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One upon a mizungu « Mathieu O'Halloran's Blog

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One upon a mizungu

Ever since I could remember, I dreamed about going to Kenya and running with the best runners in the world. In 2007 I got to realize that dreamed after working on a drilling rig for many months.

Before leaving Canada, I got about half a dozen shots at the travel clinic before leaving and then 2 days before my 21st b-day my mt bike and I landed safely in Nairobi for the experience of a lifetime

Once in the taxi heading to the bus depot, I could already see giraffes out of the airport, I felt like a kid again! But I knew that this experience will be very eye opening and character molding…

After passing the equator line, I arrived in Eldoret and from there made my way to the small village of Iten on the cusp of the Great Rift Valley, where the majority of the top Kenyan runners are from or migrated too to or have been at one point in their careers.

My new home for the next 5 months would be at the HATC about 8000feet high, which is operated by world champion Lornah Kiplagat and her Husband Pieter! The HATC is great, there about 25 different rooms, a restaurant, a 25m swim pool, a library, a fully equipped gym ,a tea house for chilling, a sauna and 2massage rooms! The best are the hundreds of kilometers of compacted dirt roads that are used and abused each day!        www.lornah.com

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It’s very rare to see a runner running alone; most common are big groups of runners. Most of the town is on the same schedule. Renato Canovas schedule. First run is @ 6 am, the “open the body” run, then the second is at 10 am for some speed work and then again at 4 pm for some ez running or aerobic or diagonals.

Track is most of the time on Tuesdays and Thursdays and sometimes on Saturday mornings. The long runs where Wednesday and Saturday morning, and Sunday is off for church, unless there is a race.

The track sessions were the most memorizing, at one time; there could be over a hundred runners on the 440 yard dirt track running in perfect symphony. Groups of 30 speeding around a slow group with ease and grace. I found it intimidating!

I didn’t really run with the Kenyans at first, because I was busy acclimatizing and being a tourist! And of course I had not been training for many months, so I just rode my mountain bike around!

Me at the top of the Rift Valley!

Me at the top of the Rift Valley!

 On one Sunday morning (im not very religious) I crossed paths with a group of riders, they waived their skinny arms and gave me a big bright smile! I turned around to joined them because I was intrigued. Most of them where ridding old school single Chinese bikes, with old cycling clothing, basically looking like they popped out of the 1960’s ;)

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I had so many questions for them. Turns out of them was training to try and break the alpe d’huez record and maybe even start a pro team. They definitely have the heart and lungs for it.

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What made me think, is that probably, everywhere in the world, from Argentina to Zimbabwe, cyclist meet everywhere, on Sunday mornings to ride the roads!

 

One of the neatest things about being a mizungu, is that there always some little kids wanting to run with you out on the roads. Heres is Melanie Kraus of Germany with 4 kids with her, this pic is taken by me while on my bike during her long run, those kids have been running with her for some time when this pic was taken.

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The famous flouspar hill is just under 21km of gradual climbing at 4-5%. Theres kilometer markers all over and if I remember right, theres about 15 switchbacks. This route starts at about 1400m and finishes at 2800m! Its been tackled but some of the top Kenya runners!

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I always wonder when is the next time I will get to go back to this special and serene part of the world…

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