Iten: It's more than just a name
We’re excited to name our first shoe Iten, it is a big name from a small place.
Iten is small town that’s had a huge impact on the world of running. Sitting at the western edge of The Great Rift Valley, it has produced an incredible number of the world’s best long distance runners.
Just a few thousand people call Iten home, yet it hosts dozens of Olympic medalists and major marathon champions. Edna Kiplagat, David Rudisha, Florence Kiplagat, Ibrahim Hussein, Lornah Kiplagat, Linet Masai, Wilson Kipsang, Mary Keitany, and many many other greats have done their training in Iten.
Iten is increasingly also a global training destination. Mo Farah and Paula Radcliffe have trained there extensively, and at any given time of year you’re likely to find Olympians or major marathon competitors from all around the world.
But there’s something more to Iten than can’t be captured by just looking at the overwhelming success of its athletes. Something that feels downright magical. Maybe it’s the cool mountain air. Or the running tracks zigzagging its hilly terrain. Or maybe it’s just the legends who have proven their mettle on the roads. Whatever it is, if you pick up any book on Kenyan running, you’re certain to find the author caught up a bit by the spirit of the place.
as small and insignificant as the village of Iten is, you simply cannot dislodge it from your mind. The mesmeric place has a numinous aura that I cannot quite understand myself. It has been fourteen years since I first set foot here, and I have sent a lot of visitors here since. Not one has been disappointed.” — Toby Tanser, More Fire: How to Run the Kenyan Way“
“I’ve read so much about Iten that it has become an almost mythical place in my mind.” — Adadharanand Finn, Running with the Kenyans
“a fortress of distance running… at certain times of day, one can’t move for groups of runners pounding off down a dirt track. Most of these men and women don’t make a cent from running.” — Ed Caesar, Two Hours: The Quest to Run the Impossible Marathon
So how did this mystical place come to be? The environment, latent athletic ability, and culture of hard work have long been in place, but things started taking shape with the St. Patrick’s school track team. In 1986, the young men of the Kenyan team for first ever World Junior Championships were St. Patrick’s students. Kenya, a country of just 20 million people at the time, ended up 4th on the medal table, behind the US and ahead of Great Britain.
Success bred success. Once athletes from Iten started winning on the global stage, more athletes started to flock to Iten. The more great runners took up residence, the more they pushed each other to ever greater heights.
We’re still putting the finishing touches on our first shoe, the Enda Iten, but we’re excited to give it such a great name. We’ll keep working on it and wear testing it until we’re certain it’s worthy to be called Iten.