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Posted: October 18, 2018:  

Athletics: Long Run - Eliud Kipchoge

This is an excerpt from the Eliud Kipchoge book

We arrived at the gates of the Global camp with the full moon still high above us. It was cold, there was a light drizzle of rain, the morning light was just starting to breach the horizon, no one was around. After some minutes, a few athletes arrived and began stretching outside the camp, we chatted with them about upcoming races (Singapore, Amsterdam, Nairobi...). Within five minutes a crowd of over twenty had congregated, awaiting the arrival of Eliud and the commencement of their weekly long workout run.

Eliud Kipchoge - History's fastest marathoner: An insight into the Kenyan life that shapes legends

Kipchoge and several others exited the gates and formally greeted and shook hands with the gathered athletes. One of the athletes gave a briefing of the workout in Swahili. One can only assume it was an outline of the route and the level of intensity expected. “You’ve got that, Muzungu?” (‘white man’ in Swahili, similar to ‘gringo’ in Spanish) he asked Matt, who was joining the group for the first few kilometres as I followed on the motorbike. They set off at a slow pace to warm up, however I was really struggling to stick close to the group due to the large mud-filled ruts that littered the road.

Pace rapidly ramped up from 4:45 minutes in the first kilometre to the low three minutes per kilometre range within a few kilometres. Matt joined me on the bike once the pace really picked up, and the athletes began to string out in the wake of Kipchoge and a small group, all sub-2:10 marathoners. The roads improved somewhat, but the footing remained uneven. It was very uncommon to find a flat stretch longer than four-hundred metres. The hills were gentle and long. On this terrain, at over 2400 meters of elevation, we were astonished by the consistent intensity of the run, and by how comfortable the athletes appeared on terrain that would disrupt the rhythm of many other runners. The group surrounding Kipchoge gradually dwindled to three, as they raced through the maize fields, cruising past the half marathon mark in 69 minutes.

The pace dropped somewhat for the final ten kilometres, yet Eliud and the sole runner remaining still left us behind at the 28-kilometre mark as we got bogged in the mud: it took a few wrong turns to find them again. The pair made the long ascent of the hill leading up to the Global camp look effortless, as they finished their 30km run in just over one hour and forty minutes.

In the subsequent minutes a steady flow of athletes began arriving at the gates of the camp, where Eliud and his partner were stretching. The group gradually swelled, the guys were chatting and joking around with each other as they stretched out their legs. We were amazed by Eliud’s lack of flexibility – he could barely reach his fingers half way down his shins.

After a short time stretching as a group on the road outside, Eliud welcomed us into the camp and chatted with us as we walked up the long driveway, surrounded by fields of maize and cattle. He said he was feeling good. He looked so fresh, you would never have guessed he had just ran any more than five kilometres at a light jog. He said he was happy with how preparations were progressing for Berlin, but became bashful when we brought up his incredible performance at Monza a few months prior.

As we reached the camp Eliud began helping the guys fill up buckets with warm water to wash off after the workout. Showers are too cold at this early hour of the morning. We were welcomed into a small shelter at the back of the accommodation where sweet, milky tea (known in Kenya as chai), bananas and plain white bread were the post-workout sustenance. We spent about half an hour here with the group. They filled us in on aspects of their training and discussed the controversies emerging from the world championships in London, as well as the ongoing results of the recent Kenyan election.

The lifestyle of these athletes is something to behold; the simplicity of it is astounding. There were no post-workout recovery products, no supplements, not even a real warm- down routine. The athletes filed in from this extremely intense run, walked up the driveway to allow their legs to gently cool, splashed some water to wash off the sweat, and then sat down in a group to drink tea, throw around banter, and hang out with the squad. The camaraderie is palpable, and watching the “train hard, win easy” slogan of the athletes unfold in the flesh was truly impressive.

As the group began to disband we accompanied Eliud to his car. Despite his long history of international success, which has made him a very wealthy man in Kenya, he is very humble, and renowned for his frugality. Unlike some other Kenyan marathoners who have found success on the world stage, Eliud shies away from flaunting his money. As we spoke next to his small car, which paradoxically had “Breaking2 - 02:00:25 E.K.” and a large Nike tick emblazoned across the rear windshield, he told us his plan for the rest of the day, and the next day, was recovery: an easy run in the morning, which we were of course welcome to join.

The above is an excerpt from the new book just released - Eliud Kipchoge. History's fastest marathoner. An insight into the Kenyan life that shapes legends.


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