What makes the Kenyans so good at running ?

First of all let me start this post by informing you that I am no sports scientist, or do I wish to portray myself as an expert on Kenya. It is my feelings after one year of regular contact with the country and some of its elite athletes…

“Its the altitude”
“Its in their genes”
“It is because of their long wirey legs ”

Yes we’ve heard it all before and most likely, it is correct too. Infact the real answer is most likely the combination of all the gossiped factors. However, i´d like to focus on two points that I have witnessed first hand…

1) Psychology

As with the Brazilians and their football. New Zealand and their Rugby, and the Indians with their cricket – Running is Kenya !

There is a born belief within the country that Kenyans are the best runners in the world, and this positive attitude towards their talents drives thousands of children to wish to be like their heroes – the likes of David Rudisha.

A phrase I have often heard throughout sport and business alike it ´believe it to achieve it´ – and this confidence / border line arrogance , in my opinion, elevates the mind set of the Brazilians, New Zealander´s & of course, Kenyans. An attribute that cannot be ignored in the question of ´what makes the Kenyans so good at Running ?’

2) Poverty

Thanks to the above, Running is a way out. Teenagers see the likes of Rudisha driving around in his nice car in Iten, and a host of Major Marathon winners and Gold Medalists taking selfies with their smart phones – their heroes.

But what goes with poverty and a dream, is a desire. A fight, a struggle. Ask Jake and Zane Robertson, the New Zealander twins who fled home to relocate to Kenya about the struggle – much is documented of their early years living in less than pleasant conditions, grafting daily with other ambitious athletes. Ask last weekends London Marathon winner Eliud Kipchoge about struggle – the man who absolutely doesn’t need to, but before big races moves himself into the training camp with this coach Patrick Sang and lives with athletes, completing daily chores and being completely equal with his room mates.

I talked yesterday with CoopsRun athlete Boaz Kipyego. To put into perspective, Boaz lives in an iron sheet house with his wife and 3 year old girl – his girl, currently resides with Boaz´s mother in law as the heavy rain has seeped into the house and it is not comfortable for his child.

Coach sent me a video yesterday of Boaz´s run in the group session in the morning, 30km in 1 hour 40 – but when I spoke to Boaz, he was about to go out and complete his evening recovery run of 10km. Many athletes around the world simply get distracted, and would skip this evening session or complete it half heartedly.

Running is hard, it hurts, it hurts a lot – but the pain barrier is worth crossing so much more when you know that finishing in the top 10 of a large marathon can change your life.

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As i said before, no expert analysis here – just my views after 1 year. Let me know if you found this interesting or agree / disagree in the comments ?

New athlete, Nancy Jelagat

Painfully shy, with a heart of a lion.

I’d heard about Nancy after her win in Eldoret at the recently 10,000m race. In tough conditions, a muddy track and a competitive field – a winner of this race has to have a strong heart. And Nancy sure does

Before being introduction to Nancy I went to watch her train in Iten at the famous Tuesday fartlek session. It was here that I witnessed the raw talent first hand.

1 on 1 off. That’s the agenda as coach Ken beeped his car horn at the turn of each interval. Diamond league 3k winner Caroline Rotich cheering out of the car window and filming Nancy as she kept pace with the men for each interval, it was clear that Nancy had something special.

I am told around Iten that Nancy has lost body fat in the last 12 month that has helped transform her performance into on one of Iten’s hot prospects for the future. She cuts a lean, but powerful figure as she sprints each interval – quite the contrast of the wirey legs I am used to seeing here.

When I finally got chance to sit with Nancy we discussed life in Kenya. ” it’s a struggle, Sir ” . She eventually answered – barely audible. Her 2000 rent per month in an iron sheet house is a challenge, of which she often relies on assistance from the coach or friend Caroline. €18, in Europe.

Her diet is the pure basics but lacking. Maize, Ugali, vegetables and bread – meat when she can afford. Local coach Timo Limo looks at me with wide eyes when she explains this, imagining what could become, should she have the adequate nutrition.

” If you want to be a serious athlete, then living in a camp is the best way ” , Nancy tells me. Many Kenyans here crave the camp feel. House rules, headmaster like attention and spending hours on end with like minded Olympic dreamers.

That’s what we strive for here at CoopsRun. Not just the usual group training and pounding, but the full works. Core stability, flexibility , rehab, drills for posture – alongside an on site nutritionist. Not to mention, Nancy will be able to relax knowing her clothes will not be stolen – something which worried her throughout our evening meal at local hotel Kerio View.

Watch this space…

Ivy Kibet, welcome to CoopsRun !

Ivy Kibet comes from a strong family of athletes. With her sister in Hamburg this weekend racing in the marathon, Ivy also wants to make the step up the marathon level. 

We are delighted to have her on board and support her dream, and have arranged for her to race in the Copenhagen Marathon next month for starters. 

Good luck Ivy, and welcome to the team ! 

Nancy Signs with CoopsRun

After impressing in local Eldoret 10,000m race last weekend in Kenya with a 34;56 time in muddy tough conditions and winning the race, Nancy has signed as a CoopsRun TEAM member. 

Moving up to half marathon distance, we shall now be working off the track for Nancy allowing her to focus on getting ready for a hopeful appearance overseas in the near future. 

We wish you all the best, Nancy ! 

1 year to all in 

April 24th, 2017 . This was the date I first boarded a plane to Kenya. 

Nervous, excited, scared. I really was not sure what to expect, but for sure I never expected this…

Fast forward one year, and this week I make my 8th visit to Kenya to support the 100,000 school meal drop in Kerio Valley. During this stay, I will also be meeting potential new athletes for my running team, coaches, checking on the progress of the guest houses we have built for tourists and fellow running fanatics / well wishers,  and having chai tea with house hold names in the sport of running. 

This week also marks the week that I announced I shall leave my full time position at Holmes Place in Germany, to concentrate fully on CoopsRun . I can’t believe I am even writing this ! 

I’d like to hope that this post reaches someone out there and inspires them too to follow their dreams

I have learned a lot in the past 12 months, but two that are relevant to this post would be 

  1. You never know what amazing things can happen outside of your comfort zone 
  2. Anything is possible with the right focus and work ethic 

It’s not come easy. I sacrificed all my holiday to make the visits to Africa, to document to the world my intentions, build trust with my followers and build connections with key people. I spent every spare cent I had re investing into the bigger picture, and I gave up a social life by replacing it with building a community on Instagram whilst others are out in bars with friends. 

From 600 followers to a combined 47,000 on Instagram, and 100,000 school meals in 12 months I can honestly say it was worth it. 

As for now, to launch CoopsRun as a management group and professional running team and to have left my well paid full time role as a General Manager I take the next risk, and probably the biggest in my life. Again on April 24th, I find myself nervous, excited and scared. 

Thanks for your support over the last 12 months, and here’s to 365 more ‘out of comfort zone’ days. 

Chris 

Why CoopsRun

Initially on Instagram, @coopsrun was the account that I used to express myself.

I’m a creative type, and with a head full constantly I found using Instagram to share my feelings, thoughts and ideas a good way of getting things off my chest.

Clearly things grew in the last twelve months because of the public interest in my social projects in East Africa. From 600 followers to 27,000 , I slowly realized that I had ‘something’ special in not only Runners Heal – but also documenting the journey.

Instagram has allowed me to give back in more ways than I could have ever dreamt of. One year into Runners Heal and we are next week delivering our 100,000 school meal in Kenya. But not only from a social perspective, have I profited.

The friends I have made in Kenya, introduced by Runners Heal, have opened new doors for me. One being Athletics. Never did I ever intend to work officially in the sport. Seeing elite runners was just something I enjoyed on the TV at major marathons or Olympics – but all of a sudden I find myself in the thick of it.

That hasn’t come completely as a a positive, mind you. Being closer to athletics has opened my eyes to a different perspective on the sport – a ruthless one. Perhaps my naivety, but previously I had Athletics in my mind as a joy to watch athletes fly on the roads and end the races with huge smiles on their faces – seeing the outcome of extreme talent matched with ethic. What I didn’t ever consider, was the “business” behind the scenes of the sport, and as we all know – where Business is involved, things often become less so joyful.

There’s corruption. Enhancing drugs. Ruthless agents, and stories of athletes being heavily mistreated – as if they are almost a product on the shelves, tossed into sale basket when a newer model is launched.

Not all guys are bad guys in the sport, don’t get me wrong. But I have heard of too many situations that personally I felt uncomfortable with, and with my business background, Marketing skill set and general people management skills I thought I would throw my hat in the ring and offer my assistance to athletes who could perhaps benefit from my assistance as they attempt to be the next Mary Keitany’s of the world.

It’s an uphill task, I know that. In its early days it has caused me stress, dealing with some rather ‘different’ (put politely) characters – but it’s a challenge that I am excited about. And this blog will be my platform to share with you my journey, their stories, progression, highs and lows, and who knows – perhaps success stories in the future.

Chris

Why I’m flying to Kenya for 1 day

15 hours there – 9 hours in Kenya – 15 hours back 

It’s probably my craziest travel schedule to date, and certainly the longest I have travelled for a meeting – but I am hoping it shall be worth it.

I’m writing this post on Sunday 28th January. Tomorrow, I have a meeting with the Kenyan Athletics Federation regarding my application for a license to represent athletes. 

Whilst Runners Heal is my core focus, I can’t help but feel that I have something to offer aspiring athletes – and that building a brand off the track for these guys will not only benefit their careers, but also my ambitions in humanities in East Africa. 

So yes it’s a long day. But fingers crossed, it’s a worth while visit and the Kenyan’s are impressed in my final interview ! 

Wish me luck ,

Chris