After a busy week of eye work, baking and bakery planning we decide to have a two day break in Iten, the capital of world distance running.
2 hours 17 minutes and 28 seconds marathon time, 62 minutes half-marathon. I am running in awe at the discipline, hard work and unassuming passion that the multitude of runners have that train daily or twice daily in Iten. 2400m above sea level, 500m higher than Nakuru, the air feels that much fresher and the temperature is cool and perfect for running. We are with our running guide Timot who’s marathon time is a cool 1 hour 20 minutes faster than mine (1 hour 30 faster than Andrew’s…), beneath our feet is the soft, red, clay tracks. A thin layer or red dust kicks up as we pace through many farms with maize and greens either side of us, children run behind us shouting, “How are you?” In front of us is an incredible view into the Kerio Valley, it plateaus 500m below us then again 500m below that to a lake and valley home to Elephants and Crocodiles (thankfully no crocs up by us!) We are all flying on our feet in admiration to the dedication and hard work of many world class champions, David Rudisha (800m World and Olympic Champion), Wilson Kipketer and of course Mo Farah. We are over taken by local athletes in 20 efficient strides, they look to be barely breathing, calm, relaxed and with clear focus on their faces, we are running (or being overtaken!) with the Kenyans. Their running style is just beautiful, poetry in motion. After 14Km we come round the corner to a 400m track, with some simple well used stadium seating, Timot calmly mentions the names of some of the people who train here. We run a few laps, what a privilege to run where so many have trained for incredible sporting achievements and the most beautiful part, it is just a track next to some farms, simple and so unassuming.
The view from our accommodation
I know that look, I’ve seen it many times before. It is an endorphin high. Madeleine is so excited, she has just returned from a 75 minute run with Stew and a local running guide who makes running look like an effortless art. “You have to go for a run with him!”
It is hard to say no to Madeleine at any time but near impossible when she is this excited. Vineeth, Chris and I set of with Timot (he can run 21km in 62 minutes – I’m not sure I can drive that fast) in to the cool, thin air. We are running the paths some of the worlds most celebrated distance athletes have spent years training. Timot springs on his toes and despite the fact he has already run 15km with Mads this morning he looks like he is barely trying. He takes us on a 17km circuit that loops back to the incredibly understated Kamariny Stadium. This is the 400 meter running track that has seen world record breakers practice their trade. at 8,000ft above sea level, the rusted iron gate and shabby stand on a grassy bank has seen world record runners in the making year after year.
My competitive side comes to life and I ask Timot if we can run a lap together. He sets off setting the pace and I try to stay with him round the first bend. In my head, we are racing, I’m pretty sure the race is in my head only but the pace he is moving at makes me think he’s up for a sprint too. We pass the 200 meter mark and I recall beating Madeleine in a swimming race (again, possibly only in my head), she was 9 months pregnant, had already completed 70 lengths and I decided to race her over one length, I won! Just. I got the usual, “you are such a child” look Mum used to give me as I kicked a soft ball around the living room pretending to be Gary Lineker at the Italia 90 world cup. We hit the final bend and he starts to pull away so I up my pace a little more to hang of his right shoulder. As we come off the bend I move outside him and give it all I have down the home straight. He instantly responds and goes in to a sprint (he still doesn’t look like he is trying mind), he edges ahead but with a final lunge and dip at the line I take the victory in a photo finish (again in my head, there was no photo but there is video evidence!). Gasping for air I look up and he gives me a slightly quizzical look as he continues to cruise round the track and I almost collapse desperate for more oxygen.
Video evidence of the world record being broken by Andrew (ahem…)
Kamariny Stadium, the most understated “theatre of dreams”
The sign on the way out of Iten
Andrew with Geoffrey Ruti, future Olympic Champion? – Geoffrey that is…
From Left: Vineeth, Timot, Stew, Madeleine, Lucas and Andrew at Kerio View after the run. (Taken by Chris who shocked us all at how good at running he was)
The fastest of them all…
175g dark raisins
175g golden raisins
140g sugared orange and lemon peel
70g dark rum
5g mix of 3 parts cardamom, 1 part nutmeg and 1 part black pepper
16g dried yeast
140g white all purpose flour
280g all purpose flour
The above sponge
40g unsalted butter
The above soaker
70g whole almonds
70g flaked almonds
- Prepare the soaker the night before by combining all together and covering.
- On the day of baking prepare the sponge by combining altogether and set aside for 30 minutes.
- To make the final dough combine the flour with the sugar, milk, sponge and salt, add half of the butter and mix on a low speed until blended, gradually add the remaining butter and continue to mix until all the butter is well incorporated.
- Stop the mixer and add the soaker along with the almonds and mix until incorporated let the mixture stand for 15minutes.
- Divide the dough into three 500g pieces, shape into a round then into an oval shape and place on prepared baking sheets.
- Bake in a pre-heated oven at 191°C for 35minutes until the crust is golden brown.
- When removed from the oven let cool for 30minutes on a wire rack.
- When cool sprinkle with icing sugar.