"Training Camps are closed; Kipchoge and the others are at home"
The coronavirus crisis is affecting all sectors of our society to a greater or lesser extent. Our toilets work piece by piece to try to put down one of the most dramatic situations in recent decades. Thousands of kilometers from Spain, in Kenya, the birthplace of the best long distance runners in the world, there have also been changes in the peaceful and quiet routine of elite athletes. The training camps are closed and both the marathon 'recordman' Eliud Kipchoge and his training partners, most of them top reference athletes, are at home. Many have ended the spring season and hardly jog in the morning.
At the Runner's Exchange, we speak with Marc Roig, one of the Kipchoge physiotherapists and preparer of the Kaptagar training camp where he trains what is considered by many to be the best marathoner of all time.
How is the situation in Kenya right now?
"The truth is that here it seems that life is pretty much the same as what we were used to. There is a little less movement, of course things have changed. From now on there will be no more international flights in Kenya. In fact, they have already told us that if we wanted to leave the country we would do so now because until a new order we will not be able to. When it comes to athletics, most athletes have chosen to close the spring season and rest; There will no longer be marathons until the fall season. Some continue jogging at 6 in the morning, but more for maintenance. You go out individually or in groups of 2/3 people maximum, there are no groups training these days. "
Update us the figures of affectation in the country ...
"According to the authorities, we are in about 15 confirmed cases and no deceased, but the same thing that happens in Spain, the number of cases is hardly translatable to reality due to the low number of analyzes. Surely we are far above it. At least what has transpired is that there has been no death so far. Hopefully the data is true and has been acted on time enough. Colleges, universities and churches have been closed for a week, all the massive functions are being avoided, it has been requested that the weddings be postponed ... A regulation that is being strictly complied with is in public transport. The collective vans that usually have space for 14 passengers, now only allow the transport of 8 so that the space between those traveling is respected. There is a will ”.
Is the Kenyan health system ready to live a situation like that of Spain?
"The truth is that I suppose that the system would collapse quite easily. I am not very focused on this topic, but I understand that it is less prepared than in Spain. There is a public system, but it has nothing to do with it because it is a copayment system that slightly reduces the bill. In this sense, many Kenyans avoid going to hospitals to avoid having to face that bill. You are not allowed to leave the hospital until the account is paid. The hospitals here in general are already chaotic and all that is needed is the coronavirus to live an absolute collapse. ”
On a personal level, how is all this affecting you in your work Marc?
“The workload has been greatly reduced. As of today I was not really working as much on a stretcher, in injury prevention. My job is to direct the exercises we do in the training camp. I keep that part and through whatsapp I coordinate with athletes where to focus their work. It is also true that the majority of Kaptagat athletes are marathoners and what has been decided for them is to end the spring season and not compete until September.
Kipchoge and company, at home ...
"Yes, Kipchoge and everyone. In fact, at least 5 athletes from the Kaptagat training camp were going to run the Barcelona Marathon. They were already in the tappering phase, the tickets purchased ... The race was canceled when many others had not yet canceled, so it was a ‘shock’. The coach said: "We are not going to throw in the towel, as you can still run something in April." How naive we were those days when we were angry about Barcelona. So perhaps thinking of Rotterdam or Vienna, hope remained.
How is Eliud approaching the season now?
"Of course the Kipchoge thing is hard, but it is not more than what the self-employed are suffering, for example. In general, Kenyans are very resilient and Kipchoge, like the philosopher, even more so. This affects everyone and there is no use regretting. He doesn't get the worst of all this and understands that he has no right to complain at all. Right now we all have a more or less ideal or dream calendar in our heads. That from the end of April or beginning of May it seems that we see the light at the end of the tunnel, normality is perceived again. In that case, maybe something will be saved from the indoor track and that would be the prelude to a completely atypical autumn of marathons. With all the ‘majors’ in weeks. Hopefully it will be like that".
What will the preparation be like once normality returns?
"It is very difficult to predict something. The preparation of Kaptagat is very squared, very simple, and always begins with a month of gym, laying the foundations. I understand that gyms will be the last thing to reopen to the public. What we will not do is wait until June to reopen. That's where my work comes in, see what part of the gym athletes can do at home, what can't be done how we supply it and what handicaps we are going to have in a season that is going to be different. But until we know nothing else, I can't go ahead because this changes completely from week to week. ”
Will there be an avalanche of requests to run in Valencia or Berlin? How will the Autumn ‘picture’ be?
“To know in the end what will happen. In races, and I'm already talking to you as Valencia's elite coach, they are races that coincide in time, an elite and popular version. How many of those who were enrolled in Barcelona were also enrolled in the Valencia average? Which of the two to keep, which one you choose to get your money back and which one you run. If they only return it to you in one of the two, will everyone choose the other option? Then there are the marathon contracts. Professional athletes are hired: If a marathon changes the date, do we have to keep doing it? It is going to be a totally atypical, dying autumn. Speaking of Valencia, this year it releases the World Athletics platinum label. That implies requirements in the form of registered elite athletes. Will there be enough athletes for everyone to meet those minimums? At the moment we do not have those answers.