Long Runs along Eldoret-Kapsabet Highway, by Justin Lagat, note by Larry Eder

Justin Lagat wrote his column this week about the highway that many training groups use for their long runs, and a very competitive 20 kilometer run the past weekend....

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Eldoret-Kapsabet Highway, by Justin Lagat
Long Runs along Eldoret - Kapsabet Highway, by Justin Lagat

Eldoret and Kapsabet are two towns in the Rift Valley province of Kenya that are home to a great number of great runners in the world. Each early Saturday morning, especially during a rainy season, the high-way connecting these two towns always teems with athletes who choose to do their long runs on it. Before 8am, this road is usually almost empty on weekends and gives a very ample time for athletes who reside nearby to do their morning runs. Such training groups are many, but notable ones include Elgon View (Ondiek's group), Kapseret Centre, Eldoret Airport View Training Camp (my group with Wilson Kiprop), Mosoriot Centre (Conseslus Kipruto's group), Kosirai Centre, Chepterit Centre and many more as you approach Kapsabet town. The entire length of this road is slightly over 42km and the annual KassFm International Marathon is conducted on it every year.

After using this road a number of times for my long runs with different groups, I have come to like it. The few vehicles that may turn up occasionally on this road have always been driven by good Samaritans, and I still remember two incidences in which I was able to get a lift from these drivers when I wasn't able to finish my long runs, sometime in 2009. On one instance, we had been three athletes and a PSV vehicle had helped us from around Kosirai to Mosoriot, which is about seven Kilometers. The second incident was when I had been left behind by the group after feeling terribly sick. I had probably covered over 35km because my stop watch was reading 2hrs, 30minutes. I had stopped jogging and was then walking laboriously beside the road, not sure how many more steps I was going to take before collapsing. A small private car had stopped beside me and even without asking me any questions, the driver opened the door for me. He just looked at me and we never spoke, I wanted so much to cram the number plate of his car so that I would thank him one day, but it was  unfortunate I was not able to do so, although I know that God will bless him wherever he is and many others like him. 

Every long run along this road, I encounter drivers who really value and show respect to athletes, slowing down and moving to the farthest end of the road to avoid interfering with us. One was even able to drive at some distance ahead of us and use hazard indicator lights to warn oncoming vehicles! I am simply moved by such people who just do their part to make this world a better place, especially to people they do not know personally.

The previous weekend, we did enjoy a 35km run along this road. Being in typical racing condition; free from traffic, muddy and rocky portions, everyone in our group posted impressive times which were so encouraging. Also, given that the road is a hard course, we all saw great possibilities of running full marathons very well in flat courses. It was even more encouraging when the world half marathon champion himself was the one telling us that he felt that the pace was harder than what he would feel in many competitive races abroad. Often, he would have to wait patiently behind pace makers in many of such races before running harder only in the last few kilometers.

This weekend, we did a very fast 20km run -10km to and fro- on this road, which was also full of exciting moments. Unfortunately, our coach overslept and no one was able to observe the time splits for us for every kilometer. The first three kilometers were slower because it was still very cold and we had not warmed up enough before beginning the run, but it soon picked up and three athletes had already dropped from the group before we reached the 10km turning point at 33.40 minutes. We had agreed to make it look just like a race and so, I took the initiative to push the pace after we had covered about 500m on our way back. Only Wilson Kiprop and two other athletes were able to keep with the pace. They hung on just behind me and left me to do the rabbit work all alone at the front, of which I was able to for about six kilometers before Wilson moved ahead and left us following him in a line. I was left trailing in fourth position. Things got interesting when, coincidentally, the group from Elgon View happened to have been having an almost similar run too and their turning point was just ahead of us. Two of their leading athletes went with Wilson, another of their athletes too got between the two athletes who were just ahead of me in my group. I just passed by Peter Wanjiru, another famous athlete from the Elgon View group, as he took some water at their turning point. I knew it was going to be a real race in the next three kilometers and I started fleeing without looking back. The last two kilometers was a steep climb. I heard the breathing behind me getting closer and closer until Peter caught up with me. He had brought another athlete from my group with him and as the two made to run past me, I reacted again and the athlete in my group remained behind as we ran with Peter. Wilson ran 29 minutes while I and the other two athletes ahead of me all fell in 30 minutes on our 10km back.

After the run, the athlete who had followed me accused me of being weaker than him, but only that I had employed tactics in my running! I look forward to more long runs along this road. This weekend, we shall be doing a 38km run and am sure there will be exciting moments as well.

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