It's 11:30 and I've got 30 minutes to write this as they'll kick me out of here in 30 minutes. The internet is pretty slow here and I'm having some problems since the last thing I did in NYC before catching my plane was spill a coke on my laptop. I got here and the keys don't work. So I downloaded some software to put up some photos. You can find them here:
(can someone click through the photos and post on here that they can view them. on this connection I can't really check)
I'm just trying to give a feel for things in Mombasa. I posted a little earlier about the security here:
(i was serious about the people being super nice despite beating the cops beating a guy pretty badly)
Sorry for not posting this up on a webpage, maybe I can get Robert to do it but I don't have time to download any software:
Pre Race Report
I've been here a day and I'm already so glad I came here. It's been pretty surreal in some ways. Running into my old roommate in Flagstaff Chris White at the baggage terminal in Nairobi, sitting next to Reebok guru Todd Klein on my next flight, getting Paul Tergat's digits, and having Kip Keino borrow my Kip Keino training cap to give to some others. It's a very small world indeed.
After not sleeping much last night. The first thing we did is go to the course. Lets just say this is like no world cross championship I've ever been to. There have been ones with shitty conditions (mud, muck in Europe, snow in the US) but I doubt there has ever been one on a dried out golf course, in excruciating heat and humidity (by the time the men's race goes off at 5:20 however the sun is much lower in the horizon so they men may get the best of it), on a course that was not completely set up 30 hours before the start of the race.
When I got to the course, a lot of it was still not roped off (although since then I've heard they have added barricades in some places) and it seemed full of turns. More like a maze than a traditional XC course but that is perhaps because the course does not take up a ton of land. Usually Worlds is at a huge horse racing course or park. This thing probably takes up 3 golf holes. That's it. So everything is very tight together. And then the course goes through sand traps, up little ravines, and over a road. Throw in the killer heat and it will be a true test. No one sees anyone beating Bekele tomorrow but it is totally different conditions from what he has ever faced before. There isn't any attempt like in America to sanitize the course or make sure the footing is safe (well perhaps before this year where the Jonesy surprise: http://www.letsrun.com/2007/us...age10.html
was throne in the course at USATF nationals). They actually went out of the way to make the course as difficult as possible on a relatively flat piece of land by making runners go through sand traps at weird angles, as if the heat wasn't going to be a challenge to itself.
After scorching in the sun for 1.5 hours (and this was at 10 am) I went to a luncheon hosted by Edinburgh 2008 which will be hosting World Cross next year. The always gracious Kip Keino was in attendance and a bunch of men in skirts. Geoff Wightman a letsrun.com fan invited me to the lunch and I'm glad I went. Kenny Klotz's dad is over here, really enjoying Kenya like the rest of us (he went on an incredible safari and like I believe Americans have a lot to learn by coming to Afirca), and he sat with us at lunch.
At the same hotel was the pre-race press conference featuring Kenenisa Bekele, Moses Mosop, and Lornah Kiplagat. For more on the press conference see:
Not much usually goes on at these conferences usually as the traditional questions are asked. But this one I thought was fairly interesting for a few reasons. First, because of all the former Kenyans stars who were just sitting in the stands watching. 3 to left Paul Tergat, 4 to my left, Wilson Kikpeter. Plus Tegla Laroupe, Martin Keino and who knows who else. But that's what it is like in Kenya. You'll be talking to some guy (i swear it wasn't me but would have done the same thing) about running and not realize it's Patrick Sang a former steeplechase stud.
So I talked to Paul a bit (telling him I'm the brother of Robert, (Rojo took Paul to meet President with Moses Tanui)
Next thing you know Paul is asking me about my brother and my dad (my dad went to lunch with them) taking down my name and number and saying he'll come by the next time he's in the States. Then he gives me my number and tells me to call and come by when I'm in Nairobi (Paul lives with his family outside of Nairobi instead of being in a formal training camp where the guys live as monks). So I'll be putting my Kenyan cell phone (only like $28 and costing only about 35 cents a minute to call the US -best thing I've bought so far) to good use.
I also was struck by a few things said at the press conference. The Kenyans are very proud of this event and the head of the LOC talked about how "cross country has finally returned home". The average Kenyan on the street really wants a Kenyan individual winner (especially on the men's side) but most observers think Kenenise Bekele will get his 11th straight world title and his record breaking 6th long course title. But i don't think the average Kenyan thinks that as well. (My baggage porter was showing me his track knowledge by talking about Maurice Greene. I thought it was kind of funny when he said, "this is too long for him right?" and then asked whether I thought he was on drugs. Then he added, "he should do it the Kenyan way- with a lot of hard work")
The press asked Bekele about breaking Tergat's record of 5 long course titles, he said he hoped to do it and would be honored. There then was a moment when Bekele looked through the crowd at Tergat and Tergat returned the gaze and they both basically acknowledge each other's greatness. I think a lot of people missed it (including myself as I was now just in front of Tergat but had it relayed to me)
Speaking of Tergat he said he expects Bekele to win. And I talked with another journalist about how if it wasn't for about 3 feet (the amount he lost the 2000 and 2004 Olympic 10ks combined) Tergat would be regarded as the greatest distance runner to walk the planet. Instead he's the greatest humanitarian/distance runner to walk the planet. Tergat spent a lot of last week working with the US State Department in Nairobi, and even shot some promo video with Drew Barrymore (Drew's a huge fan of letsrun btw). I asked him how he found time to train (Paul is gearing up for next month's London marathon, and he acknowledged some weeks his schedule was tough but he manages to get it all in).
And perhaps the most impressive comment I heard was from Bekele when he was asked whether he had any special diet or special training that he does to make him so great.
His response was: "I believe God blesses people with special talents. Out of many people, only one can win. God has given me that gift repeatedly." He went on to add how "I do not have a special diet... I do not have any special training... It is the same as my teammates." He reiterated the fact that he has no idea why it is the case but we are all given gifts and talents and his gift was to run and to run fast. In some ways he seems almost awed by his own ability. For more on Bekele's quote go here:
I then came back to the hotel and passed out on my bed for a little while. However, Kevin Thompson, a volunteer track coach at Cornell, who is good friends with Kip Keino went to the course at around 5pm. There viewing the course for the first time (the Kenyan team only got here on Thursday I believe) was the Kenyan team less than 24 hours before some of them ran. Things are just done a bit differently here. Kevin has a cool video that I'll try and upload at some time but he has a different type of card, but after the Kenyans looked at the course the crowd of people that flocked around them started singing and dancing, wishing them luck for this very proud moment for all of them. To beat Bekele they may need more than luck.
And reiterating that fact was an Ethiopian journalist (i'm not sure what a journalist in Ethiopia does since the government oppressively restricts the press) who asked Bekele what he was going to do to celebrate his 11th win. The same journalist asked Bekele what he'd do last year and I guess Bekele held up 10 fingers to count his 10, yes 10, straight World XC titles. Perhaps a number 1, will be all that is needed. Because with a win in the unusual conditions on Saturday where tens of thousands of people will be actively rooting against him, Bekele will cement himself as what we already think he is, the best cross country runner of all time.
Until tomorrow. Good night.
(My previous update is here: