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Digital Subscriptions > Men's Running > April 2019 > BROTHER COLM O’CONNELL

BROTHER COLM O’CONNELL

IN THE KENYAN TOWN WHERE RUNNING ICONS ARE PRODUCED EN MASSE, THE MOST UNLIKELY OF COACHES IS REVERED AS THE LARGEST SINGLE REASON FOR THEIR SUCCESS

The Kerio View hotel is located on the outskirts of Iten, a small Kenyan town sitting high on the edge of an escarpment overlooking the Rift Valley. From its terrace you can look down and see the water-hole, home to giant crocodiles and herds of elephants, and discern the occasional silhouette of a distant giraffe.

The earth is terracotta red here, and its dust permeates everything, 2,600m above sea level, the thin air does little to deaden the impact of the sun and the town gently bakes. Perched on the equator, it rises each day at half past six, and descends again 12 hours later, every single day of the year. It is inimitably African, from the sights to the smells to the sounds. For a visiting Londoner, it is impossible not to pause and reflect just how far away from home you are.

And sitting at a table, deep in onversation, as he always seems to be, with friends and acquaintances, is the most famous, the most immediately recognised man in the whole of Iten. In this town of just 4,000 inhabitants, which has produced more distance running champions than any other on the planet, one man stands revered above all. More sought-after than David Rudisha, more celebrated than Wilson Kipketer, more respected than Peter Rono.

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About Men's Running

I started running in the mid 1980s. Ask anyone around at the time and they’ll tell you it was the heyday of British middle and long distance running. I got swept along by the Coe versus Ovett battle of the Moscow Olympics and the then addition of Cram for LA in 1984. Britons ruled the world and I loved every second of the battles, the highs, the lows, the medals and the media. These guys were my inspiration and I wanted to be them. They were the reason I started running and it was no surprise that my chosen events were 800 and 1500m. That I was best at these was just an added bonus. There are so many influential figures in our brilliant sport. Some are well known, others less so. So we decided to choose our favourites so that you could also get a little sprinkling of inspiration. Whether it’s Dean Karnazes eating pizza by the roadside or Ron Hill running every day for more than 50 years, we know there’ll be something for everyone. Read and get inspired and hit the road for your next run!