Golden pay-off for the pain
Posted Thursday, January 19 2012 at 00:00
The fine sportsmen and women of Nyandarua have contributed hugely to the country’s athletics medal haul and made the county an athletics powerhouse in Central Province.
Among the top names who call Nyandarua their home are five-time world cross country champion and the 1988 Seoul Korea Olympic games 5,000m gold medalist, John Ngugi, and the 2008 Beijing Olympic marathon champion, the late Samuel Kamau Wanjiru.
Another running star is Ruth Waithera who in 1984 became the first African woman to reach the 400m final at an Olympic games.
The 1988 Seoul Olympics gold medalist in the 3,000 metres steeplechase, Julius Kariuki, was born in Nyandarua but now lives in Uasin Gishu County.
But if the county has lost one star it has also gained another, because the Melbourne Olympics 10,000m gold medallist Lucy Wangui Kabuu, who was born in Nyeri, has now settled in Nyandarua.
So why does Nyandarua — and more so its former district headquarters Nyahururu —produce such successful sportsmen and women?
The answer could lie in the so-called sacred training sites used by the world beaters of yesteryear, like the former king of steeplechase Moses Kiptanui, cross country star Ngugi and the former armed forces champion Paul Koech.
A Nyahururu based coach and physiotherapist, Mr Evaristo Mogaka, said Kenyan athletes could rediscover their record breaking ways if they went back to the sacred grounds found in this high altitude area.
Among those runners who used the sites was Daniel Komen, whose 3,000m record of seven minutes and 20 seconds is still referred to as Mt Everest – because it is almost impossible to break.
These sites include a steep 400m route at a hill next to Thomson Falls, a set of staircases at the falls, and two routes deep in the Marmanet forest.
One of these venues is known worldwide but very few people notice it, since the attention of many passers-by is focussed on the falls named after the British explorer Joseph Thomson 125 years ago.
Even locals just refer to the small hill as Telekom Hill because of the satellite dishes on its summit. It also acts as a fire surveillance point for Ewasonarok on the eastern side of Nyahururu Town.
But unlike the falls that attract hundreds of tourists each year, the hill that is regarded worldwide as behind the sporting success of Nyahururu rarely attracts attention.
In fact it is one of the most revered athletic training sites in Nyahururu and those who used the route in the past advise budding runners not to ignore this circuit, known as Agony Hill or Figure of Eight”.
“You feel pain while training at the hill but you gain a lot,” said Robert Kioni, an athletics coach.
During the funeral service of Samuel Wanjiru at Nyahururu Stadium, National Olympic Committee of Kenya chairman Kipchoge Keino advised runners to use the hill, noting that it had produced world class achievers in the sport.
Kip Keino was in the team that camped at Nyahururu to prepare for the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City.
And it was the endurance he and Naftali Temu showed by running up the 400m hill that saw them return from Mexico with medals around their necks.