"Kenyan athletes eat only to survive"
‘Coach’ Totti Corbalan arrived before the Rio de Janeiro Games in Kenya. He was passionate about athletics, studied CAFE, took the High Performance Master of the COE and there came a time when he asked himself: Where are the best athletes? In Kenya. I'm going there ". And that was how this Catalan landed in the African country, the cradle of the best long distance runners on the planet with one hand in front and the other behind. She met a teacher like Renato Canova and had the opportunity to start helping him and entering a fascinating, but highly sacrificed world. If we recently spoke with Marc Roig, physical therapist and Eliud Kipchoge trainer, now we meet another Spanish who is side by side with the best.
“In Kenya you can breathe athletics on all four sides. The athlete lives for it, just rest, eat and train. And you are at their service, for what they need“Totti tells us from Iten, where he has been residing for several months within the Ikaika representation agency, which leads several of the best Kenyan athletes.
Settled in Iten and with a fixed routine
"I worked in Nairobi with Rongai as a coach for Thimoty Cheruiyot, Vincent Keter, etc, basically 1,500. After having won the Diamond League in Brussels with ‘Timo’, I had the opportunity to come here with Ikaika in Iten and I have been with my wife, who is Kenyan for several months now, ”he says. "Now I'm programming the whole topic of gym work, strength, mobility, movement patterns. Put a little order to all this. We have a marathon, but then we divide by levels; Also 10k, 1,500, depending on who it is we approach it one way or another. From Monday to Friday we work in the gym and with some I do it more individually. I take care to reduce the risk of injury. The other days, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays I go to the track with them, with the ‘long runs’, etc. ”
What has caught your attention the most about the lifestyle of Kenyan athletes?
“The theme of recovery is true. The secret is to train as much as you can always and recover well for the next session. Here rest is sacred. Athletes go to sleep at 8 or 9, get up at 5, train, eat, sleep, and so on. Food also helps, which is very natural. There is the ugali, who eat it every day and it is very rich in carbohydrates, many vegetables and greens. It is what we need. Here the point of view is different. You eat here because you have to eat to survive, not like in Spain which is quite a ritual. Athletes already have in their minds that what they eat is going well and from there you don't get it. ”
"Here we have the‘ matatus ’, which are like vans. We follow the athletes in their long runs and we do some assistance, they give us the clothes when it starts to get hot, we give them water. You have to think that sometimes we leave Iten at 3.30am because the print run is high and we have to make an hour-and-a-half journey before reaching the place. At 8am we are already back with work done many times ”.
"Here we have the best athletes in the world and it is one of the least professional places in the world. We have very little aid, many tracks are in a dire state. Here they are good because they are good, not because there are facilities. I think it is 'easier' to train an athlete in Europe. There you know that if you explain to the athlete even if you are not physically he will do it to you. Here in Kenya if you are not forget, they will cheat you, they will use someone to do the throwing for him. The only thing that they do fulfill are the days of intensity. When you have very strong people and they come up you break the group a little. There you have to make them understand that the objective is different. ”
The current uncertainty
“Kenya closed in very quickly with the coronavirus issue, airports and so on were closed. With regard to training, training camps were closed and the routine varied. We try to keep athletes motivated, we keep sending them training plans. At first some left, most. Two months have passed and some have returned because here they can at least train in small grottos respecting the distances. The positives here have gone up, they are still few, but it is only being tested in big cities and there is ignorance ”
"Athletes are training, not as they should, but maintaining. The day we have to start putting a little more intensity we will no longer start from scratch. Imagine that all the races in October and November if the peak here as they say comes in September to see how we can fly. Here we are guessing because we do not know what will happen. It's hard to see the future, the first race. When we know that ours can travel, we can already prepare ourselves, but the situation is not the best, of course. ”
Kipruto, the new hope
"Rhonex is inside‘ Saint Patricks School ’and we see nothing of him, only when he needs me for any inconvenience and such, but day by day he already has his planning. I think Rhonex is a very serious person, he takes rest and training with the utmost discipline. In the end the motivation around is also maximum, has become a bit of a symbol, a hope for the future. Much is expected of him, he knows it and accepts this burden. It is the model for the group; Then there is also his brother, who is also aiming very high. ”
Enjoy the full interview with Totti Corbalán: