Wednesday, 13 January 2010

On the road with Brother Colm

Sky News is making the background noise. Brother Colm and I are reading the paper. It’s Saturday Morning 10 o’clock and it is cold. Cold for Kenyans.

Someone is knocking at the door. It is Isaac. He tells Brother Colm that he and his training comrades are not ready yet. It is too cold, too misty. There is no such think like hectic in this place. Colm walks back and continues to read the daily paper. No stress at all. If they don’t start at 10, they start at 11. Where’s the problem?

We read on, and after some discussions on politics, football and training, Isaac comes back to tell Brother Colm that they would start now. We get the jeep ready. The roads are still a bit muddy around St. Patricks High School. As we drive slowly through the school complex, we see the boys warming up. In slow pace John Kemboi, Augustine Choge, Isaac Songok and Raymond Choge are jogging around the grass football pitch. It’s still misty and, for Kenya, kind of chilly. There is no rush. Brother Colm stops the jeep and we are watching the lads warming up. It’s quiet this morning and there is not much talking. The Kenyans look very concentrated and focused. They face a 45 minutes speed session around Iten.

“Which route do we take”, I ask Brother Colm. “I don’t know. They will decide during the run." It is that mixture of guidance and let loose that makes training so special around that place. Brother Colm makes no restrictions. He knows how to approach the psyche of a Kenyan runner. He already proved it numerous times and he still is. I quietly observe, fascinated by the calm and focused atmosphere.

After 20 minutes of light jogging on grass the group is ready. Brother Colm shortly speaks to the boys and cracks some jokes. He outlines what he expects from the workout and leaves the boys with a warm smile.

The group starts slowly. We start the jeep and the stopwatch. For the first kilometres the tempo remains easy. While we head out of Iten, the tempo slightly increases. Colm is looking forward to see how Raymond is performing in the group. He looks strong. The group stays together and the tempo keeps increasing.

There is no such thing as running on the flat around Iten. The hilly terrain makes training challenging. Au gustineis leading the group. He is powering up a hill and is still increasing the tempo. As Brother Colm is watching the splits and talking about every single runner like it his kid, I am fascinated by the strides and the power of the runners. The only “non world class runner” in the group, Raymond, looks strong. Colm and I are happy to see him in such a shape. Colm is glad he can stay with them. The intention for him was to give him confidence in his own strength by staying with some experienced athletes. He is doing really well.

On a short steep climb Isaac looses the contact to the group. Brother Colm says he is still missing a bit of fitness after the Christmas break. No problem. He stays in the back of the group, just a few metres behind. “He´ll have closed the gap on the next flat section”, Colm says, although he is still struggling. We overtake him with the jeep to follow the other three guys. The kilometer splits hover constantly under 3:30 on extremely hilly terrain. Some splits are passed in close to 3 minutes per kilometer – at 2,500 metres altitude. Fascinating.

As we come closer to the end of the session, Augustine is increasing the tempo again. “He loves hills.”, Colm notes as he splits the group in pieces on a long uphill stretch. The other two guys can’t follow. I tell Colm the time. 45 minutes on the dot. He hits the horn and the boys stride out immediately. John and Augustine are shaking hands. Raymond runs towards the two and receives a respectful welcome. He can be happy with his run. Staying with those boys is not an easy task.

We pick up some people beside the road. They are happy to get a free lift into Iten.
I’m looking back. No sign of Isaac. We move on. The boys are striding easy and steady into town.

As we stop beside the market square, the lads are running towards St. Patrick’s School. Another workout is over. We drive on. Down the street we see three wazungu running. Brother Colm stops the car at the junction to see who it is. Stefano Baldini is passing by with two fellow Italians. They are waving as they stroll up the street. We instead are finished for the day. Back to the daily paper.

article for mzungo.org

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