The Priest Who Made Running A Religion In Kenya

Brother Colm O'Connell has been coaching in Kenya since 1976.

He has been helping runners from the East African nation for over three decades.

In 1976, Colm O’Connell, an Irish monk, arrived in Iten, Kenya to teach geography for three years.

Thirty-five years later, he’s still there; and he’s changed a nation.

During this period, O’Connell — who coaches current 800m world-record holder David Rudisha — has mentored a staggering 25 world champions and four Olympic gold medalists. He says he’s acquired a “sixth sense” for the sport.

“I’ve always concentrated on the development of young athletes,” O’Connell said. “That’s where the Kenyan supply line comes from. I’ve not really moved up the line and ignored the youngsters.”

In the Rift Valley, approximately 800 to 1,000 runners live and train. They are there for one primary reason: altitude.

The area is so appealing to Athletics Kenya that it refused to send its runners to the training camp in Bristol, England ahead of the games.

“The whole world is coming to Kenya to train in long and middle-distance races,” Athletics Kenya’s chairman Isaiah Kiplagat said. “Why would we take our team to Bristol?”

For More: The Independent

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