Kapchorwa training camp week 2

Training with Joshua Cheptegei

After a few days of an easy start to the training camp and acclimatisation, it's finally time to do some more training. The hills around Kapchorwa have taken some time to get used to, but now it's starting to feel alright. Usually when I start training a lot on hills after a while without, it tends to settle in my muscles, especially in the front thighs. They have to get used to the slightly longer descents and the associated eccentric load.

joshua_cheptegei_dewettSome relaxation and chai tea with Joshua Cheptegei after a longer mountain run.


In Kenya, I've been used to getting massages twice a week, so we've been working on getting something similar here. It's a bit more difficult here as they don't train people to give massages as much. Through some contacts we found a local runner who could give us a massage. Not the best massage, but definitely better than no massage. Luckily during the week, we got in touch with Joshua Cheptegei's (the guy who holds the world record on 5000m and 1000m as well as gold medals at the World Championships and Olympics) masseur.  He is really good. He gives a massage for approx. 75min, and goes through most of the body. We do not have access to a massage table and do not plan to get some locals to build us one, as our masseur was perfectly fine giving us a massage on a mattress on the floor. We give him 45 DKK / 6.5 EUR per time, more than he asks for. Not exactly Danish prices here.

Muyembe plateau

32km from Kapchorwa there is a town called Muyembe. Muyembe is located at the foot of the mountain at about 1100m altitude and from here there are almost endless long tarmac and dirt roads and almost completely flat. This is where Uganda's biggest stars train their tempos and most long runs. We had to leave early, before 6 o'clock in the morning, as it otherwise becomes a freaking oven down at the plateau with well over 30 degrees.

On the trip we had one of the town's bosses to drive us down there, and he even ran with us on our training session. Apparently everyone in Uganda can run. The same person is the one who helps us with contacts to whoever we want, and helps both NN (Cheptegei's group) and Rosa (Jacob Kiplimo's group) to get access to the various things they need. For example, access to the nearby grass track.

Training with NN running team

Our masseur was our way into NN, as he also runs with the group, and we joined them on one of their easy runs from their camp. Their camp is located at 2500m altitude. A camp they had built last year; both to get a little more altitude but also a little more quiet than in Kapchorwa. A little further up the mountain there is an altitude centre - or at least soon. It has been in the works for more than 10 years, and finally it looks like it will soon be completed. This has made Cheptegei impatient, so directly from their camp they have built their own dirt track.

uganda_track_and_fieldOn the way back to the camp after some strides.

The easy Friday run ended up being around 7km at 4.31min/km. Not too much climb, about 155 metres in total, on an out-and-back route. From their camp there are not so many routes, and certainly not routes with only a little climb. On the trip we had Cheptegei himself, our masseur and 2 more senior runners (one of them Victor Kiplangat, who won the Commonwealth Games marathon last year) and some youth runners, most of them girls. They were maybe 12-16 years old, and were able to keep up for much of the run. Usually there are more runners on these trips, but currently there is a national team camp in the area. Cheptegei did not really want to join this camp, he prefers to train on his own or with his group.

After the run we did some stretching on their dirt track followed by 4x100m strides. Very fun to run the strides alongside Cheptegei and feel what pace he runs them at. After our strides we thought it was over, but it turned out that we had to do some strength in the garden of the camp. Everyone laid down on the grass in a big circle and Dennis, their assistant coach, dictated the programme. The programme consisted of nothing with weights, and was a good mix of balance and core exercises. In addition, something for legs as well. The programme took about 50min. They do it twice a week and most of the year. Even here the last period up to the World Cross Country Champs which some of them are going to run. They don't train with weights at all - there is no gym nearby. Some of the programme's abdominal exercises were really hard and I had to take some cheat breaks along the way. All the while Cheptegei laughed at us - for him it looked way too easy, especially the exercises where he controlled the speed and could torment us as much as possible. Great experience, and a programme we will repeat twice a week during our camp to try something new. They believe the programme is important for injury prevention and after a month you will notice great progress on the exercises.

It was all rounded off with them inviting us to Ugandan porridge in the garden (something they get as a recovery / snack after several of their workouts). Not something I have had before, so again fun to try something new. We got the recipe and have since tried to make it ourselves in our camp. We ended up sitting and talking for almost an hour, and exciting to get some insights. It can be mentioned, for example, that Cheptegei has never run with a heart rate monitor as much as once before and has never taken a single lactate measurement. He likes to run on feel and follow his coach's instructions. I had several long conversations with his coach Addy Ruiter, who was happy to share how he is training the group.

Long run up the mountain

We were invited on a long trip from their camp on Sunday starting at 6.20 in the morning, so Tomas, Milos and I had to get up fairly early to be able to get up there by boda boda - the means of transport here, most locals are transported around on motorbikes. Maybe not the safest form of transport (especially when we, besides the driver, are 3 people on the back), but it's cheap.

Here running behind Cheptegei on the way down the mountain.

The run in details:

  • 26.5k
  • 2.15hours
  • 5.08min/k
  • 920m climb
  • From the in 2500m up to the tree line at 3220m above sea level.

We had to run through the large forest that is located in this high layer of the mountain, and it is a really cool forest. Ancient forest and which can probably best be described as jungle. Through the forest, which seems to be almost impenetrable, there was a trail we could follow, but which became smaller and smaller the higher we got. Eventually incredibly rocky, rutted, rooty and generally quite challenging. It helped having my orienteering background on the trip, I think many track and field runners would have been quite challenged. And that's why I was quite surprised that guys like Cheptegei run such places. But for him it really seemed like no problem.

down_mount_elgon_long_runOn the way down the jungle, last bit fo the mountain long run.

Quite difficult to keep up at the end at over 3000m above sea level - not much oxygen left in the air for us, which was especially noticeable when it was only day 11 at altitude. Maybe not an impressive pace we kept for the run, but on those trails, above 3000m altitude and with a lot of climbing, we were certainly not keeping an easy intensity for the whole run. Afterwards I asked Cheptegei why he runs such trainings. He emphasised that they must be calm, as it is purely to train coordination. And at the same time probably also one of the reasons why they don't have to touch weights to gain strength.