Hi All….

I’m a month into my Kenyan adventure (2 weeks to go) and I have to say it’s been everything I ever hoped for. So many stories!!!

What have I learnt/done or just found ultra intriguing so far?

dane2 – Well yes, a lot of my trip has centred around running as I did choose to go to ‘Iten’ the region in the world where
90%(approximately but likely accurately) of its distance running Olympic champions are born and bred (most of the Kenyans here are from the Kalenjin tribe).

– Running here is a way of life!!!!!!!!!! To get an idea of the depth of talent in Iten( Rob will like this story)… It’s the only country in the world where you jump in a random mattatu(taxi) to get back to camp from town and you find out the taxi driver ran 3.31 for 1500m last yr( the 5th fastest time of 2013)… Examples like this are everywhere; the camps chief is a 2.09  marathoner. The obese Kenyan standing next to me in the crowd in Eldoret ran 2.14 in Mexico 5 years ago. Or on another day in Eldoret a local introduced himself as I was walking down the street. We got talking about running and I soon realised I was talking to the Kenyan that I’d watched in the marathon on TV in the Commonwealth  Games in Delhi get bronze behind the Australian Michael Shelley. And here he was just another face in the crowd and keen to meet me!? Isnt it meant to be the other way round? Or even take today for example I ran a Fartlek session with Wilson Kipsang’s group(the current world marathon record holder 2.03) and finished 200th of 300 odd people. The depth is astounding!!!!! You even get non runners in the street challenging Mazungoes to races; such is their confidence. Everyone runs in a bid to escape poverty. The successful runners are able to live a comfortable life. Unfortunately not every Kenyan in Iten is world class but I wouldn’t be over estimating if I was to say: 50% are, have been, or are destined to be.
– I am known over here as a Mazungo (Swahili for white person or foreigner- even Mo Farah who is Somalian born is labelled a Mazungo).   Everywhere I walk or run I am greeted excitedly, affectionately and curiously with the greeting; ‘Mazungo, how are you?’ ‘Mazuri sana'(very good) I say almost on auto pilot. I have not experienced much hostility at all- only once in Eldoret where a thief tried to steal a ladies bag and he ferociously got punched by a half dozen passers by- stealing is regarded as disgraceful in the Kalenjin community.  The children here are ridiculously excited to see white people. I regularly have schools of kids running beside me either just wanting to touch my hand or wanting ‘sweets’, ‘a ball’, ‘a photo’, or ‘water’. I have roughly established that 50% of the Kenyans are excited to meet you as they see you as a potential investor to improve their quality of life. The other half are the ones you cherish- they are genuinely excited to see you, sure they’d gladly accept assistance but they aren’t directly seeking you out with this in mind- they understand that hard work is more often than not a greater determinant in improving quality of life. It’s these Kenyans that I have been assisting gladly, be it food water shoes clothing finance or free physio.

-Another interesting thing over here is ‘Kenyan time’.. The only thing that Kenyans do quickly is running. Sooo, yes, that’s right, I fit in rather well here, and so would Nathan:) If they say; let’s meet at 3pm it could mean anything from 3-3.59. That’s the definition of Kenyan time. ‘Aconamatada’ they will say- Swahili for ‘no worries/ relax/ be happy’ is used regularly. It certainly is a relaxed culture here. For example; I nicknamed one park, ‘sleepy park’ as masses of Kenyans just seem to sleep there all day. Another key ingredient to the relaxed vibe has to be the Reggae music that is played with swagger everywhere!!!! I’m definitely making room for it on my iPod playlist when I get back. A talented Kenyan called Julius Kirui has been a huge influence in fuelling my new found love of reggae music. A 1.47 800m/ 3.47 1500m runner, he has been giving me 1hr long recovery massages twice a week with reggae tunes pumping for the ridiculous price of 300KS approximately $4 AUS ( I’d highly recommend him as a potential masseuse if SSPC ever expanded to Iten, Kenya). The chilled vibe here is only further accentuated by the fact that Iten’s historic and world famous cinder athletics track still just has an old milk container marking the start/finish line. Yes, this is indicative of their poverty but I also feel it is representative of their  stripped back, happy go lucky, relaxed way of live. Functionality above aesthetics. It’s refreshing!

Surprisingly, Kenyans ooze confidence. They are all incredibly optimistic! They never complain. They always say: ‘train hard, win easy!’ They think anyone can be successful if you apply yourself. Their optimism certainly rubs off and is a pleasure to be around. This has been one of the highlights of the trip; it’s amazing the confidence they have instilled in my own running. They are all so Inspirational!

The food!!! Well the past month has been the most balanced my diet has ever been. Yes, I have had a bit of chocolate but being away from the temptations of home has been great and I feel so healthy right now. Ugali the famous Kenyan super food tastes like ‘play doh’ however and it’s only real use was when a UK athlete used it as an adhesive substitute to fix his watch. The mangoes, pineapples and tomatoes are amazingly fresh here; I have bought these daily from the local market. I also ate goat for the first time early in the trip. I’ve also become a huge fan of chipate. It must also be noted that it is not uncommon to wait 1-2 hrs to be served when fine dining in Kenya!             (Classic Kenyan time).

Another interesting realisation; Kenyan Matatu(taxi) drivers are like race car drivers. Forget seat belts , forget driving on the right side of the road, forget speed limits, passenger limits, in fact forget road rules all together- time is money! I’ve seen a full grown cow on the back of a motor bike, 20 people in a mini bus with a person literally dangling out the back door and feet out the window, trucks bellowing out black smoke so thick Hong Kong’s streets look fresh and cars so battered and run down that you’re actually surprised the wheels don’t just roll off.

dane1What else have I done?
– I’ve seen monkeys swinging between trees , I’ve see giraffes, I’ve walked through a waterfall, I’ve eaten traditional Kenyan food, I’ve learnt a lot about their culture and their language, I’ve met (lived with) some of the best runners the world has ever seen past and present( Mo Farah, Steve Cram, Paula Radcliffe, Wilson Kipsang, Taoufik Makhloufi, Abel Kiprop etc.. ). As nerdy as it sounds I’ve even learnt a few new running specific core exercises from the GB team physios.

Things still to do?
-This Saturday; I’m going on a day long safari adventure in a jeep to Lake Nakuru. This is apparently the most likely place in the whole of Kenya to see cheetahs!!!! I can’t wait.
– 2 more weeks of training, running, eating and living like a Kenyan. Which does mean a lot of relaxing by the camps pool enjoying the consistent weather Kenya produces: ( it’s level with the equator!!!) it has been sunny and 25 every day!!! And I believe my tan needs further work:)

I’ve already had an amazing holiday. If I went home tomorrow I’d be refreshed, happy and ready to work again! I am starting to miss everyone back home but hey I’ll take the next two weeks, as this is an experience of a lifetime and I’m so happy right now!!!

Many kind regards and well wishes to all of you.