MEET AT THE CORNER SHOP – FARTLEK INTO MAASAI LAND

The Corner Shop in Ngong

Ngong, Kenya – The town of Ngong awakens early, well before the sun, as many of its 57,000 residents must commute into Nairobi for work. And with major road reconstruction along Langata Road into the capital advancing at a snail’s pace this summer – workers are replacing the porous roadbed of black cotton soil for the more compact sub-structure of red clay – the morning commute will be more congested than ever through the next several months.

A bustling little town, Ngong is the training home to a number of Kenya’s top distance runners, including marathon world record holder Patrick Makau.  Today, we have scheduled to meet Makau and his group at 6:10 a.m. at the Corner Shop, a small convenience store just a few hundred meters down from Ngong Center.

Pauline Kariuki, owner of the Corner Shop

Owned by Pauline Kariuki who, like many such proprietors, lives behind her place of business, the Corner Shop is little more than a hole-in-the-wall selling cigarettes, gum, candy, and other light fare and dry goods.  But though tiny, it holds an elevated position as one of the running world’s most unlikely landmarks, serving as the gathering point for the area runners who congregate there each morning for their training.

Situated at an altitude of 1961 meters, 6471 feet, Ngong is lower in altitude than the towns of Eldoret and Iten, some 300+ kilometers to the northwest.  But, as 2:07 marathoner Wilfred Kibet Kigen informed me as he waited for his 10 mates to arrive, Ngong is very good for training because it offers the advantage of both high altitude training around Ngong, and lower altitude training down into Maasai land which allows higher quality speed work than at the higher altitudes to the northwest.

Since he was not selected to represent Kenya at the London Olympics, marathon world record holder Patrick Makau’s attention has turned to the fall marathon season. And though no final choice of cities has yet been made, he most likely will not be defending his Berlin title from 2011 where he set his 2:03:38 world mark last September.

As the sun peaks through the low-hanging clouds, Patrick is joined by 2:10 marathoner Eric Nzioki, who, like Makau hails from Machakos; Albanus Kioko, a 63-minute half-marathoner from Kangundo; and junior runner Boniface Kitla, also of Kangundo.

Throughout today’s run, Makau will be wearing a pair of Pegasus Sports Performance sensors on his shoe laces, and an android cell phone tucked in a belt pouch strapped to the small of his back. With this equipment, we will record and transmit data monitoring Patrick’s cadence, rear kick dynamic, ground contact time, and pronation during the course of his 1:30 workout, which will include the warm up and cool down phases. Continue reading