Kerio View is just a few kilometres from the small municipality of Iten, the capital town of the County. Many people, however, would regard it as a world capital; —- the global capital of running.
Recently the IAAF recognised its importance by conferring on it the status of “World Sports Heritage Site”.
This recognition is due to the multitude of Olympians and World champions — literally hundreds — that have lived and trained in Iten and its environs. Many of them, of the present and the past, are frequent visitors to Kerio View — “the best hotel in town”.
If you want to meet the top runners, their trainers and managers, KV is the place to be.
The success of the Iten runners has brought an increasing number of international visitors seeking to find the “secret” of this success. Much has been written in books about their quest and their conclusions. Read, for example, “The Ultimate Runner” by Finn and Mo Farah’s autobiography “Twin Ambitions”.
Living and training at altitude, genetic potential, simple low-protein / low-fat diet, non-polluted atmosphere, sour milk (mursik), running back and forth to school at an early age; — all have been mentioned as being the ‘magic key’. Undoubtedly some, perhaps all, of these factors are significant. Certainly, science tells us “the right genes in the right place” are essential prerequisites.
Science and the actual success of many generations of runners attest to the efficacy of a regime of living and training at high altitude before a big race. In this regard, it is relevant to mention that Iten, at 2350m above sea level, could be, fortuitously, at the optimum elevation for training; — much above this height the practical difficulties of cold and a long acclimatisation-period outweigh any possible advantages.
The Running Culture
A “secret” ingredient often overlooked is ‘the CULTURE of running’ that exists around Iten (and, to a lesser degree, throughout this part of Kenya). Here, from before the sun rises to the descent of darkness, individuals, pairs and often large groups of runners, will be seen pounding out the kilometres along tarmac highways and rural, laterite tracks.
Except for a friendly wave and smile from workers in their fields (“shambas”) and groups of young kids trying to tag along, there is little reaction from the local people as runners pass; this is just part of a normal day. Even the occasional (but steadily increasing) sight of white faces in the pack scarcely raises a comment. Runners and running are just – ‘THERE’ – part of normal life.
The casual attitude to running in this part of the world can be, sometimes, disconcerting; World Champions, Olympic gold medalists and their coaches, who elsewhere would be fêted in public and would attempt to stay out of the limelight, are here in Iten “just part of the furniture”; they can be met casually in the streets, shops and hotels of Iten and Eldoret.
The negative side of this is that, just like the prophet in his own land, our heroes of the road and track sometimes do not get the honour and acclamation they deserve — especially after they retire from competition.
One should not believe that Kerio View, Iten and Elgeyo Marakwet County are just for the super sportsman. This is absolutely not the case ! Most visiting runners are here just for pleasure and to expand their horizons. Some don’t even aspire to the term “runner” and prefer to be called “joggers”.
Recently, Kerio View had the pleasure of hosting a group of 27 joggers from Germany for two weeks. In between the jogging sessions they had plenty of opportunity to interact with people and enjoy a variety of ‘experiences’.