An Account of the Iten Trip

Iten-001Date: May 17-18th, 2014

One of the Swara roads this weekend led to the running heaven of sorts i.e. Iten. Everyone attending left Nairobi the Friday before. In my car we’re Jimmy; who we later found is quite a beast on the running track, Avani whose passion for running extends to reading running books and sharing what’s found in them, Lillian who is now ready for the Lewa Full I think, having successfully done 35k’s in Iten, and Annabel; who only started running in her 40’s and has a personal best of 1hr 27 mins in a half marathon and whose daughter who also happens to be a sprinter, will be representing Kenya in Australia.

Our first stop on the way to Iten was at the Westside Mall in Nakuru, which is fast becoming the halfway stop for the Swara’s. A filling lunch later which included chips and which would be brought up as part of conversation later, we continued on our way to Iten. A beautiful drive later we were in Eldoret, less than an hour away from the much anticipated Iten. As we made our way to Iten from Eldoret we came across a series of bumps which resulted in scraping. Lilian joked that the chips eaten earlier were contributing to that. Cue laughter.

Before we got to the Centre, we drove on to the landmark sign overlooking the road which said something like ‘Welcome to Iten, the Home of Champions’ and did a few poses including the Mo Farrah trademark. Satisfied that we’d been photographed enough we drove to the Center. Already there was a very relaxed looking Surinder for whom it was his second day there already and he had already done two 15k runs.

We saw Ajaa’s car there and figured therefore that he too was there, with Surinder mentioning that he was currently doing a 15k run, with Surinder having dropped him off at the starting point, such is the unity and will to help out each other. It also displayed once again the spontaneity that our Chairman has for running. Others were yet to arrive including Richard, Sean, Kimmie, Ashok and his friend Rajiv a visitor from India, who would all fly closer to Iten.

The rest of the afternoon/evening would be spent settling in and having conversations over the unique bread they seem to have at the Center with cups of tea. More people had arrived by the time we were having dinner including Jael; a recent full marathon finisher at sub 4 and a great writer too it appears evident. It didn’t escape us that it was indeed pouring and that it might make the following days run more difficult, but thankfully it turned out to be a dry run.

A sumptuous dinner as always was had, after which we received a pre-run briefing, and after which we were free to retire to bed. Though Lornah and Peter were not there that evening, we did have the Welsh National Champion at 800m in the same room and also a half marathon specialist from Netherlands, who will be running for them in the European Championships.

As is custom, we began the morning of the run with a choice of beverages, fruits and bread. By the time the first people were fuelling themselves, Sean was already leaving for his 80k run, which I’m told included the Fluorspar route that we had done in one of our earlier runs. He definitely brings something unique to our group. Wine Connoisseur Wahome would be doing the 35k as would be Lillian. Consolata who was also running and has been training, will be doing this year’s Chicago Full. She looks in great shape.

Elites belonging to the Camp accompanied us throughout our run, perhaps resisting the urge to convert to their normal strides. I was spared chants of “Fat Runner!,” which had been directed towards us by the both bemused and amused Children during previous visits. As it happened, Richard and Annabel were leading the pack of Swaras and we’re slowly pulling away, and who I was told did their chosen distance of 20 k’s in 1hr 42 mins. Quite a feat, considering the challenges of running in Iten.

My running elite buddy was a bloke named Bernard who kept me entertained to the extent that 15 flew by before I realized it. I ran with Ajaa for a while before he stopped after an intended 25k, having done 15k late the previous day, and having been on an unplanned visit it turned out. He also mentioned that he had arrived minus running Shorts and was wearing Surinders!, tightly tied around his waist to avoid having to pull them up from his knees perhaps.

Swaras were being carried into a van as they finished their distance, as most would not be finishing at the Center. By midday when almost everybody was back at the Center, Sean was probably battling the midday sun during his 80k run. We were at leisure till Lunch, during which I opted for a swim as compared to stretching on the ground, where I could barely lift a leg. We would be having a Pilate’s stretch session at 4 pm, something I was in two minds about. 4 p.m approached and most Swaras made their way to where it would take place.

Richard and I were comfortably sat in the Lounge Area, with Richard offering me great insight into how Cyclists think and do stuff during races. We happened to be watching the Giro D’Italia. He referred to where we were to someone who came in, as the Slackers Corner. Cue Smiles on our faces. We were keen listeners however to how the Pilates session went though, with Annabel having mentioned that they were made to do a half squat type for six minutes. I probably would have either suffered two dead legs at the end of that, or fallen backwards. Sean came to the dining area shortly after 6pm, to a warm applause.

Our dinner was to be at a club located a few meter’s outside the Center, complete with barbequed meat. Arsenal F.C., who happen to be the team that Jimmy so feverishly supports, we’re playing. He watched the second half of the match at the Club together with a few of us including Consolata, who asked me why I was holding my breath while watching the game, I replied I wasn’t. Nduku too got quite passionate, fuming over “wasted chances” by Arsenal, as she called them. Arsenal ended up winning the game with Jimmy buying drinks freely, a bill he would settle the morning after.

The next morning was our recovery session, which included a 2.8k run/jog to the Athletes track, followed by some warm up stretches and then a session on the track. This included 3 repeats of a 400m sprint and a 200 m walk. Richard happened to come first in them all, but Ashok including others, were quite competitive, as was Mercy who had started early that morning to do a 15k run before making her way to the track. Jimmy came a little later and did some sprinting himself which it was widely acknowledged was pretty fast. A very brief warm down followed after which we made our way back to the Center.

Just before we left I walked into the dining room to find our unofficial Chairman and Chairman in waiting perhaps, Wahome, giving a deserved vote of thanks to Mukche, Songok and their entire team. We truly seem to have made ourselves great friends at the Center and I hope we continue our annual visits.

We chose the Eldama Ravine Route as a means towards getting back to Nakuru, and it did not disappoint with marvelous views on either side, and an almost clear and smooth winding road. As we drove down, we met two cyclists on their way up. We guessed they were doing the entire climb, which would be impressive any way. During this stop at the Westside Mall in Nakuru, we decided to eat at the Food Court which I recommend.

The final part of our journey was toward Nairobi, which went well.

Have a great week everyone and see you at Maasai Lodge.

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