Sports

Nyahururu town’s training base credited with creating some of the world’s greatest athletes

David Macharia

For a long time now, success at world level of runners who trained in Nyahururu has been attributed to a local hill in the vicinity of the Rift Valley town.

International Amateur Athletics Federations (IAAF) president Lord Sebastian Coe preferred this region as his training base during his heyday as 800m king as he dominated the world tracks over the distance.

Among the past runners who conquered the world after training in Nyahururu include the former 3,000m steeplechase king Moses Kiptanui who is now a successful businessman in Eldoret town, former of world cross-country champion John Ngugi and the former champion of the Armed Forces championships Paul Koech. Another notable one is Daniel Komen whose 3,000m world record of 7:20.67 in 1996 is still referred to as ‘Mt Everest’ of the track records because other runners have failed in their attempt to break it.

A Nyahururu-based physiotherapist Evaristo Mogaka says the hill known as ‘Agony Hill’ is among ‘sacred training venues’ for athletes based in the town.

Agony Hill is known worldwide but very few people notice it since attention of many of those who pass nearby is attracted to the historical Thomson Falls that were “discovered” by a Briton Joseph Thomson over 125 years ago.  The Agony Hill lies in the eastern side of the waterfalls.

But unlike the falls that attract hundreds of both local and foreign tourists each year, the hill that is regarded worldwide as the magic behind the athletics sporting success of Nyahururu rarely attracts attention.

The hill is one of the most revered athletic training scenes in Nyahururu and those who used the routes in the past advise budding runners, who venture into the sport with world records or titles in mind, ‘not ignore Agony Hill’.

Former chairman of National Olympic Committee of Kenya (NOC-K), Kipchoge Keino has in the past advised runners training in Nyahururu to make use of the hill saying it had produced world-class achievements in the sport.

Among the people the ‘ill shaped to become known internationally more that some African presidents is legendary Kipchoge Keino ‘Kip’. Kipchoge was in the team that camped in Nyahururu to prepare for the 1968 Olympic Games that were held in Mexico City, in Mexico, South America.

The endurance instilled on Kip and Naftali Temu by running up the 400m hill several times when the team went there for hill work saw them return from the Mexico games with several medals hanging around their necks.

In Mexico City, Kipchoge Keino won 1,500m gold and 5,000m silver, Naftali Temu won gold in 10,000m and bronze in 5,000m, Amos Biwott brought gold in 3,000m steeplechase, Wilson Kiprugut 800m (silver), Benjamin Kogo (alias Ben Kogo) 3,000m steeplechase (silver) and quartet of Daniel Rudisha, Charles Asati, Natali Bon and Heze Nyamau won silver in the 4x400m relay race.

Kiptanui trained in Nyahururu during the time he set one world record after another in addition to winning world titles; 3,000m steeplechase in 1991, 1993 and 1995. Kiptanui set world records of 7:28.96 seconds in 3,000m steeplechase in 1992 and in 1995 he broke the 5,000m record by clocking 12:55.30 seconds among many others records during his running career.

Others who used Agony Hill as their launching pad to world achievements include Kimutai Koskei, second finisher at the Boston Marathon in 2000, the two time 4km world cross country championships winner John Kibowen, Noah Ngeny the 2000 Sydney Olympic 1,500m winner and two celebrated Tanzanian athletes, John Yuda and Fabian Joseph.

winning performance. The 18-year-old, running on lane three, left it late as usual before zooming to a personal best time of 52:85 to win the second heat.

Moraa improved on her time by almost two seconds and left in her wake Andrea Miklos of Romania, Elisabetta Vandi of Italy and Ethiopia’s Frehiywot Wondie to scrap for remaining qualifying slots.

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