Kenyan Ultra Runners – Part 5


Team Update !!


Back In April training was going smoothly, the only issue were the long runs, the guys were asking for money for cars and drinks, this is what the marathon runners do there, they usually have a car alongside them during a long run passing them drinks every few miles, a luxury that’s quite foreign to us ultra runners. It was annoying to be asked to send money for things like this, I’d set a 60k long run for a Saturday but would get a message that evening saying they stopped at 40k, they needed a car with drinks. It was especially infuriating as I had been out the same morning in Bulgaria running 70k without a car and personal drinks carrier. I told the guys to use a 10k loop, hide some drinks in the trees at the end of the loop and run it 6 times, it’s baffling to hear guys that have nothing and can barely afford to eat asking for money for such ridiculous things, anyway after a few frustrating weeks of trying to get the point across they finally ran 60k around a 10k loop.


I had entered the guys into the Eldoret marathon, this would give me a good idea of where they were all at, they had done nearly 2 months of volume now, as we hadn’t done any marathon specific work I wasn’t expecting them to set super fast times but it would give us an idea and tell us where to take them on the next phase of training along with which race distances to target for each of them.

Francis Bowen messaged to tell me he wouldn’t make the marathon, he was going to race the Masters national cross country championships instead. Something was telling me that Francis was going to drop away from the group, I was hearing some things from the other guys that he was skipping a lot of the runs and was more focused on finding a last big pay day from the marathon.

He went on to win the Cross country race and will now represent Kenya in the masters Cross country champs, good luck to him! He was hoping to make the 50k world championships in Romania this year but for now he has a great opportunity with the shorter stuff so I’ll continue to support him wherever I can and hope he revisits the ultra world again sometime.


Francis winning the Kenyan Masters Cross Country Champs


Ziporah was off doing races too, she’d been invited to the South Sudan 10k. She was training for ultras and so a 10k race was certainly not part of the plan but when these guys get an opportunity to go abroad and race it’s not something that they want to or should turn down, so off she went. She finished 7th which was quite unbelievable with how little speedwork she’d done in training.



She also ran the national masters cross country and finished 3rd, she’s a true talent and with her natural speed and motivation to run huge volume weeks she will really shake up the ultra world in the near future, it’s exciting and an absolute honour to be a part of her journey.


Of the whole group, the one that is probably ready right now to race 100k or longer is Dismas, I’d considered flying him over to the UK for the ACP 100k National champs in perth, Scotland. I had been selected to run for Wales again at the event so would be going anyway and could arrange for Dismas to be in the same hotel, but with the lack of prize money on offer and my funds barely stretching to pay for his flight I was unable to offer any incentive bonus, he wasn’t interested. It’s a shame because I have absolutely no doubt that he would destroy the current world record, but records don’t motivate these guys, feeding their families does and if he can’t make money to bring back to feed his children then what’s the point, I completely get it!


The other guys Abraham, Amos, Silvester, and David were training hard each day, of the four of them I felt that Abraham would be the first one to race, he was the strongest of the four. The plan is to have him race a 100 mile race from Nairobi to Nakuru at the end of June  but first we had the Eldoret marathon…


The Eldoret Marathon.


Coach John Ewoi went to work arranging entries for the while team for the marathon, we would have 7 there so I transferred the entry fees to John along with money for food and travel and some money to pay for his time in arranging. It came to around £250, not a fortune but I was still funding this myself and was starting to wonder how I’d be able to sustain it. The coaching was fine, working on sessions, writing plans, liaising with the guys, etc was costing me nothing but my time but sending cash was not going to be sustainable I kept working on trying to find a sponsor, sending emails and making calls to potential sponsors every day.

On race day the team travelled from Iten to Eldoret together. Unfortunately Amos Kimutai didn’t make it, something had come up which meant he couldn’t travel, very disappointing especially after the late showing at the previous race I’d arranged for him, but some things can’t be helped I guess. The others Abraham, Amos, Silvester, David, Dismas, and Ziporah all made the start line.

Dismas and Ziporah both finished in the top 20, a great result in a race where 2:20 wouldn’t get you in the top 10 of the men’s race. Unfortunately the others failed to finish the race! This was a huge setback, the guys were running marathons in training at faster than 3 hour marathon pace, they could have jogged and finished in 2:45 but as is commonly the way in Kenya, if things aren’t going to plan they just drop out, save it for another day. I understand the thinking here, especially if you’re a world class marathoner and you can just tell it’s not happening for you on the day, but ultras are different, things go wrong, sometimes 5 or 6 times in a race, we blow up, the wheels come off, we’re sick, we’re reduced to walking, the list is endless, but we have to carry on or at least try to keep going. Sometimes we’ll lose the mental battle and drop out, especially if we have a long way to go but we have to try and push on.

The guys were in good shape but I realised that the mental challenge of ultras will likely be the deciding factor in these guys making it, yes they were tough, yes they could handle pain, but when the urge to drop out comes are they going to be able to ignore it?


I decided that Amos wasn’t going to be ready for the Belfast 24, I didn’t want to take Ed’s money and generosity and gamble it on someone I wasn’t 100% sure would manage such a huge leap in distance so soon. The 24 hour format is the toughest ultra running format out there in my opinion, I’ve run 3 of them and trying to solve the puzzle of the 24 hour is my own biggest running goal.

My heart wanted to send Amos, give him the experience, get some cash in his pocket, we’d also get some great publicity for the team I’m sure, but my head didn’t want to throw him in at the deep end, put him off running another ultra, and waste Ed’s money. I went with my head and contacted Ed to let him know, he reassured me that an appearance by a Kenyan would be worth the money and the result wasn’t important but Amos simply wasn’t ready for it, being impatient has been the downfall of so many talented runners, he’s still very young and really could be a world star in ultra running but rushing things will only set us back, he has plenty of time with some exciting times ahead!


Next time….


Amos and the potential big sponsor, Working on the mental game, Interest from TV Productions companies and some unrest within the team..

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Nathan Flear

Elite Endurance Coach and International Athlete


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