Strid­ing ahead of the pack

Hav­ing had the best year of his ca­reer last year – he set the new SA 5 000m record and made the Olympic fi­nal – El­roy Ge­lant took his train­ing camp to Kenya last month. He tells Simnikiwe Xa­ban­isa how it’s go­ing

CityPress - - Sport -

How did the Kenya trip come about? Hezek­iél Sepeng [for­mer 800m Olympic sil­ver medal­list and ath­let­ics co­or­di­na­tor of] Ath­let­ics SA ap­proached me and said that, as part of their ex­cel­lence plan to­wards the World Cham­pi­onships in Lon­don, they would pro­vide me with the op­por­tu­nity to go and train at high al­ti­tude.

I’m re­ally grate­ful for the op­por­tu­nity and I made the best of my train­ing in Iten [in Kenya]. I re­ally ob­served a lot with re­gards to train­ing, dis­ci­pline, nu­tri­tion, the will to ex­cel and the mind­set to­wards pro­fes­sional run­ning. How long were you in Iten for and who did you train with?

I stayed in Iten, which is about 2 400m above sea level, for a five-week train­ing camp. A few ses­sions were un­der the guid­ance of one of the world’s most renowned mid­dle- and long-dis­tance coaches of all time – coach Re­nato Canova.

It was dif­fi­cult at first to ac­cli­ma­tise. The first few days were very dif­fi­cult and I could feel my lungs over­work­ing be­cause of the oxy­gen short­age. It took me about eight days to re­ally ac­cli­ma­tise.

The first few runs were hec­tic as the Kenyan women over­took me quite eas­ily on our morn­ing runs, but I guess it mo­ti­vated me to pull up my socks for the re­main­der of the train­ing camp. You said on Twit­ter: ‘I’m be­gin­ning to see a change, slowly but surely.’ What did you mean by that?

I guess I could feel I was start­ing to adapt or ac­cli­ma­tise. It was the first set where I could ac­tu­ally stick with my fel­low train­ing part­ners and fin­ish strongly with them. We did a 2km set (2min, 56sec av­er­age on ev­ery kilo­me­tre) with a kilo­me­tre re­cov­ery jog of 3.30 min­utes in be­tween the rep­e­ti­tions un­til we reached 20km. Ev­ery­one al­ways won­ders what it is that the Kenyans do dif­fer­ently to ev­ery­body else. In your opin­ion, what is it that makes them so good?

Firstly, I think stay­ing at an al­ti­tude of 2 400m re­ally plays a ma­jor role in their per­for­mance. Se­condly, their de­ter­mi­na­tion to suc­ceed in im­prov­ing their daily stan­dard of liv­ing plays a big role. A lot comes from within – the will to suc­ceed. Their nu­tri­tion might also play a role.

They have a very ba­sic life­style and rely on sim­ple food, as I call it. They live straight from their land, ben­e­fit­ing from all that nat­u­ral nu­tri­tion. Is there ever go­ing to be a chance for South Africans to team up like the Kenyans tend to do?

In my opin­ion, it’s im­por­tant not to im­i­tate what the Kenyans are do­ing, but to fo­cus on our strengths and to train twice as hard as they do. What I would sug­gest is to get more ex­po­sure to al­ti­tude train­ing and train­ing camps like in Kenya for us to be more com­pet­i­tive on the world stage.

But it comes down to how much you want to suc­ceed in life as an in­di­vid­ual. Last year was a big one for you – break­ing the SA 5 000m record and mak­ing the Olympic fi­nal – what’s your plan for this year?

I’m go­ing to take things step by step. I won’t be in a hurry to try to break my 5 000m per­sonal best of last year.

I think this year it will be im­por­tant to be in tune with my body, soul and my abil­ity to per­form. I need to stick to the ba­sics with re­gards to train­ing and try to stay free of in­jury.

In terms of my goals for 2017, I’ve set my sights on a top 10 po­si­tion at the World Cross Coun­try Cham­pi­onships in Kam­pala next month, and a top six fin­ish later this year at the world champs in Lon­don. What did mak­ing the Olympic fi­nal tell you about your­self?

It told me that I must never doubt my­self. The Olympic ex­pe­ri­ence showed me that I’m ca­pa­ble of so much more. Although I ran a South African record last year, I’m not com­fort­able. I want to seek more chal­lenges and push my­self to greater per­for­mances. What do you think it’ll take for you to break through the 13-minute bar­rier?

I’ll just stick to what worked for me last year. I think im­ple­ment­ing the al­ti­tude train­ing and [what I learnt at] the train­ing camp will push me to even greater heights, but what is most im­por­tant, is to fol­low my pas­sion and de­sire to suc­ceed.

PHOTO: ROGER SEDRES / GALLO IMAGES

DE­TER­MINED SA’s 5 000m record-holder El­roy Ge­lant feels re­freshed and more con­fi­dent af­ter train­ing at high al­ti­tude in Kenya. He looks for­ward to im­ple­ment­ing the lessons he learnt in the coun­try

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