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If you follow the exciting world of marathon running or even if you’re just a casual observer, it’s hard not to notice a trend.
Winners sprinting straight from Kenya to the finish line.
There was a time when Kenya’s high-altitude training centres were only available to professional marathoners. But while Running With Kenya’s Elite Athletes, guests get access to the training facilities and the professional marathoners… as well as the Kenyan climate, perfect for running and, of course, safari.
Both the casual running aficionados and hardcore racers will enjoy literally running in the footsteps of champions on this 10-day itinerary. Included are training stops at two of the most lauded high-elevation running centres in the world, Eldoret and Iten, where such champions as Kenyan New York City Marathon silver-medal winner Lucas Rotich and gold-medalist Mary Keitany have trained.
Guests will meet and train with elite runners, race with up-and-coming local athletes and, if they so wish, end their marathon training by racing in a local half- or full marathon.
To keep the runner’s high going, guests will receive the ultimate reward for a race well run: A luxury safari in Kenya’s spectacular Maasai Mara Reserve. The Mara is considered the finest game sanctuary in Kenya, home to an astonishing number and variety of animals. During the Great Migration, hundreds of thousands of migratory wildebeest, gazelle and zebra move back and forth between the Mara and the plains to the south – running, not unlike the athletes that call the country home.
Fly from Nairobi through the stunning Great Rift Valley to Eldoret, arriving in time for lunch at the Eldoret Club, one of the premier spots for runner training in the world. We spend the afternoon here, stopping at Kipchoge Stadium, where elite runners train among school kids, and dropping in at the bookshop and office of the man for whom the stadium is named, two-time Olympic Champion Kipchoge Keino, the former chairman of the Kenyan Olympic Committee. We return to the Club in time for a run on the golf course and perhaps a swim. We have supper at the Club with a few local running celebrities as our guests, such as Keino, Patrick Sang and Moses Kiptanui. Overnight at the Eldoret Club.
After a run with a local Olympian or two, we drive to Kipchoge Keino’s nearby farm. The farm is the site of a training camp for runners from all over Africa. The centre is listed by the IAAF as one of the few High performance Training Centers in the world. Tour the camp and have lunch with the runners. After lunch, we drive 20 miles to Kaptagat, site of separate camps sponsored by Fila, Nike and Adidas. If you’ve got your running shoes, join camp athletes on a relaxed 7-mile run to picturesque Kaptarakwa on the edge of the Rift Valley. Others drive the long way around. We have tea at Kaptarakwa at the home of a prominent local runner (e.g., Sammy Kipketer, Richard Limo, John Kibowen), and return to Eldoret for supper at the home of another well known athlete, followed by videos showing highlights of some of the runners we’ve just met. Overnight at the Eldoret Club.
After a morning run, we drive to the town of Iten (20 miles), bringing our running gear to visit Lornah Kiplagat’s Iten High Altitude Training Centre, the subject of a PBS documentary as well as numerous articles by running journalists from around the world. Running champion Kiplagat built the Centre in 2000 to help nurture local female runners. After lunch at the Centre, we walk to St. Patrick’s High School, founded in 1961, the alma mater of more world-class runners than any educational institution in the world. After a tour of nearby St. Patrick’s Cathedral, take an afternoon run with its athletes, then shower and change. Supper is at nearby Kerio View, a luxurious private lodge built by a Belgian industrialist and running enthusiast. The dining room overlooks a spectacular panorama of the Rift Valley. Return to Eldoret. Overnight at the Boma Hotel.
A day of rest for golf, swimming and relaxing at the Eldoret Club, which, on Sunday afternoons, is a gathering spot for some of the town’s running luminaries. Supper, with a few of those luminaries, will be at the Club or the Spice Palace, a local Indian restaurant. Overnight at the Boma Hotel.
We set off early, with running gear, for Kapsait, a remote village 10,000 feet up in the Cherangany Hills. Our destination is Fila’s newly built marathon training camp, which is turning out many of Kenya’s most promising young runners. We join the camp athletes for part of their mid-morning run, then join them for lunch. After a stop at the local school and Tegla Loroupe’s nearby childhood home, we take the scenic route back to Eldoret. Overnight at the Boma Hotel.
After a morning run, we leave Eldoret, packed, for points south. Our first stop is Kapsabet, where we pass the childhood homes of Kipchoge Keino, Wilson Kipketer, Henry Rono, Mike Boit and dozens of other Olympic medalists and world record holders, all within a few miles of one another. This is the Kenyan equivalent of the Hollywood Stars tour. Lunch is at the home of one of the area’s runners, after which we drive – via historic Nandi Hills, site of a notorious incident in Kenya’s early colonial period – to Kericho, where we move into rooms at the Tea Hotel, a once-grand colonial establishment overlooking green hills of tea. Supper is at the hotel with local runners, such as Joyce Chepchumba, John Korir and William Chirchir. Overnight in Kericho.
We take a morning run through the tea plantations, then set off for Maasai Mara, via the village of Bomet, where we meet a few more runners for lunch. We reach Maasai Mara in time for a late afternoon game drive.
Check-in at the Fairmont Mara Safari Club. Settle in and relax before we make our first game run this afternoon. Enjoy the atmosphere of the tented camp, which evokes fantasies of days gone by when intrepid adventurers travelled these plains in search of a big game.
This is the Africa of your imagination, where panoramas are vast. It is a country of rolling grasslands, dense thickets of scrub, and groves of acacia woodland where predators might hide. Luxuriant forest grows along the banks of the Mara River, where hippos and crocodiles bask in the sun.
The Mara is considered the finest game sanctuary in Kenya, home to an astonishing number and variety of animals. Depending on the season, hundreds of thousands of migratory wildebeest, gazelle and zebra move back and forth between the Mara and the plains to the south. We return to our lodge in time for a leisurely supper. Overnight at Fairmont Mara Safari Club.
A day at Maasai Mara, with elegantly prepared meals, a luxurious swimming pool and morning and evening game drives among Africa’s most spectacular wild herds and predators – a break from our steady diet of running.
This is true big game country, where prides of more than twenty lions, including the majestic black-maned male, are not uncommon. Other inhabitants of the Mara include elephant, giraffe, buffalo, cheetah, leopard, hyena, topi, gazelle and black rhino, and hippos can be found along the Mara River.
There is no way to predict what we might see on our game drive this morning, so keep your eyes open. The trees in the distance might turn out to be a family of giraffes. That clump of bushes, a pride of lions. And the rock that moves could be a rhino lumbering out of your way. With diligence and some luck, we may encounter a family of cheetahs, or a herd of elephants crossing the path in front of us. And large animals aren’t the only entertainment – you may be amused by a family of warthogs, startled into running as fast as their little legs will carry them, until they forget why they are rushing and stop to regroup.
With morning and evening game drives, we should be able to add quite an assortment of wildlife to our own personal checklist. Overnight at Fairmont Mara Safari Club.
Our day begins with a game run in the cool morning, when the animals are most active. It is the best time to experience the full range of wildlife in the reserve.
After the morning game drive, we’re off for Nairobi. The largest city between Cairo and Johannesburg, Nairobi is a cosmopolitan capital city. Graceful jacaranda and bougainvillea line the main streets, and parks and gardens occupy large areas in the center.
The city has undergone a dramatic expansion in its recent past. Today Nairobi boasts of a thriving business center, with the modern Kenyatta Conference Centre and Parliament Building, first-class restaurants and hotels. The more traditional architecture of the colonial era still survives in colorful wooden buildings with tiled roofs and arcades.
We move into rooms at the Norfolk Hotel and spend the afternoon strolling or shopping downtown, with a late-afternoon run in Uhuru Park.
Supper is at the superb Indian restaurant Haandi with our guests. Overnight at the Fairmont Norfolk Hotel.
Today we will enjoy all that Nairobi has to offer – we will come eye-to-eye with graceful giraffes at Giraffe Centre and visit the home of Karen von Blixen, author of Out of Africa. The surrounding area, now called Karen Estates, was the site of her coffee plantation. We tour her small home and her lovely garden with beautiful views of the Ngong Hills.
After a farewell dinner, transfer to the airport for the flight towards home. Bid farewell to Africa knowing that this has been a journey we will remember for the rest of our life.
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