I have been lucky enough to train in most of the great training destinations in Kenya. After 12 years of running in all the top spots, I can definitively say there is nothing magic about any training ground that separates it from any other. But there are a few things to consider if you’re looking for the perfect spot for you.
Most of the training towns in Kenya aren’t planned. As it meets a few requirements for athletes — high altitude, a place to stay, and routes to use in training — runners will start to run there. When athletes consistently turn out in large numbers every morning to train, the place automatically becomes a training destination.
Of all the spots around, here are my seven favourites and what makes each of them stand out.
Any discussion of training in Kenya has to start with Iten. It’s the preferred choice for many because of the large community of runners and range of accommodation choices. There are the low cost single rooms with outside pit latrines and shared bathrooms, guest houses that provided a bit more comfort, and comfortable choices like the Kerio View Hotel and Lornah’s High Altitude Training Centre for those who can afford them.
As this is an Olympic year, athletes from around the world are already flocking to Iten, like they did in 2012 before the London Olympics. So if you want to run with greats from around the world, it’s certainly the place to go.
But while Iten is the most famous as a training place for middle and long distance runners, there are other places across the Kenyan highlands with certain advantages over Iten, only they lack the array of accommodation.
During rainy days, it is almost impossible to train in Iten because the roads get so muddy, and many established camps at times have to use vehicles to carry their athletes to other areas for training. In Kapsait, which is situated at a much higher altitude, rainy conditions do not affect training much because of the type of soil offers better natural drainage. So if you’re training in March or November, this is a great choice to avoid rainy season spoiling your runs.
Being far away from the big towns, everything is much cheaper than in most other training destinations. There is the Kapsait Nike Athletics Training Camp which can offer everything you will need to stay there. Or, you may choose to rent a house near to the training camp and join the athletes every morning for training.
Renting a house can be challenging to do in advance or from a distance. But if you simply show up and start asking around in most of the training towns, you’re almost certain to find something good.
Berlin and London marathon champion Eliud Kipchoge, 2:03 marathoner Emmanuel Mutai, and world cross country and half marathon champion Geoffrey Kamworor all train in Kaptagat. And if that’s not enough of an endorsement, many of the top sports management groups including Pace Sports Management, Global Sports Management, and Dr. Rosa and Association also have their camps in Kaptagat.
The town is not populated like most other destinations and most of the training routes here go through the Kaptagat forest, so you get a quiet, cool, and fresh environment to run especially during the easy evening runs.
Places to stay in Kaptagat include the Naiberi River Campsite and Resort, the Kaptagat Hotel and the Elegarini Resort. There is also the option of renting a house in the nearby shopping centers, although as an increasingly popular training area it can be challenging find vacant houses here.
The big city offers a range of accommodation options, great food, and the best night-clubs in Kenya (if for some reason dancing is part of your training plan).
Unlike the smaller towns it takes some effort to find a group. The training groups around Eldoret town are usually smaller and are found in different estates. There is a group for Elgon View Estate, Kapsoya Estate, Kimumu Estate, Junction Estate, Annex Estate and Kipkorgot Estate, among others.
And of course training in a group with strong athletes, especially if they are stronger than you, is very beneficial. Usually, the top long distance female athletes, like Mary Keitany and Vivian Cheruiyot, have male pace setters who accompany them in their long runs and speed workouts to make sure someone is challenging them. So if you head to Eldoret, make sure to take the extra time necessary to find a good training group.
Situated between Eldoret and Mosoriot, Kapseret has flat and soft ground courses that are ideal for track runners. Being only about 10km from either Eldoret or Mosoriot, the athletes training here have the option to go for their track workouts in either of the places.
Most athletes here live in their own homes or in rented houses rather than in a training camp. If you prefer, you can also stay in Eldoret and easily find transport out to Kapseret every day.
Mosoriot is a small town situated between Kapsabet and Eldoret. The training routes around here go through hills and valleys and have resulted in producing some of the best marathon runners in the world that include Martin Lel, the three time London Marathon champion and Robert Cheruiyot, the multiple Boston Marathon champion.
Mosoriot Teachers College provides a good track for athletes to train here and the track athletes who have used this track to catapult them to the top of the world include Jairus Birech and Conseslus Kipruto, the 3000m steeplechase runners who both managed to win the IAAF Diamond League trophies.
There aren’t great hotels to stay here, but there are decent houses to rent and stay and join the training groups that are there every morning for a run. Again, the best way to find a house is to show up and ask around.
Kapsabet and Nandi Hills
Kapsabet and Nandi Hills are convenient running distance from each other, so they serve as one large training area. Most of the runs take you through tea plantations, so most of the roads are well maintained by the tea factories.
As the name suggests, Nandi Hills offers a slew of hilly courses. The hills are hardly affected by rainy conditions because, like Kapsait, the soil here naturally drains well. There are many hotels to stay in Kapsabet and Nandi Hills including The Tortoise Hotel, owned by Wilfred Bungei, the 2008 Olympic Champion in the 800m.
Chicago marathon champion, Dickson Chumba and New York City marathon champion, Stanley Biwott train in Kapsabet, so you’re certain to be in good company if you pay a visit.
The bottom line is, wherever you chooses to train in Kenya, you will never miss a strong training group. No matter what time of year, there will always be excellent athletes challenging you to train your hardest. With the right focus and determination, training in any location can yield excellent results. Give a shout to us on Twitter if you have any questions or to let us know if we missed your favourite place to train.