What you need to know:
- The management of Moi University’s Annex campus has been allowing athletes to use its murram track for training, but during the rainy season — like the imminent one — it is hard to train here. Others used to train at the University of Eldoret before they were locked out.
- Upcoming athletes, struggling to put food on the table in Iten, usually simply jogged to the nearby Tambach Teachers Training College, but they have also since been locked out of the facility and have nowhere to train.
It’s yet another track and field season and in less than 200 days, our athletes will converge on Budapest, Hungary, for the August 17-29 World Athletics Championships, the world’s greatest athletics show.
It’s the usual race against time as athletes try to get qualification marks for the global fiesta and, certainly, the need for good training facilities cannot be gainsaid.
But, bizarrely, even as the athletes work hard in training, it’s such a shame that there’s no compliant facility to train at in the North Rift region, Kenya’s and, by extension, the world’s athletics breadbasket.
In fact, even as Athletics Kenya holds their six track and field weekend meetings across the country, there is no single one being held in the North Rift region due to lack of proper venues.
Nation Sport spent some time at the Kipchoge Keino Stadium which has been under renovation for the last 10 years and is now an eyesore.
As you head towards the Iten road just outside Eldoret town lies the iconic Kipchoge Keino Stadium, a never ending construction site, fenced off with iron sheets. One is left wondering just when will the construction end!
It’s ironic that no sooner had Eliud Kipchoge, an Eldoret resident, crossed the finish line on September 25, 2022, to win the Berlin Marathon and break his own world record than congratulatory messages started streaming in from local leaders and global admirers. Similar accolades flowed when Amos Kipruto bagged the London Marathon title with Joyciline Jepkosgei coming in second in the women’s race last year.
In a classic case of “success has many fathers,” most of these messages, especially those from the political class, spoke of how these athletes were an inspiration to the younger generation.
But a tour of the Kipchoge Keino Stadium, where Kipchoge occasionally trains on his speed work, unveiled horrible scenes of a totally neglected edifice. It’s unthinkable that the world’s best athletes train here.
In the North Rift bespoke athletics programmes, Tuesday mornings are normally meant for speed work session.
We saw a group of over 100 athletes, who include foreign stars here to train alongside, and learn from our best.
The Kipchoge Keino Stadium is the only public facility with a synthetic running track within the entire North Rift region, meaning that all elite athletes scramble for space at this facility.
Right from the stalled construction of the terraces — with the contractor appearing to have left the site — to the inside arena, the stadium is a fine mess.
The synthetic running track is worn out, especially the over-worked inside lanes which, stakeholders say, exposes the athletes to high risks of injuries, especially when they train in running spikes.
Hands are tied
Uasin Gishu Governor Jonathan Bii told us his hands are tied.
“This is a national government facility and they are handling the works. We are trying to push them to move as fast as possible and complete the renovations,” he said.
Some Sh653,590,545 had been allocated for the “second phase” of renovations at the Kipchoge Keino Stadium.
Athletes come as far as Elgeyo Marakwet’s Kapsait Athletics Training Camp — 130 kilometres away — Iten, Kaptagat, Mosoriot and other surrounding areas to converge on Eldoret for speed sessions.
One of the coaches, Kenneth Kibet, told us he uses Sh20,000 every month to take the athletes to Eldoret from Iten for their weekly speed sessions.
“We don’t have any other place to do our speed sessions and we are forced to travel all the way to Eldoret which is now becoming more expensive, considering that we also have few races to get income from these days.
“The national government should just commit itself and make sure the facilities are completed within the shortest period because athletes are suffering in silence,” said Kibet.
Pick up injuries
Iten’s Kamariny Stadium’s renovations have never kicked off for the last six years while work at the Kipchoge Keino Stadium in Kapsabet has also stalled for years.
This has forced athletes to use open roads for their speed sessions which is also not ideal because some of them pick up injuries in the process.
The management of Moi University’s Annex campus has been allowing athletes to use its murram track for training, but during the rainy season — like the imminent one — it is hard to train here. Others used to train at the University of Eldoret before they were locked out.
Upcoming athletes, struggling to put food on the table in Iten, usually simply jogged to the nearby Tambach Teachers Training College, but they have also since been locked out of the facility and have nowhere to train.
Tomorrow: Elgeyo Marakwet County Government fighting to give historic Kamariny Stadium the much-needed kiss of life.