What you need to know:
- Iten’s enviable unofficial tag as “the distance running capital of the world” has received unpretentious endorsement, with Great Britain picking the town as the training base for its elite and upcoming athletes.
- Last weekend, officials from the Virgin Money London Marathon, led by race director Hugh Brasher, commissioned the Sh80 million tartan track and modern stadium at the Lornah Kiplagat Sports Academy.
- After breaking British records and dominating track events from the 1,500 metres to the 10,000 metres, 30-year-old Farah will be taking a stab at the marathon, making his debut in the 42-kilometre race at the April 13 Virgin Money London Marathon.
Iten’s enviable unofficial tag as “the distance running capital of the world” has received unpretentious endorsement, with Great Britain picking the town as the training base for its elite and upcoming athletes.
And boosted by a Virgin Money London Marathon-backed project that has set up a modern tartan track at the Lornah Kiplagat Sports Academy in Elgeyo Marakwet County, the town is celebrating a roar in sports tourism.
The new synthetic track will also be used by athletes preparing for the annual Virgin Money-sponsored London Marathon as part of the deal between race organisers and the Lornah Kiplagat Sports Academy.
Double World and Olympic track champion Mo Farah is one of the stellar ‘Team GB’ cast of runners in Iten.
The Somali-born star is currently on a four-month training stint at the High Altitude Training Centre owned by multiple world road running record holder and four-time world champion Lornah Kiplagat.
Last weekend, officials from the Virgin Money London Marathon, led by race director Hugh Brasher, commissioned the Sh80 million tartan track and modern stadium at the Lornah Kiplagat Sports Academy.
This is the first phase of the proposed sports academy that the Kenya-born Dutchwoman is constructing at a cost of about Sh1 billion.
Construction work at the stadium took a record 11 months and was completed last week by Dutch stadium construction expert Rob de Heer of Sports Pitch Engineering.
“The combination of running at altitude, excellent rehabilitation facilities provided by British Athletics, and some of the best training partners in the world have made Iten the Mecca for distance runners,” said Mr Brasher.
He continues: “I’m sure the advent of this new track will further help our distance runners achieve their goals and improve their standards.”
Mr Brasher’s team was accompanied to the launch of the Iten track last week by a group of 15 British journalists from leading media houses, including BBC TV and radio, Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph, Times of London and the Independent.
The weekend’s ceremony was televised live to a global audience by Al Jazeera TV, further increasing the profile of Uasin Gishu County, which also hosts a number of foreign professional para gliders.
After breaking British records and dominating track events from the 1,500 metres to the 10,000 metres, 30-year-old Farah will be taking a stab at the marathon, making his debut in the 42-kilometre race at the April 13 Virgin Money London Marathon.
He finds Iten the most suitable base for endurance training.
“As an athlete, being able to get away from any distractions and do my training helps me. Being surrounded by other athletes motivates me.
Iten life is simple, I love the food here — especially chai and chapatti — and most importantly the facilities at Lornah’s camp are good and people here understand sports,” says the athlete, who has also launched Mo Farah Foundation in Kenya to help marginalised communities.
Besides Farah and the British team, that includes women’s marathon world record holder Paula Radcliffe who is currently a mentor and coach with British Athletics, and 2013 European Team 3,000 metres silver medallist Laura Weightman, other athletes camping in Iten include Algeria’s Olympic 1,500 metres champion Tauofik Makhloufi and Turkey’s World Indoor 1,500 metres silver medallist Ilham Tanui Ozbilen.
These athletes have access to well-tailored dirt running tracks around Iten, a swimming pool and modern gym facilities at the High Altitude Training Centre along with adequate medical care and security.
Mr Neil Black, who is the performance director at British Athletics, has identified Iten as crucial to British hopes for medals at next year’s World Athletics Championships in China, the Rio 2016 Olympics and the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
“Training at altitude is central to our endurance programme at British Athletics and with me and the coaches having been familiar with Iten and having spent some time with Kenyan athletes in Teddington (England), a combination of circumstances came together and we settled for Iten,” says Black. With such endorsement, Iten is already receiving overwhelming demand for accommodation from professional athletes.