|Lornah Kiplagat's track in Iten|
On the 14th day of January 2013, work began on the site of the track that was being constructed by Lornah Kiplagat in Iten, Kenya.
The field had to be cleared, and all the loose soil excavated and carried out of the site before being replaced by hard subsoil brought from nearby quarries and leveled.
Given the typical landscape of Iten, where it is almost impossible to find a flat field anywhere, it definitely was not an easy job.
I was impressed by the progress that had happened in such a short time. In comparison, it had taken the Kipchoge Keino Stadium in Eldoret over five years to be renovated despite the excavation and groundwork having already been done on it. So, you can imagine my perplexity when I saw a track coming up almost to completion in barely two months! I was visiting the track in March. You will forgive me for getting perplexed, but I am used to most of them taking years.
The man who foresaw the construction, Pius Toroitich expressed his optimism that the track would be ready sometime in April that year.
As we spoke, one container of the tartan track had already arrived at the port of Mombasa with three more to arrive by not later than the 5th of March.
Having been working most of his time in Abu Dhabi, UAE, he said he was glad to be overseeing the first all-weather-track being constructed out of Nairobi.
Pius has been working with event and race organizers in UAE and he knows very well the benefits such a track will have on the community and the running industry as a whole in the country. He even wondered during our talk on whether, once the track was completed, some race organizers would not consider organizing their big races here and save on the money they would normally pay for air tickets, hotel accommodation and appearance money to get Kenyan athletes to go and race abroad.
Looking at the way the track had been planned and built such that there was a raised ground around the northern part of it to offer a vantage position for spectators to watch track events, I wondered why it was not being called a stadium instead of a track.
From the site, there is a scenic topography as far as the eyes could see past the track towards the west, the south and part of the east and I silently wished that high wall will never be constructed around it.
Pictures that will be taken of athletes training or competing on it will just be marvelous against the landscape. Good underground drainage systems had been put in place to ensure that the rainy conditions will not affect it. Excess water will be channeled to a dam. Underground water pipes have also been put in place to be used in irrigating the grass in the field during dry seasons so that the inside of the track will be green throughout the year.
According to Pius, the track will be open to all athletes training around Iten, which is contrary to what some people are alleging that it will serve some specific girls alone.
“It is the academy that will be built next to it that is to serve girls who just finished their high school education and would like to nurture their talents in running, either for the purpose of getting scholarships to further their studies, or to run commercially,” said Pius.
So far, everything had been going on right on schedule with the 16-week plan that was charted for the completion of the track. They were finalizing on week 9's plan during my visit, which means approximately seven weeks were then remaining before the track would be operational.
"The only thing that may affect our schedule slightly is the general elections that will happen on Monday. We will give workers two days off to vote and to follow on the results", says Kiprotich, who was one of the engineers working on the site.
Another thing that would have affected the schedule also was the weather. The final stages of putting on asphalt and laying the tartan would need dry weather conditions. The other two engineers on the ground were Raul and Flora from the Netherlands.
"To be safe, we can say the track will be ready by May 1st," said Pius.
With the High Altitude Training Centre she established, and now with the track, Lornah Kiplagat continues having a great impact in making Iten the best place in the world for distance runners to come and train.