This is our weekly column from Justin Lagat of Kenyan Athlete. It is nice to see that the athletes in Eldoret have free use of a track. Great facilities are important for all athletes around the world.
Kip Keino, photo by PhotoRun.net
Kipchoge Stadium in Eldoret is free for all athletes, says Kipchoge Keino:
Almost a month after the re-opening of the newly refurbished Kipchoge stadium in Eldoret, I decided to visit it and see for myself whether I can get a chance to train on it and whether it is already free to athletes and having any effect on the training plans of athletes here in Eldoret.
At the stadium, I headed directly to a gate marked “PLAYERS GATE”, which is the same gate we used to enter the track facility freely some time in 2009, before it was closed for renovation, and when we would go to do our intervals there. But, on this particular morning, I peeped through the gate and noticed that two heavy padlocks hung on the inside of the gate. Looking on the ground too, I could easily tell that the gate had not been opened for quite some time. I knocked at it and there was no response.
As I circled the seemingly deserted stadium in my efforts to find anyone to ask for more information, a security man stuck his head out of another gate and I quickly went to meet him. I first introduced myself as an athlete who wished to train in the new tartan facility and the kind-hearted security man opened the gate a little and showed me the inner gate to the track, which was also locked, with two padlocks.
He told me he had no information about letting any athlete train on the facility and that the last time he ever saw athletes use the facility was during the Athletics Kenya (AK) track and field meeting that happened last month. “You should look for the management of the stadium and ask them how you can get to be allowed to train here,” he told me.
So, I headed to Eldoret town to start my search for the right person to give me more information on how I could get to train, and you will never guess the first person who I bumped into; it was the legendary Kipchoge Keino himself! Well, it happens in Eldoret. And, he had some more good news regarding the stadium too.
“Why was it built?” asked Kipchoge, after I had asked him whether athletes can get to train in the stadium.
“The stadium was built purposely for athletes to train in it. We are meeting with the stadium management next week to discuss how the athletes can start accessing the track facility. Perhaps we may have to register interested athletes, but we will decide more on that with the management next week when we meet,” he said.
About the good news, Kipchoge says that a plan to put up a tartan warm up track too, a basketball court and some hostels adjacent to the stadium is at some advance stage now. This will mean that the stadium will be able to host major athletic competitions in the near future besides diversifying the options for athletes to pursue in the region.
Iten and Eldoret are arguably two towns with the highest concentration of runners than any other place in the world. But not until 2014, there hasn’t been a standard track for these athletes to train around this region. The track facilities that were there would be muddy during rainy days and again they would be too dusty and uneven during the dry seasons causing injuries to the athletes.
Most of the time, the athletes would prefer to do their speed workouts on the roads while a few others at times had to travel for over three hundred kilometers to Nairobi to do their speed workouts. In 2013, I was training with Thomas Longosiwa in one group and most of his 1000m and 400m intervals before he could head out for the IAAF races were done on a particular rough road that is rarely used by vehicles.
It is no wonder that most Kenyan athletes have been quickly shifting from track events to the road races. But, that trend might soon change, given that there are now two standard track facilities in the northern Rift Valley region in Kenya and athletes in Iten are already expressing their appreciation and satisfaction with the Lornah Kiplagat’s tartan track there. Probably, this change shall be noticeable at the Rio Olympic Games next year.