure

The estimated  tour price is US$ 4,000 per person on full board . This is inclusive of all services and activities detailed in the itinerary above. For individual or group bookings of this amazing tour, please send an e-mail to info@wilderness-breakskenya.com(to the attention of Robert Rutto). You can also get in touch with Robert on cell no. +254-722-85-38-37 for further information on this exciting tour.

WILDERNESS BREAKS KENYA is a member of FOND. Through partnership with Platinum Edutainment (USA), we have established partnerships with the city of Denver and USA colleges towards the successful implementation of this program. Under this understanding, Platinum Edutainment is our marketing partner in the USA.

 

The Animals, the People, the Landscapes, the Hospitality

Quotes from visitors

“Me and my family always wanted to visit Kenya mostly for the wild animals. I began to fear by the time we arrived, they would be gone! I think we saw about every kind of animal we looked for….. truely memorable experience”

All the animals- great and small. From the mighty Big-five; Lion, Leopard, Elephant, Buffalo and Rhino to the floating butterflies and the tenacious dung beetle.
From hundreds of bird species to countless butterflies that this continent is home to. Follow the great Wildebeest Migration from the world famous Masai Mara. The migration straddles the vast Masai Mara-Serengeti ecosystem.

The people, the tribes and their various traditions & cultures.

“We came for the animals, but it is the people of Africa that will bring us back”

Our diversity, warmth, hospitality, dance, song, energy and resilience, creativity of our arts, passion and love for all visitors to East Africa is unique to us. During a cultural village tour a traditional chief will give an interactive talk highlighting the history and beliefs of his people.

Great palaeo- anthropological findings in both Kenya and Tanzania by the world re-known Mary Leaky and Dr Louis Leakey have been preserved at the National Museums of Kenya in Nairobi, the capital city.

The equator night sky.

Discover night skies like you have never seen before- a million stars hanging low over your head, almost close enough to touch. The ever present milky way..our star-studded night skies are a real vistas for a discerning sky-gazer.

The Land and its natural diversity.

“My journey to Africa has been the odyssey of a life time. I have crossed great beautiful landscapes and stood on what seemed to be the edge of the world, as I knew it……and seen my heart soar into its ancient sky…somehow part of eternity”.

Stand on the edge of Gregory’s East African Rift Valley’s breathtaking scenery and catch a glimpse of recent volcanic action, or take a walk on the neo-volcanic lava flow of ‘shetani’ at the foothill of the chyullu hills of southern Kenya.
And for those who love the beach: Enjoy the exquisite coastal white-sandy beaches stretching from the historic Lamu Archipelago, Malindi, Watamu, to the south coastal beaches of Diani in Kenya. Experience first hand, the warm and natural hospitality of the indigenous coastal people of Kenya.

World class accommodation and food.

“The food was unbelievable. I did not expect such excellent quality. I was really impressed…at the end of it, me and my friends gave away our precious energy food bars we did not need to use”.

Kenya boasts of camps, lodges, hotels and restaurants that measure to international standards both in food and accommodation. Most facilities offer buffet and/or English style cuisine. Selective menus like vegetarian, salt free, kosher meals etc is served by all facilities. A range of special and traditional African dishes is also on offer.