Discovery Kenya 1999 Photo Gallery
From January 14th through the 25th, 1999, a group of Italian and American journalists visited the Great Rift Valley in Kenya as guests of Fila. We were to see firsthand how some of the world's best distance runners trained and lived. We were given extraordinary access to two training camps, one managed by Moses Tanui at Kaptagat and the other by Eric Kimaiyo at Kapsait. Here's sample of some of the things I saw.
We stopped by a school in Kapcherop, several hundred meters below and about 13 km from Kapsait, home of the Eric Kimaiyo training camp. When we stopped to look at the school, we were swarmed by the children. Standing to the far left is U.S. television commentator, Larry Rawson, and to the right is the voice of ESPN's Race of the Month, Toni Reavis. Eric Kimaiyo, a 2:08 marathoner, is standing in the center.
Running is strongly encouraged in Kenya for children. At the Great Rift Valley Cross Country, over 1600 runners, mostly children, competed in age-group heats. Most ran in their street clothes and bare feet.
Dr. Gabrielle Rosa, an Italian medical doctor who heads up Fila's world-wide running program, personally measured the grass course, setting out a 1000m and 2000m loop. Spectators sought shade from the equatorial sun in the grandstand in the rear.
We visited the homes of some of the cross country winners, including Agnes Kiprop (right), who posed with her mother, Dr. Rosa and Dr. Rosa's companion Loretta Pagliarini. Agnes' home was so remote, we had to park our Land Cruiser and walk about a kilometer to her house.
Some of the proud mothers at another school in Kapenguria
The St. Patrick's School, an all-boys Catholic boarding school, is in nearby Iten. It was the school attended by Olympians like Matthew Birir and Peter Rono (16 in all), and the place where Wilson Kipketer trained, although he didn't attend school there. The school itself had no track, but this dirt track, about 3 km away, is used for training and competition. Despite its soft dirt surface, Bro. Colm O'Connell, St. Patrick's long-time coach, said the track record for 800m was "1:46-something." A cow grazed in the infield that day.
The Fila training camp at Kapsait is managed by Eric Kimaiyo. The camp is as basic as it is remote: no plumbing, no electricity, no phones. It sits at nearly 10,000 feet of elevation on a dirt road.
Inside the courtyard of the camp, the athletes relax after their morning workout. Eric Kimaiyo, left and his brother Nicholas (leaning in doorway in purple top) talk to American stretching therapist, Phil Wharton (right). Phil and his father Jim went to Kenya to help the athletes improve their flexibility.
The camp's kitchen has two open hearths and a camp stove for cooking. The camp cook had just prepared sweetened tea with milk (foreground).
Joshua Kimaiyo, another of Eric's brothers and a 2:12:54 marathoner himself, relaxes in his room at the Kapsait camp He has a radio, but that is the only entertainment he allows himself.
One of the European athletes training with the Kenyans was Grzegorz Gajdus of Poland. A 2:09:45 marathoner, he poses here with Moses Tanui with the floor of the Great Rift Valley in the background.
Always a gentleman, Moses Tanui poses with me, too.
No limos for these guys! Moses Tanui drives the gang from the rival Kaptagat camp in the back of his pick-up truck. Giving the thumbs up at the left is Titus Munji, 7th at the 1997 World Cross Country Championships (junior).
Photos by David Monti