Visit a run­ning mecca

Runner's World (UK) - - Make A Wish -

Iten, in Kenya’s Rift Val­ley, has pro­duced an ex­tra­or­di­nary num­ber of dis­tance-run­ning Olympic medal­lists, world record hold­ers and race win­ners, in­clud­ing David Rud­isha, Mary Kei­tany and Wil­son Kip­sang. The rar­i­fied air at 2,400m above sea level isn’t the only draw: ‘The coun­try­side sur­round­ing the town is per­fect run­ning coun­try, with end­less red-dirt trails criss­cross­ing the fer­tile high­lands,’ says Ad­ha­ranand Finn, au­thor of Run­ning with the Kenyans (Faber & Faber), who spent sev­eral months in the area. ‘On any given morn­ing, troops of Kenyan run­ners glide by, beck­on­ing you to join them. You can’t fail to be in­spired by this spe­cial place.’ There are many train­ing camps in the area, but The Kenya Ex­pe­ri­ence (train­inkenya.com) is the first out­fit to cater for non-elite ath­letes.

Ethiopia has also pro­duced a glut of greats, in­clud­ing Haile Ge­brse­lassie, Ke­nenisa Bekele, and Tirunesh and Gen­zebe Dibaba. Ad­dis Ababa is the hub of the coun­try’s run­ning scene, and Ge­brse­lassie has es­tab­lished his own train­ing camp, Yaya Vil­lage, just out­side the cap­i­tal. It has a run­ning track and ac­cess to miles of for­est and moun­tain trails. Run Fast (Run-fast­tours.net) of­fers a 10-day trip based at the camp, in­clud­ing en­try into the 10K, 40,000-strong Great Ethiopian Run.

Dubbed ‘Track­town USA’ Eu­gene, Ore­gon, is the birthplace of US run­ning le­gend Steve Pre­fontaine, and where Nike co-founder Bill Bow­er­man be­gan a pub­lic jog­ging pro­gramme in 1963, a scheme seen as the pre­cur­sor to the first world­wide run­ning boom. Bow­er­man also coached at the Univer­sity of Ore­gon, whose alumni in­clude Al­berto Salazar and Galen Rupp. In the univer­sity grounds, you’ll find the fa­mous Hay­ward Field run­ning track, which hosts the Pre­fontaine Clas­sic, an an­nual ath­let­ics event that at­tracts the world’s best. Tick­ets for open­ing night are free, but need to be re­served in ad­vance. (pre­clas­sic.run­nerspace.com). Eu­gene is a great city to run in, too, with parks, wood­land and river­side tracks, plus rugged trails like the Ridge­line, a 12-mile web of marked paths with sweep­ing views. For in­for­ma­tion on routes, races and other events, visit eu­generun­ning­com­pany.com.

Font-romeu, a vil­lage in the French Pyre­nees, has been a prime high-al­ti­tude train­ing des­ti­na­tion since the 1968 Olympics. Along­side the usual trap­pings of a Euro­pean ski re­sort, it also has two run­ning tracks, miles of un­du­lat­ing trails and, above the town, a spe­cially laid 4000m flat trail – ideal for lung-bust­ing tempo runs (no won­der Paula Rad­cliffe made Font-romeu her sec­ond home). The re­cently re­fur­bished Na­tional Cen­tre for Al­ti­tude Train­ing is pri­mar­ily a base for French en­durance ath­letes, but any­one with an Iaaf-recog­nised ath­let­ics club mem­ber­ship can use the fa­cil­i­ties for a fee. (cnea­fontromeu.com, font-romeu.fr)

South West Lon­don’s Bushy Park (roy­al­parks.org.uk/parks/bushy-park) is the birthplace of the Parkrun phe­nom­e­non (the in­au­gu­ral out­ing took place there in 2004) and re­mains one of the UK’S best-at­tended Parkruns, of­ten at­tract­ing more than 1,000 run­ners. It’s not just on Satur­day morn­ings you’ll see run­ners us­ing the many paths in the 1,100-acre park, but don’t worry if you can’t keep up – you could be chas­ing some of the world’s best. Jo Pavey and Mo Farah trained here, and one of the rea­sons the area has be­come such an ath­let­ics hub is its prox­im­ity to St Mary’s Univer­sity Col­lege, which runs a world-class En­durance Per­for­mance and Coach­ing pro­gramme. Home­grown ath­letes such as Rio Olympians Char­lie Grice and Steph Twell, along with many from abroad, have moved to the area to join the pro­gramme, mak­ing Bushy Park and Rich­mond Park their train­ing ground. Af­ter a run, head to the park’s Pheas­antry Café for cof­fee (and cake).

RUN­NERS HIGH Train­ing out­side Iten, in Kenya’s Rift Val­ley, and (in­set) Fon­tRomeu and the Great Ethiopian Run

ON TRACK Hay­ward Field, Ore­gon, US

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