All Weather Track in Eldoret by Justin Lagat, note by Larry Eder

Wilson Kipsang Training Group, February 2012, 
photo by

Justin Lagat wrote this piece about trying to find a track during the rainy season in Kenya. As athletes of all levels train on the few tracks, he was not surprised to see David Rudisha on his day of intervals....

Kenyan athletes are preparing for the World Championships that are to happen in Moscow from the 10th to 18th of August this year. But because of the current rainy conditions, there has never been a track facility fit for these athletes to train around Eldoret over the last few weeks. Most have had to wait for the track at Eldoret University (Chepkoilel) to dry up so that they could get to train on it at around mid-day when it would be less muddy. Other athletes would prefer to do their speed workouts on the rough roads instead, as they would easily find a portion of the road that is better off than the tracks around here, only that it is often hard to measure accurate distances on these roads.

According to google maps, I live only 11km from this track and most of the members of the group I train with currently live a shorter distance from the track. On Tuesday, I called one member of the group to ask about the time to meet on the track of which he replied that they were considering delaying it by an hour from the usual starting time to allow the track some time to get better. It takes me an average of 50 minutes to jog to the track, and so I had to leave my phone in the house and start jogging in order to arrive there earlier than everyone else. I arrived there when almost half of the group, having not heard about the intended delay of time, was already there. Also present was a group of marathon runners who would at times wait for us to start running around the track to make it dryer before beginning their workouts. On this day, we were not in any hurry and so they ended up starting their workouts of 1km repetitions of 2:45 minutes and 200m jogging as their recovery. With their many shoes stepping repeatedly on the track, it became dryer and we were lucky to begin our training when it was already better.

 Not all the members from my group turned up. I was later to find a missed call when I returned to my house from the same athlete I had called earlier as he had tried to inform me that they had decided to do a fartlek on the road instead. The rest of us who had turned up did 400m repetitions. As if to confirm it is not only the average athletes who are being affected by these conditions, David Rudisha also turned up while we were in the middle of our training and he, with Job Kinyor, did a few 300m workouts as well. I am sure he was careful not to run his maximum effort as anyone could easily skid and fall in such a track. I would have wished to time him, but we were busy in our own program and they also ended before we could, despite the fact that they started late.
The speed work for Thursday was the most affected of all. Out of the usual 40 athletes, only five of us turned up. It had rained the whole night and the sky was still covered with clouds and was dripping slightly at around 10:30am as I set out to the track. It was mere guesswork as to what could happen in the next ten minutes and I had taken some money in my pockets to board a vehicle and come back just in case of a downpour before I reached the track. But, fortunately it began to clear after some time. At the track were two foreign athletes doing 200m repetitions on one side of the track where they were running to and fro in order to avoid the other side which was too muddy. After waiting for a while, we also decided to do an alternation of 200m and 150m intervals ten times on the same side of the field. Contrary to our expectations, it ended up being one of the best workouts I will live to remember. My colleagues said the same, but I could only say it did work better for me because I was the only long distance athlete in the group and managing to keep the gap with them was an experience I have never had in a long time. I still remember alighting from a vehicle I had boarded after the work out and for a moment, my legs refused to move, but I could only laugh at myself because I knew I had trained to the maximum. I could not help but feel sorry for the more than 80% of the other Kenyan athletes who probably failed to do their speed work on this particular day due to the lack of a good track.

No one should blame anyone for the rainy conditions and muddy roads currently in the country, but a time for a good track with drainage systems to ensure athletes can train on it throughout the year in Eldoret is long overdue.

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