The Trial Ends, The Future 100k Record Breaker, Our First Female, And The Experienced One! 

The final two hours went pretty much exactly as I’d expected they would. They all seemed to be finding it tough, the heat was getting unbearable, I don’t think any of them had eaten breakfast, they’d never run further than two and a half hours before, and they were probably wondering what on earth they were doing out there.

Amos Kimutai and Silvester looked ok, in fact Amos looked pretty strong,  David, Abraham, and Amos Kibet had dropped back a little. This was the point I expected at least two of them to drop… But they didn’t, they just kept circling the track, powering on.. I’d had no doubt that physically these guys would cope with six hours of continuous running, I wondered how they would cope mentally. They were proving that they had the drive and motivation to run ultras, wanting it bad enough wasn’t really a question I should even be thinking about, let’s be honest, who wants it more? The middle class Westerner, with his nice house, decent car, and full time job or the Kenyan with nothing desperate to make just a little bit of money to feed his family?

I was told by some Kenyan coaches that the two reasons they would not complete the 6 hours would be either boredom, or blowing up by going out too fast, it’s well known that the Kenyans like to run hard from the off, people told me they wouldn’t be able to control the pace, they’d struggle to keep it easy and finish the full six hours. I disagreed, I’ve run recovery runs with these guys, they sometimes run at 11 minute mile pace, they know how to run easy.. My instruction to them at the beginning was to think of it as a six hour recovery run.. It worked….

All 5 of the guys finished the trial, with Amos Kimutai and Silvester running 69k and the others ranging between 62k and 68k. Now those figures don’t sound too impressive when comparing to other world class ultra runners, but bear in mind these guys were running completely within themselves, off of no specific ultra training (no long training runs), fasted, and were specifically told by me to keep the pace easy and just ensure to make it to 6 hours.

The relief to finish was obvious to see though.. I was so pleased for them all, they had proven that they could do it, they had all run their first ultra, this would be the start of bigger things for all of them.

I gave the guys a small amount of money for some food, their diet is so basic, and often these guys will only eat a bowl of ugali and a banana in a day, I told them to go and eat a decent meal and gave them enough to buy shopping for food for the next week. This is part of the project that is a challenge for me on a weekly basis, the guys need to eat well, with the training program I’ve now put them on they should be eating a bare minimum of 3500Kcal per day, they have been eating more like 2000Kcal and before joining the team they were likely eating less than 1000kcal per day. Before leaving Kenya a couple of weeks ago I met the team and gave them all money for a few weeks for food but part of what I want to achieve with raising funds, setting up the camp, etc. is to ensure that the guys never have to worry about where they’ll get food from, they can concentrate on their training knowing that they will be eating enough to fuel and recover from their training.

So the 5 guys from the trial would join Arnold on the team. A few days later Coach john Ewoi had set up a meeting with the winner of the 2018 Mombasa Marathon, Dismas Lodiira. According to John, Dismas would be extremely keen on running ultras and apparently often runs 70k training runs in the Nandi hills.

We met at the Elgon Valley hotel, Dismas turned up with a lady called Ziporah Eleman, Ziporah had won a marathon in Peru last year in 2:34, run a few trail marathons, and was keen on spending more time on the trails than on the roads. We spoke about trail ultras and she was excited be the prospect. I liked her, she was aware that she’d need to train and build up to the longer distances, she understood that it would take time, but she was keen and eager, and ready to join us.

Me with Dismas and Ziporah

I’m really pleased to have a female on the team, female ultra runners are making huge waves throughout the world at the moment so it’ll be great to see what the Kenyan women can do too!

When I started speaking to Dismas I could tell that he was already ready to race ultras. He told me that he does his 70k training runs in 4:03, that’s four hours and three minutes, Add on another 30k in a couple of hours and he has the world 100k record!!!! Bearing in mind his 70k training run is done fasted, on hilly trails, and at nearly 8000ft altitude! It’s incredible to think what this guy will do on a road 100k race at sea level, he is going to shatter the world record of 6:09 set by Japanese runner Nao Kazami.

 

I am so excited to have Dismas on the team and am currently looking for the right race to take him to within the next couple of months, he would win 99.9% of races up to 100k anywhere in the world right now.

The final member of the team for now shouted out after me during my last week in Kenya as I was jogging home after my afternoon run..

“Excuse me coach” He shouted, I slowed a little so he could catch up with me..

“You are the Ultra running coach, correct? I want to join your team”

As I’ve done with everyone I’ve spoken to about this I first ask if they are familiar with ultra marathons..

“yes sir, I have run an Ultra marathon in London”

Francis Bowen telling me how it all went wrong at The Wendover Woods 50.

Impossible I thought, there’s only one guy I know of that went to the UK to run an ultra and that was with Adharanand Finn the author of the book ‘Running with the Kenyans’

“It was a 50 mile race ultra, in the woods, I was leading at 30 miles but I got cold and my shoes were too tight so I stopped”

It was him, Francis Bowen.. Francis, or Bowen as he calls himself had gone to the UK to run the Wendover Woods 50 mile race, he hadn’t really trained properly for it and there was no prize money, he got cold, and as it’s 5 loops of 10 miles he decided to stop at the start/finish area after 3 loops. I asked him if there had been $2000 prize money would he have kept going, “for sure” he said, “there’s no way I would have stopped”

These guys need money, they aren’t motivated by money itself it’s more what they can do with the money, buy food, clothes for their children, pay their rent, basic things but that’s all they want.

After meeting Francis again the following day and spending a few hours together chatting he joined the team, I am sure that with a specific plan and a group to train with that Francis a 2:08 marathoner will run a 50 mile race this year and go on to win it. He also brings that little bit of previous ultra racing experience to the team.

So Francis brings the team to 9 members. 9 world class runners that I am so happy to see get an opportunity to do what they do best and show the world what they can do.. The Kenyans are coming!

As I am funding the team myself at the moment I would be really grateful for any support or help anyone can offer, however big or small, what you think may be irrelevant could make a world of difference to these guys. I am lucky to know some amazing people within the ultra running community who have already offered to help in different ways and I am incredibly thankful for this, more details on these partnerships will be announced soon.

The guys need food, rent, kit, shoes, and hopefully with some sponsor support we can fund their flights and accommodation to races.

Please get in touch with me for a chat if you think you can offer some help and join this amazing journey with us, whether it’s a sponsorship deal, some help for food, or even if it’s just a pair of old trainers, or a watch you no longer use.

From all new coaching clients I take on this month (March) a full 12 months of their fee will go towards the team, helping them to eat, buy kit, pay rent, and race. So If you’re thinking of hiring a running coach or have some big running goals that you’d like some help with please consider my online/distance coaching. It’s a win win situation, you get a year of coaching from me whilst also joining this journey with us and helping to fund the world’s first Kenyan Ultra running Team..

 

Next Time…..  Training for Ultras..