If you were the reigning Olympic and World Champion over both 5,000 and 10,000 metres, and you were looking to run your first marathon, where would you go to train?
Iten can be considered the home of Kenyan running. At an altitude of around 2,400 metres above sea level, it is the town where a large number of the country’s best runners live and train. It is a place where you can turn up at the old dirt track on a Tuesday morning to watch (and if you happen to be quick enough then you are free to join) a speed session lead by Asbel Kiprop, 2008 Olympic gold medallist in the 1500 metres and World Champion over the same distance in 2011 and 2013. You can then head a few kilometres out of town on Thursday mornings to join the fartlek session lead by Wilson Kipsang (current world record holder for the marathon with a time of 2:03:23). And to answer my opening question, it is also the place where Mo Farah is currently training in the lead up to his first marathon in London in April.
When I decided to run the Paris Marathon in April, it was with the intention to record my fastest time over the distance. Therefore I needed to ensure that I would arrive in the best possible form. I started increasing my focus on running from January, in parallel with my continued travelling, but I wanted to dedicate a solid block of time to some intense training. I looked at options in both Ethiopia and Kenya, but ended up planning a stay at the High Altitude Training Centre (HATC) in Iten. It is owned by Kenyan-born runner Lornah Kiplagat, who ran for the Netherlands, winning World Championships in both cross country and the half marathon.
I planned a four-week stay in Iten, departing just under three weeks prior to my race in Paris as I begin my taper. I spent the two weeks prior to my arrival travelling around Ethiopia, including some training runs, and had the opportunity to adjust to elevation since most of my time had been spent at altitudes above 2,000 metres.
I will write a number of posts covering my training in Iten, the lifestyle, the terrain, and anything else that comes to mind.