American Runner made seven surprising discoveries about Kenyan athletes while in Kenya
December 2, 2018
Paul Duffau with a group of Kenyan athletes in Kaptagat
Being a runner for many years and having worked as a freelance journalist covering the same topic, I have gotten fans across the world that enjoy and follow my articles on the running related stories I share from Kenya. One of the fans is Paul Duffau, a home inspector and author from Asotin, WA, who made me exceedingly happy in 2015 after taking the initiative of coming over to Kenya and experiencing the culture of running for himself. Paul is famously known for his two running related novels; The Finishing Kick and Trail of Second Chances.
Here is what he found out as he explored Kenya and met with a number of Kenyan athletes:
Paul came across and greeted a number of world champions as we ran together on the trails around Eldoret and also on one track facility. What surprised him was that it is really hard to know which athlete in a group is the world champion, given the way all athletes mingle together as though they are all in the same level. He has waved to more than a hundred athletes he continuously comes across on the roads and every one of them has waved back at him, which he says is hard to see happening in his country.
2.How much the top athletes care about helping the next generation - what you find in Wikipedea about an athlete is only a partial picture of the person;
After a morning run in Kaptagat, we stopped at a training camp near there to say hello to some athletes. We found them taking breakfast in a room they use as both a kitchen and a dining room. They were around ten athletes in total. As we left them, I explained to Paul that the athletes were being sponsored by Wilson Kiprop, the world half marathon champion, for most of their basic requirements there in the camp. He later looked up Wilson Kiprop on internet and was surprised to find out that nowhere is mentioned the great generosity he is offering the upcoming athletes.
3.How the athletes manage to achieve great performance yet are prevented from training on the only all-weather track in Eldroret;
Because Paul wanted to see the tracks where the world beaters get to train in Kenya, we tried to visit two big stadiums in Uasin Gishu and Nandi counties; the Kipchoge Stadium in Eldoret and the Stadium in Kapsabet, but unfortunately, all we could get to see was the outside perimeter walls because there are guards on these stadiums that would not allow anyone -be it an athlete who wants to train there or a tourist from a foreign land who wants to see the facility- go past them into the stadiums.
4.The variety of training surfaces and routes available to our athletes;
There are very many nice training routes in many places around Eldoret, Kapsabet, Nandi Hills and Kaptagat. These are the places that Paul got to train on and do some sight-seeing. He is yet to visit other places that will include Kapng’etuny and Iten before returning to the US.
What he has observed about the routes is the fresh feeling in the air, great scenery, good roads that are free from vehicles and that many friendly athletes are met on these routes, among others.
5.The Kenyan athletes are keen and focused to achieve their dreams;
Many Kenyan athletes during their training are usually strictly in their training camps doing nothing else but training, resting, eating, sleeping and repeating the circle. They don’t mix training with other activities like business, farming or education. They are completely focused on one single goal.
6.How tasty mursik, a traditional Nandi fermented milk, is;
Mursik is only found in Kenya. It is a bit complicated to make it and the only people who can make it well are the relatively elderly people who live in the villages. After tasting it, Paul liked it considerably and even wondered if there was a way that the delicacy could be packaged and exported to the US.
Many people, especially the locals in Kenya, attribute this traditional delicacy to the success of Kalenjin runners. And, they don’t need a scientific research to support that.
The environment that many tourists expect to find in Kenya is that of a semi-arid Savanna with plenty of grey grass, acacia trees and grass thatched huts. It was the same case with Paul as he came. He was surprised to find that almost everywhere he has been to he has gotten to see a lot of trees, well established farms and good houses. And, this is happening in one of the driest and hottest months in Kenya.