Blog: Kenyan altitude training
Wondering what it's like to join the top athletes on altitude training in the mecca of running? From now on, you can book your package trip to former top athlete Lornah Kiplagat's HATC in Iten, Kenya, located in the Rift Valley at an altitude of 2,400 metres. A period to focus entirely on running, or alternate with breathtaking safaris and excursions? It's all possible. We took the test and recently went to Iten for 10 days with our ambassador Natalie (in Dutch).
On a chilly Monday evening in January, we fly via Nairobi to Eldoret where we are warmly welcomed by our guide Alewijn. A van from the HATC takes us to Iten in 45 minutes; Home of Champions it says proudly on the arch over the road.
The porter checks us in and we settle into the simple functional room near the pool. After a short tour of the complex, lunch and walk to the village to withdraw Kenyan Schillings, we stock up on water at the small stand next to the HATC (80 cents for 5 litres) and get ready for a little run, which is what we came for, after all. Lovely after such a long journey, but immediately it becomes clear that it will take some time getting used to; no road is flat, there are stones everywhere and you can feel the altitude in your breathing. But finally the familiar red paths are there!
Time for dinner; like all meals, dinner is at the restaurant where all athletes present eat what comes directly from the land of the HATC; simple, unprocessed and pure. There is a main meal here 3x a day and twice a day you can prepare a healthy snack there. Allergies and dietary requirements can be communicated to the kitchen. We end the evening with Kenyan tea in The Club of the HATC.
The following days introduce us to the Kenyan way of training. An example of a day in Iten:
- up early for training in the cool morning accompanied by a beautiful sunrise
- a good breakfast in the restaurant
- walk in the surroundings of Iten with a stop at the viewpoint where you can enjoy a fresh mango/passifruit juice and a magnificent view of the Rift Valley
- a hot lunch
- relaxing by the pool
- work out in the gym or a core workout with Kenyan athletes
- a sports massage at the HATC
- a hot evening meal
- end the day with a drink at The Club
A very special practice of fartlek training. We gather with about 50 runners at a point just outside Iten. Plan for this workout; 1 minute of gentle dribbling as a warm-up and then an interval of 1 minute of hard and 1 minute of very gentle running. The first minute we dribble along quietly with the group, then we hear the first whistle of the trainer driving along in a van. All we see then is a red cloud of dust from the runners literally blasting away. We have to laugh hard about it, but it is great to see these men and women like this. At our own pace, we continue the training over the endless red dust trails full of stones until the van comes to pick us up as agreed. Great experience.
From Iten, you can also book all kinds of excursions and activities. We were keen to experience a safari and chose to travel to Lake Nakuru. After a bus ride of over 4 hours, we arrived at the nature park around the big lake at 8 o'clock in the morning. Our private driver drives an amazing route through a great diversity of Kenyan nature. Flat savannahs, narrow paths along the lake, through the forest and over steep slopes. We spot countless animals; buffalo, zebra, meerkats, warthogs, flamingos, antelopes, gazelles. We are lucky, twice spotting rhinos up close. What impressive animals! Several giraffes also let themselves be admired. What a fantastic experience, well worth the long bus ride.
We also had the opportunity to see a local school. What a huge contrast to schools as we know them! The children are at school in several classes just like ours. All neatly in uniform. By our standards, conditions are very poor. Old school desks, broken windows. The children are happy to have the opportunity to go to school at all. We leave behind crayons, markers, paper, colouring books and T-shirts that they were extremely happy with. Pretty impressive to see when you compare it to our schools.
Also part of the HATC is the private athletics track about 2.5 kilometres from the HATC. We were able to make use of that too. Natalie could immediately use her brand new ASICS spikes there, bought in one of the small sports shops in Iten. What a luxury to have the track practically to ourselves, the only other users that morning being a delegation of the Polish national team. Nice detail: right next to the track is the plantation where all the HATC's food is grown. The farm currently behind the track will make way this year for housing for girls who can go to school and also train thanks to the Lornah Kiplagat Foundation.
Near Iten are 3 waterfalls; led by guide Koen Raymaekers (multiple Dutch champion at various long distances and currently living in Iten), we make a beautiful hike through a forest area where we spot nose birds, encounter the occasional stray cow and where monkeys jump through the trees. Due to the drought, the waterfalls are drier than after the rainy season, but this hike was definitely worth it.
Far too soon, our trip comes to an end. We drive back to Eldoret to fly to Nairobi. Since the connection to Amsterdam is not optimal, we opted to go to Nairobi in the morning so that we could have a good night's stay in a hotel near the airport. Since we were already in Nairobi around noon now, we can still do a safari in the Nairobi National Park which is literally next to the airport. And we don't regret that for a moment! On the way to the entrance, we even see the first rhinos along the road, unreal... And after the buffalo and rhino, we can tick off number three of the Big Five: a lioness allows herself to be extensively admired after she has made a herd of gazelles nervous. Here too we are treated to a diversity of beautiful animals, hippos, crocodiles, more zebras, buffaloes and giraffes roam the savannah.
And after a delicious sumptuous dinner buffet and yet short night, we fly back to the Netherlands. Lots of experiences richer. When Natalie starts training at home again, even a week of training at altitude turns out to have an effect. With a considerably lower heart rate, faster speeds are completed. This makes us very curious about the long-term effects.
See below for a photo impression of the run to the HATC in Iten, Kenya. Be sure to check out the Instagram highlights at @loopreizen and @glamrunner for even more footage.
Curious about the possibilities of going on altitude training with us or do you have any questions about this amazing trip? Then get in touch with us via the contact form or via email.