Just a few kilometres from Eldoret town is the Kipchoge Keino High-performance Training Camp considered by many to be the Mecca of athletics. It is located on a farm owned by legendary Kenyan track star, Kipchoge Keino and is an approved high altitude training facility by the International Olympics Committee (IOC).
What started off as a modest facility is now well known within the annals of the IOC and the international athletic community. In total, close to 100 athletes from different countries and backgrounds train at this facility annually in the full glare of both local and international media.
The state-of-the-art camp provides everything an athlete needs for training. Quality accommodation, conference facilities, a modern gymnasium, a good training ground, a library and a well-managed diet are all at the disposal of the athletes.
Approximately 30 KM from Keino’s Camp lies Iten town with training camps that host a gathering of international athletes mainly drawn from the Middle Eastern countries of Qatar and Bahrain.
Here, Lornah Kiplagat owns and runs a camp that specialises in training women athletes. The camp is equipped with a gymnasium that comes with a sauna, library, computer room and 16 double rooms for accommodation with a capacity of hosting 50 athletes.
But it is at St. Patrick’s Iten that the cradle of Kenya’s athletic prowess begins to unfold. From here, talent has been nurtured and matured. The world 800 M record holder, Wilson Kipketer (Denmark), Bernard Lagat (USA), former Olympic 3,000 M champion, Mathews Birir, former Commonwealth 800 M champion, Japheth Kimutai, the Chirchir brothers – Cornelius and William, former world 3,000 M steeplechase record holder and champion, Boit Kipketer, former world 10,000 M champion, Sally Barsosio and former Olympic 1,500 M champion, Peter Rono, are all products of this camp.
The list goes on with Commonwealth 5,000 M champion, Augustine Choge, World 4 KM silver medalist, Isaac Songok, World 8 KM junior Cross Country champion, Mang’ata Ndiwa and Commonwealth 800 M champion, Janeth Jepkosgei, world junior 3,000 M champion, Caroline Chepkurui, world 1,500 M champion, Irene Chelagat, and silver medalist, Mercy Kosgei and the world 800 M champion, David Rudisha, who are also members of this camp.
The camp is a favourite of not only local athletes but foreign runners who know these grounds well. This is mainly because the high altitude at Iten makes the area malaria-free, hence attracting many foreigners keen on training in the country. The serenity and good terrain make Iten a perfect training ground as well.
Further away from Eldoret town, about 30 KM, is another home of training camps. Here, there are 5 odd training camps belonging to various sports shoe manufacturers. As the facilities in Iten, camps here offer more than just training and the results have been impressive.
As the government seeks to diversify tourism products through sports tourism, these camps may well offer that opportunity and by extension give Kenya’s upcoming athletes a deserved shot at stardom like their predecessors.