Lornah Kiplagat, the former world half marathon record holder - and multiple record holder on the road - is one of the most decorated female runners from the athletics heartland of Keiyo-Marakwet County.
Kiplagat acquired Dutch citizenship a decade ago after she married Pieter Langerhorst.
Her husband, a Dutchman, is one of several high-achieving female athletes from the region who stirred their running talents while herding goats in public forests.
Other former goat-herders-turned-track stars include double world champion Vivian Cheruiyot, world marathon champion Edna Kiplagat and Olympic marathon bronze medallist Sharon Cherop.
These athletes, among many others in the production line of the forest training, spruced up their speed along the forest North Rift trails.
But the tradition is soon set to change with the construction of a synthetic 400-metre tartan track at the soon-to-be-launched, women-only Lornah Kiplagat Sports Academy near Iten.
Sports minister Ababu Namwamba will on Saturday morning preside over the ground breaking ceremony of the all-weather tartan track, which is situated along Eldoret-Iten highway.
Great Britain’s Olympic 5,000 and 10,000 metres champion Mo Farah, who has already pitched pre-season camp at Kiplagat’s High Altitude Training Centre, will also be at the launch.
Also launching on Saturday is the Lorna Kiplagat Sports Academy – an exclusive women’s pre-university institution that will cost about Sh1 billion upon its completion.
The track project – which will produce the first tartan track outside Nairobi after similar ones at the Nyayo National Stadium and Moi International Sports Centre Kasarani – will be completed in four months.
The Iten track will help the hundreds of local and foreign athletes in their speed work programmes.
High altitude training sites
Kiplagat said they would to ensure the track is ready by May 1, to enable Kenyan athletes prepare for the IAAF World Championships in Moscow at altitude, and on a tartan track.
“I have trained in some of the world’s best high altitude training sites that include the Boulder in Colorado, USA and St Moritz in Switzerland, but Iten remains the place of choice. We only miss a tartan track,” said Kiplagat, a four-time World Half Marathon champion.
“Kenya has lagged behind in other sports disciplines and the track is meant to bridge the gap and have Kenyan athletes train in the disciplines. I am confident that in the next Olympics or any other event, Kenyan athletes will be shining in these fields.”
The Lornah Kiplagat Sports Academy, a pre-university institution will be a bridge between form four and university for talented girls from underprivileged families.
First batch of students
“It will equip them with a number of skills on insurance, banking, investment, entrepreneurship and many others,” said Kiplagat.
The campus will be built on a 50-acre plot, about one kilometre from Iten, and will be completed with hockey fields, basketball and volleyball courts.
The Lorna Kiplagat Sports Academy will work closely with Moi University and some of the best universities in the all over the world including the Utrecht University in The Netherlands and another in Indiana in USA in the search for scholarships.
The first batch of students at Lornah Kiplagat Sports Academy (LSKA) will enroll next year when the 400-metre tartan track, class rooms, dorms and a restaurant for the students are complete.
“The Lornah Kiplagat Sports Academy will give girls from an underprivileged background the opportunity to combine sport and education after they finished high school. Girls are selected from all over Kenya based on their academic performance and talent in sport,” said Langerhorst.
“The LKSA’s focus is on athletics, volleyball, field hockey and basketball. The construction starts next Saturday with work on an all-weather 400 metre tartan track. The opening of the track is planned for the end of April.”
Langerhorst added that local schools along with local and international athletes will be given the opportunity to use the track.
“In May, 2013 LKSA will start the construction of the first class rooms and dorms and the first phase will be ready in 2014 when the first students report.
“The Lornah Kiplagat Foundation will decide which girls get a scholarship for the LKSA and they will support them financially.”