The murram roads meander lazily through the scenic Elgeyo escarpment like big snakes slowly making their way down the valley in search of water in the river below.
The sleepy village of Kaptagat is where for the last seven years the reigning Olympic champion and world marathon record holder Eliud Kipchoge has been secretly plotting how rule the world of long distance running.
If you are wondering why the marathon legend would pick this cold hamlet as his training base, you may need to go there to know.
Kaptaget is Kenya’s little Garden of Eden; ideal both for athletes seeking pollution-free training base that big cities like Nairobi have deprived their dwellers and lovers on a quest for an idyllic location to fire up their romance.
A visit to Kaptagat is an instant stress reliever. No amount of clothing can shield you from the biting, but the fresh breeze that massages your face as the air gently blows from the world down under that is the Kerio Valley as you partake of the cuisine that mother nature has generously served is worth it.
In July last year, Kipchoge who is the first human to complete a full marathon in under two hours, signed a deal with the Kenya Tourism Board as the Magical Kenya destination ambassador.
Kipchoge alongside Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala then spent two days at the Masai Mara National Reserve in August where they watched the world famous wildebeest migration to ‘consummate’ the deal .
Perhaps Kipchoge should have first brought Balala to Kaptagat. This hidden treasure is close to 100 square kilometers of sporting and eco tourim paradise.
From the beautiful hills and the forested vegetation to little but clean rivers, the breathtaking view of the expansive Kaptagat is a sports tourism circuit waiting to be discovered.
Indeed, Kaptagat is Kenya’s smokeless factory of athletic talent. It is home to several athletic camps that houses not only Kipchoge but many other world-beating athletes like Conseslus Kipruto and Geoffrey Kamworor.
The circuit circles around the undulating Kaptagat Hills, the source of the many rivers flowing right into Kaptagat forest water catchment area, all the way to the cliff of the Elgeyo Escarpment making it a a potential rally route.
In Kaptagat you will find Chepchonge View Point that exposes the blue sky covering the magnificent Kerio Valley below; one of the most renowned tourist attractions within the greater Rift Valley.
This village houses Chemwabul Primary School, where Vivian Cheruiyot, the multi-world marathon champion honed her running skills at a tender age.
One will also experience the sight of Torok Falls that opens your eyes to the abundant but untapped natural resources hidden deep in heart of the village.
The view from above at the Koibarak View Point deep inside the Kapkobel Forests, exposes the Kerio River, a permanent boundary between Elgeyo Marakwet and Baringo Counties is orgasmic. Here at Koibarak cliff you experience instant pain reliever, a natural therapy from the hustle and bustle of the crowded city life.
The eco circuit is also home to the beautiful black and white colobus monkeys that freely hug the lovely ‘ tree couple’ – the ‘BIG DAD’ and the ‘BIG MUM’; trees so big that it requires up to six oversize men to link hands around it deep inside the Sabor Forest.
This is a perfect sports tourism getaway where on the menu you can be served a glass of mursik, the traditional Kalenjin fermented milk, even now as the government seeks to leverage on top sports personalities to market Kenya as a preferred tourism destination.
Lamek Rono is 17 and despite the fact that he still has one year to complete his high school studies, the youthful athlete has a big dream and perhaps a bigger national burden to shoulder.
Rono is one of the over a dozen athletes who are incubating their running talents at Complete Sport, a running Camp anchored on a foundation of Christian values, stationed at Kaptagat.
Rono is determined. He wants to follow in the footsteps of Ezekiel Kemboi and Conseslus Kipruto in extending Kenyans dominance in the 3,000m steeplechase.
“I know what I’m getting into,”Rono tells me as we chat over lunch; two plates of white rice and baked beans with no oil or any other additive which he takes with easy as I struggle to swallow a spoon after another.
“We give them a simple but very nutritious meal with no oil. We just boil most of our food and add salt because we want to them in shape,” his coach who says.
“Our athletes are highly disciplined because of the kind of teaching they get from this church. We are a family kept together by our faith in Christ and if you love God then you must love the environment which he’s freely given to us and we must use it properly and protect it.
“We have the best (fresh) air, which is vital for athletes. You can’t compare the heart of an athlete who trains in or near big towns like Nairobi and those from Kaptagat because here the air is almost 90 percent pure,” added the coach whose session starts and ends with a prayer.
What Kaptagat lacks is sports infrastructure. The many athletes who have turned this village into a temporary home squeeze at a private property just behind Chirchir centre.
“This is the only field we have around here and it’s used by all the athletes from the various camps around and unfortunately the owner wants to develop it so sooner than later we’ll have nowhere to do our speed work.
“The only other public facility is at the Moi University (about 20km away) and only those who are able financially can afford to train there daily because you’ll need to have a private car, a privilege only enjoyed by a few elite runners,” lamented Rono.