Lornah Kiplagat builds a track in Iten, by Justin Lagat, note by Larry Eder

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This piece is from Justin Lagat, our correspondent in Kenya, who has written a fine piece on the new track being constructed by Lornah Kiplagat in her new high altitutde training center: 

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Lornah's new track, photo by Justin Lagat
LORNAH'S NEW TRACK IN ITEN:

Work on the site of the track being constructed by Lornah Kiplagat, the Netherland's world famous long distance runner, at Iten, according to an engineer working there, commenced on the 14th of January, this year. 

The field had to be cleared,  and all the loose soil excavated and carried out of the site before being replaced by hard subsoil brought from nearby quarries and leveled. Given the typical landscape of Iten, where it is almost impossible to find a flat field anywhere, I am sure it was not an easy job. 

I was impressed by the progress (at the Iten track) which that has happened in such a short time. It has taken the Kipchoge Keino Stadium in Eldoret over five years now to be renovated despite the excavation and ground work having already been done on it. So, you can imagine my perplexity when I saw a track coming almost to a completion in barely two months! You will forgive me for getting perplexed as I am used to most of them taking years.

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building a track in Iten, Kenya, 
photo by Justin Lagat

The man who foresees the construction, Pius Toroitich expressed his optimism that the track will be ready sometime in April. As we spoke, one container of the tartan track had already arrived at the port of Mombasa with three more to arrive by not later than 5th of March.

 Having been working for most of his time in Abu Dhabi, UAE, he says he is glad to be overseeing the first all weather track being constructed out of Nairobi. He has been working with events and race organizers in UAE and he knows very well the benefits such a track will have on the community and the running industry as a whole in the country. Once the track is completed, he wondered whether some race organizers will not opt to organize their events here and save the money they normally pay for air tickets, hotel accommodation and appearance money to get Kenyan athletes to go and race abroad.

Looking at the way the track has been planned and built such that there is a raised ground around the northern part of it to offer a vantage position for spectators, I wondered why it is not being called a stadium instead of a track. There is a scenic topography as far as the eyes could see as you look past the track towards the west, south and part of the east and personally, I will like it if high walls are not constructed around it. 

Pictures that will be taken of athletes training or competing on it will just be marvelous against the landscape. Good underground drainage systems have been put in place to ensure that the rainy conditions will not affect it. Excess water will be channeled to a dam. Underground water pipes have also been put in place to be used in irrigating the grass in the field during dry seasons so that the inside of the track will be green throughout the year.

According to Pius, the track will be open to all athletes training around Iten, which is contrary to what some people are alleging that it will serve some specific girls alone. It is the academy that will be built next to it that is to serve girls who just finished their high school education and would like to nurture their talents in running, either for the purpose of getting scholarships to further their studies, or to run commercially.

So far, everything has been going on right on schedule with the 16 week plan that was charted for the completion of the track. They were finalizing on week 9's plan during my visit, which means approximately seven weeks now remain for the track to be operational.

"The only thing that may affect our schedule slightly is the general elections that will happen on Monday. We will give workers two days off to vote and to follow on the results", says Kiprotich, who is one of the engineers working on the site. Another thing that may affect the schedule also is the weather. The final stages of putting on asphalt and laying the tartan will need dry weather conditions. The other two engineers, Raul and Flora, are from the Netherlands.

"To be safe, we can say the track will be ready by May 1st," says Pius.

Like with the High Altitude Training Centre she built, I believe that Lornah will continue having a great impact in making Iten the best place in the world for distance runners to come and train. 

I look forward to the completion of this track.

Thumbnail image for Kiplagat_Lornah1-Lisbon12.jpg
Lorna Kiplagat, Lisbon 2012, 
photo by PhotoRun.net

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