The remarkable St Patrick’s High School in ITEN must be the world’s top school for runners, having produced middle-distance stars such as Peter Rono, Wilson Kipketer, Ibrahim Hussein and – more recently – David Rudisha, while its associated athletics camps have produced female runners such as Lydia Cheromei, Susan Chepkemei and Lornah Kiplagat. The phenomenon dates back to the 1970s, when an Irishman, Colm O’Connell, recognized the students’ potential and set out to turn them into world-class athletes, developing a training programme which Iten’s runners still follow to this day. The remarkable prowess of these runners, in particular those from the Kalenjin group, is something that sports scientists have yet to explain fully, but has a lot to do with running at altitude, as well as physiological factors and a diet high in complex carbohydrates. But the town’s reputation has spread, and these days elite athletes come from all over the world to do their high-altitude training in Iten, several hundred passing through each year to run up and down Kerio Valley and absorb the atmosphere of champions.
If you’re interested in pursuing some serious athletics, either contact the High Altitude Training Centre direct (0772 700701, hatc-iten.com), or get in touch with UK-based The Kenya Experience (traininkenya.com), which organizes all-inclusive training “holidays” at the centre with coaching, personal training and physiotherapy (from £1300 for two weeks, excluding flights).