Swift busi­ness

A small Kenyan town is fast emerg­ing as the go-to train­ing des­ti­na­tion for the world’s elite run­ners.

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ners are now be­ing drawn to the town of just 4,000 people, among them the likes of Bri­tain’s Olympic and world cham­pion Mo Farah and women’s marathon record holder Paula Rad­cliffe, both of whom have fled the cold Euro­pean win­ter for pre-sea­son train­ing.

”When we started out there was only one train­ing camp for ath­letes here in Iten,” re­called Richard Mukche, a for­mer marathoner and now a coach at the HATC’s gym.

”It is amaz­ing that to­day there are over 20,000 ath­letes train­ing here.”

For­eign in­vest­ment

Ki­pla­gat started out try­ing to nur­ture the run­ning tal­ents of young Kenyan girls, but quickly re­alised that Iten could be ad­ver­tised as an ideal train­ing des­ti­na­tion that was cheaper than es­tab­lished cen­tres like Flagstaff and Denver in the United States or Font Romeu in the French Pyre­nees.

A Kenyan-born for­mer world half marathon cham­pion, Ki­pla­gat took Dutch na­tion­al­ity and runs for the Nether­lands.

She plowed her race win­nings into buy­ing land and build­ing the HATC with her Dutch hus­band Pi­eter Longer­horst.

”The camp was only meant to be for girls but the dream changed along the way. Top ath­letes wanted to stay with us and we couldn’t refuse,” said Ki­pla­gat, 39.

The train­ing cen­tre now has 36 rooms, a gym and a swim­ming pool. A room costs around US$50 (RM166) a night – hugely at­trac­tive for ath­letes in a sport not known for its huge pay­checks.

”It has taken us 18 years and that we are get­ting the recog­ni­tion now is great be­cause of the in­ter­na­tional ath­letes who are stay­ing with us,” Ki­pla­gat said.

”There is no place in the world where ev­ery­thing is avail­able – good run­ning trails, friendly en­vi­ron­ment, right al­ti­tude and where ev­ery­thing is set up for a pro­fes­sional run­ner.”

Iten is now draw­ing in for­eign in­vest­ment, with or­gan­is­ers of the Lon­don marathon help­ing build a new syn­thetic track which opened last weekend and is the only such track in Kenya out­side the cap­i­tal Nairobi.

Bri­tish ath­letes are now reg­u­lar vis­i­tors to Iten, with the town cur­rently play­ing host to the team set to take part in the Com­mon­wealth Games in Glas­gow in July.

The town, dubbed the “Home of Cham­pi­ons”, is also host­ing Chi­nese ath­letes pre­par­ing for the 2015 World Cham­pi­onships in Bei­jing.

The in­flux is bring­ing wel­come changes to the re­gion and is serv­ing as a model of sus­tain­able, pri­vate sec­tor de­vel­op­ment.

”This is all about chang­ing the en­vi­ron­ment and chang­ing what we have never had be­fore. The fu­ture gen­er­a­tion can ben­e­fit from it,” she said.

“We never an­tic­i­pated to do this but it gets big­ger and big­ger as we go.” – AFP Re­laxnews

Off and run­ning: The small Kenyan town of Iten is con­sid­ered the per­fect en­vi­ron­ment for dis­tance train­ing suc­cess.

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