What you need to know:
- Across these specialties, a good running track is a prerequisite for the athletes to do well.
It’s no secret that the North Rift region has produced most of the best athletes in Kenya. From marathon runners to general road racers, along with track and field specialists.
Across these specialties, a good running track is a prerequisite for the athletes to do well.
However, ironically, the entire North Rift region lacks good running tracks with the Lornah Kiplagat Sports Academy Stadium, a private property, the only one boasting a synthetic track with the Kipchoge Keino Stadium — that has another — along with other public stadiums in the region still in various stages of renovation or construction for the last four years.
One would ask, why does an athlete need a track for training?
The answer is it’s important for the speed sessions which are normally held twice a week, and which form an essential ingredient for any successful training programme.
Athletes at the Kapsait Nike Athletics Training Camp have made a mark globally in recent years with one of them, Brigid Kosgei, famously breaking the women’s world marathon mark when she clocked two hours 14 minutes and four seconds to win the 2019 Chicago Marathon.
The Kapsait camp also consists of athletes who are training for various track competitions, among them World Under-20 Championships 5,000 metres champion Edward Zakayo, World Under-20 Championships 3,000m finalist Zenah Chemutai and 800m East Africa schools champion Leah Jeruto.
Rugged and slanting
These Kapsait-based athletes, including Kosgei, usually jog for three kilometres to get to the nearby St Francis Korongoi Mixed Day Secondary School for their track training sessions.
However, the Korongoi running track isn’t worthy of playing home to a world record holder and other world beaters!
The track is rugged and slanting on one side, with highest point being the middle which means that from the finish line, an athlete can only be seen emerging onto the 100 metres stretch.
We spent a day with the athletes at the track last week, and though they appeared in high spirits despite the challenges facing them at the track, they could certainly do with a better facility.
Zakayo says given that the track sessions are essential in training, they have had to make do with this irregular facility and still bring glory to the country.
“It has been a struggle for us because we need good tracks for us to improve on our performance,” Zakayo told us.
“We want to request the Ministry of Sports and Athletics Kenya to improve the track so that we can train well because our coach Erick Kimaiyo has to stand on a high ground so that he can monitor how we are training,” said Zakayo.
His sentiments were backed by coach Kimaiyo who said he is forced to take athletes as far as Ziwa in Uasin Gishu County and Lorna Kiplagat’s stadium for some of the speed sessions, at times covering over 100 kilometres.
“I have been using a lot of resources to get a good ground so that we can have speed sessions with athletes. These are important for the athletes as they prepare for various events, including road races,” said Kimaiyo.
He revealed that Brigid used the same track while preparing for the Chicago Marathon where she eventually broke the world record.
“The track you see here was used by Brigid who was preparing for the Chicago Marathon and I used my own resources to repair it. My plea is to have the track done well so that athletes can be able to train near the camp,” he added.
On the lopsided track, it’s virtually impossible to have consistent training.
“For the 200 metres, for instance, on one half of the track, which is downhill, one can clock 22 seconds while on the other half, which is uphill, one clocks 32 seconds!,” Zakayo explains, fighting off laughter.
Assist the athletes
There was some hope last week when the National Olympic Committee of Kenya (NOC-K) President Paul Tergat said he will assist the athletes by grading and levelling the track as they wait for more support from the Ministry of Sports and AK.
“The entire project of levelling and standardizing the track won’t cost more than Sh2 million if we use local resources without relying on contractors who usually give exaggerated quotes,” Kimaiyo says.
“We appeal for this support, even as a way of appreciating what Brigid has done for the country.”
St Francis Korongoi Mixed Day Secondary School currently has a student population of 36 (20 girls and 16 boys) in forms one to three and is struggling for attention with no laboratory, no administration block, no teachers from the Teachers Service Commission and no electricity.
With just two permanent classrooms and one makeshift one, Charles Yegon, the head teacher of the school that lies astride the Sengwer and Lelan wards in Marakwet West, is crying out for help.
“The low enrollment is due to the lack of facilities at the school. Being at the border between Lelan and Sengwer — though specifically lying in Sengwer — we feel neglected by leaders from the wards and appear to be on no man’s land!”
He hopes the attention drawn to the school by the success of Kosgei, Zakayo and other athletes from the area will win the school some sympathy.
In a telephone conversation with Sports Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed as we visited the school’s track, Kimaiyo made a passionate appeal for support.
He remains confident Amina will take positive action.
“I also met with CS Amina after Brigid broke the world record and she promised to support us. She has been supporting athletes very much and I’m sure our cries for help will be head,” Kimayo added.
Sunday: Kapsait-based Kenya-born Turkish runner Yasemin Can tells us how Brigid Kosgei influenced her running career.