NAIROBI, Kenya, February 1- Athletics royalty gathered for the grand opening of the ultra-modern Lornah Kiplagat Sports Academy in Iten marking the beginning of the use of the first tartan track outside Kenya’s capital Nairobi.
Having been funded by a partnership between the Lornah Kiplagat Foundation and London Marathon, the organisers of the April 13 blue riband World Marathon Majors event also took the opportunity to launch their imposing men’s field.
The honour to cut the tape to open the red tartan that took a year to construct fell to double Olympics and world champion, Britain’s Mo Farah, decked in traditional Maasai headgear alongside two-time Olympics and three-time World steeplechase champion, Ezekiel Kemboi.
Besides and behind them, a constellation of some of the best distance runners in history including world marathon’s women record holder, Paula Radcliffe, stood and applauded the fruition of the dream of Kenyan-born Dutch former world half marathon record holder, Lornah Kiplagat.
“I’m so delighted that this project has finally come to being. We took the proposal to set up the academy and tartan track to many, including the Government and it was London Marathon that answered.
“With time, it will help create many champions not only from Kenya but from other countries as well,” Kiplagat, the 2007 World Cross women’s senior gold winner and thrice World Half champion stated.
“The combination of running at altitude, excellent rehabilitation facilities provided by British Athletics, and some of the best training partners in the world have made Iten the Mecca for distance runners.
“I’m sure the advent of this new track will further help our distance runners achieve their goals in future championships and improve their standards,” London Marathon Race Director, Hugh Brasher, added on the project that will be key in improving the standards of British distance running.
“My preparation for London had been going for many months and years. Part of that was the London Marathon altitude camps,” Farah, who completed the half marathon last year but will go the full distance this time said.
“As an athlete being able to get away from any distractions and do my training helped me to prepare. I could switch off and channel my energies to areas where it needed to go. Being surrounded by other athletes also helped motivate me and what I was doing more enjoyable,” the London and Moscow double gold medallist said of the high altitude training in Iten that was launched by British Athletics in 2010 with the support of the London Marathon.
“This project will not only help British athletes but the local community as well. I’m delighted to have been here to see it start since we need to ensure our athletes and those from here get the best possible training,” Radcliffe, the 2000 World Cross women’s champion and three-time London champion offered.
“This is a challenge to our Government to build such facilities. It has taken the effort of an athlete to bring a tartan track here (Iten) that will help us a lot since we don’t need to travel to Nairobi.
“It took Lornah about four months to make this happen and we are very happy as athletes to have a proper track to train,” Kemboi stressed.
Besides Farah and fellow exciting debutant, Ibrahim Jeilan, from Ethiopia, the last man to beat the British distance icon on track, event course record holder, Emmanuel Mutai, New York champion, Geoffrey Mutai and 2012 Paris Marathon winner, Stanley Biwott were present for the launch of the elite men’s field.
Defending London women’s champion, Priscah Jeptoo, two-time world champion, Edna Kiplagat, Berlin champion, Florence Kiplagat, two-time London titleholder, Mary Keitany were present. Only the latter has not been confirmed to race the women’s race on April 13.
Nairobi’s Moi International Sports Complex, Kasarani and Nyayo National Stadium were the only facilities with the all weather tartan track until Saturday.