Kenya is known for many things, including amazing landscapes, stunning wildlife, Maasai tribes, and even picturesque beaches, but Kenya is also known for producing world class runners. Iten is the center of Kenya’s training grounds for long distance runners.
“Sitting at the edge of a high plateau about 200 miles northwest of Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, Iten is not a base camp for safaris. There are no grassy savannahs, and no tribes in traditional dress. Instead there are conifers and chilly mornings. A hospital, a Catholic school, and government offices cluster around a bend in the highway known as the tarmac road. Just 4,000 people live here year-round: farmers, medical workers, teachers, and lots of runners. I heard estimates ranging from 500 to the scarcely credible 6,000, residents and visitors combined. Eighteen training camps host a mix of locals, Kenyans from other regions, and foreigners, most from Europe.
It’s hard to imagine a more perfect place to train. The 7,800-foot altitude has just 76 percent of the oxygen at sea level, so your body adapts to use oxygen more efficiently, and the mild, dry climate allows you to train year-round on roads of forgiving red clay. Plus, in Iten you run alongside the world’s best, from speedy high schoolers to record-setting men and women, all of whom will push you to go faster, longer, and harder.”
From Runner’s High in AFAR Magazine (July/August 2012 issue), by Matt Gross
I loved that this article showed a different side of Kenya than most of us would see if we visited. It’s also well written and interesting whether you’re a runner or not. If you are a runner, you’ll enjoy it even more! (I did.) It’s an example of the kind of personal travel storytelling I enjoy most because the author’s story is also inextricably enmeshed with the details of a unique place. Worth a full read.
About AFAR: This article is typical of what I find when reading AFAR and why I’ve been a committed subscriber since discovering the first issue on the news stand. In the interest of full disclosure, I know the founders and many other members of the team at AFAR, and I’ve traveled twice with AFAR Experiences to Cairo and Johannesburg. I got to know them because I love their work, not the other way around.
Photo: a trying youth