Switzerland’s long distance running star Julien Wanders fell in love with Iten in 2014 when he was just 18 years old, and later found the love of his life in that land.
On that first visit, he told his parents he wanted to be training in Kenya, and that wish came to pass.
So smitten was Wanders, the European Half Marathon record holder, that when the coronavirus pandemic hit the world, he decided to remain in Iten and continue with his individual training, following the guidelines set by the government of Kenya after all the camps were closed.
“I had the chance to go back home to be with my family but decided to stay here,” he said.
“I have a perfect opportunity to train here alone as we focus on the next season which we are not sure when it will start. I’m happy that the government of Kenya reacted early enough to fight the spread of the virus unlike other countries,” said Wanders, who is under the Global Sports Communications stable.
He hails his girlfriend Joan Jepkorir for supporting him during his training.
“Of course another reason why I decided to remain was because of my girlfriend who I have been dating for the last three years. She has been helping me very much in my training,” he added.
Jepkorir, a graduate of Kenyatta University, also runs a restaurant in Iten.
Wanders, has been training in Iten for the past six years and the love for running made him pack his bags and head to the North Rift region that is teeming with world beaters.
Wanders is under coach Marco Jaeger, who is based in Geneva.
“It has been a long journey for me since I started training in Iten and I am focused to improve my performance after choosing the place as my second home. I have achieved a lot and my performance has improved tremendously,” he said.
The Swiss broke the European Half Marathon record holder during the Ras Al Khaimah Half Marathon last year, clocking 59:13.
In January he grabbed the European 10km record in Valencia, finishing third in a time of 27:13, behind Kenya’s Rhonex Kipruto, who broke the world record with a time of 26:24 while Benard Kimeli was second in 27:12.
He is also in the Switzerland’s Olympic Games team and will compete in the 10,000m race in Tokyo next year.
Wanders was optimistic of lowering his time with his eyes set on the World Half Marathon Championships which was postponed to October 17 in Gydnia, Poland.
Little wonder he chose Elgeyo Marakwet as practically his second home. The area is situated at high altitude. And early this year, when Ethiopian athletics legend Haile Gebrselassie visited Iten interacting with athletes contracted by adidas, he praised the area as one of the best training base in the world.
Wanders was one of the pacemakers in Eliud Kipchoge’s Ineos 1:59 Challenge in Vienna, Austria last year.
Name: Julian Wanders
Date of birth: March 18, 1996
Place of birth: Geneva, Switzerland
Personal best times
5km: 13:29 (WR)
10km: 27:25 (AR)
Half Marathon: 59:13 (AR)