Welcome to The Runner Diaries, where we’re sharing a behind-the-scenes look into a week of training with runners of varying ages, paces and GPS coordinates. Get The Runner Diaries delivered to your inbox, here
This week, we have 30-year-old Allie Kieffer, a professional runner for Oiselle who placed fifth in the 2017 New York City Marathon. Kieffer is currently training in Iten, Kenya to prepare for the United NYC Half and the London Marathon. Follow along as she logs roughly 115 miles while living like a local.
Saturday Feb 24th | Day One
5:40AM – woke up before the alarm! I make some shroom coffee and took advantage that it was only 9:40PM home in NY to call some loved ones!
6:10AM – head out the door with Chelsea (a friend from college that came to visit me in Kenya!) to meet Julia (a Canadian I recently met and have become friends with) and Dickson (my pacer). Usually we travel down to a lower altitude and flatter road for a fast, supported long run. As the sun comes up, matatus (vans for hire) follow groups of gazelle-like striders, handing out bottles of water and whatever super nutrition is packed inside. I have been sick for the past few days, though, and didn’t know how far I’d make it, so this week we ran from my apartment at 7,800ft to Kipsang Rd (named after Wilson Kipsang because he owns a nightclub on it).
There’s no matatu today, and how far we’ll all go is a mystery; it’s only Chelsea’s second day in Kenya! I immediately feel awful and we shuffle for a few warm up miles. After 3K we meet the gang, plus a new friend, Edward, who is Dickson’s neighbor. After a mile he lets it slip that he won the Marugame Half Marathon in 60 minutes earlier this month.
Then, he zips off, putting distance between us like we’re standing still. I start to warm up and we click off 7:10-7:20’s for the next few miles. The rolling hills remind me of Magnolia Rd in Boulder, Colorado.
At 10 miles we turn around, and I pick up the pace a bit and distance myself from the group. Just as I was starting to feel really strong I ran into Edward again. To my surprise, he turned and ran with me. We immediately drop the pace. There’s like an inherent thought with Kenyan men that they should pace and push the women. For the next 8 miles I hung on as best I could as he kept looking back to make sure he wasn’t dropping me.
After 20 miles I was back at the paved road and 3K from home. I decided to catch a motor bike back home with Chelsea and be happy making it through 20 miles!
Watch data: 20 miles in 2:24:20. Elevation gain: 1,128ft
9AM – arrive home to a buffet of omelette, pancakes, and tea!
11:30AM – Chelsea and I walk through the local market. Every Saturday locals set up shops and sell their goods in a field by the center of town.
1:30PM – head home for green grams and rice! We are so spoiled!
3:30PM – second run! I don’t usually double after a long run, but I missed a couple of doubles during the week because I was sick. I take Chelsea through my favorite route in the Singore forest.
Watch data: 4.83miles in 41:23 (avg page: 8:34). Elevation gain: 341ft
5:30PM – Julia comes over to hangout with Chelsea and I!
6:30PM – YouTube interview with Greg White (watch it here).
7:30PM – dinner – chapati (a slightly sweet, thick and airy tortilla-like African staple. it’s typically dipped in stew, but it tastes great plain too), kale, lentil, butternut squash soup, and my favorite fruit salad of banana, mango, pineapple, and avocado.
It’s not typical in Kenya to have dessert, but fruit salad is a great, healthy alternative. I believe in eating a diet rich in whole foods and a minimal amount of processed foods. In the US, I don’t usually eat very many simple carbs like bread and opt for something like a sweet potato instead, but in Kenya I eat like a local.
10:30PM – full belly and lights out!
Total daily mileage: 25 miles!
Sunday | Day Two
7AM – no alarm today! Sleep is just as important as training. Since we had a late night last night, Chelsea and I decided to sleep in.
8AM – 16K/10 miles on the dirt roads. Sundays are typically a day of rest or a very light run for the locals.
Watch data: 9.97 miles in 1:21:25 (8:10min/mi). Elevation gain: 564 ft
9:30AM – breakfast – french toast, fried eggs, and tea!
10:30AM – massage. A Kenyan massage is deeper and more painful than a typical sports massage in the US.
12PM – coaching work. I coach 10 athletes online.
1PM – i head to Dickson’s for lunch!! He and his cousin, Dominic made beans, chapatti (because he knows it’s my favorite!), goat meat, and potatoes.
3PM – Dominic and Dickson take Chelsea and I to the viewpoint — a popular local spot that looks out over Kerio View Valley. We hang out out talking and photo bombing like good tourists!
5:15PM – 2nd run, 8K/5miles through the forest!
Watch data: 5.17 miles in 44:23 (8:36min/mile). Elevation gain: 428ft.
7PM – I hired a cook, but give her Sundays off, so Chelsea and I heated up leftovers from last night and cut up fruit for a salad.
8:30PM – exhausted. Off to bed!
Total daily mileage: 15 miles
Monday Feb 26th | Day Three
5:15AM – wake up, make coffee, have a half a PB&J.
5:50AM – The matatu picks us up and Dickson is already inside. We head down the road to get the rest of the group — Nick (a writer from the US!), Julia, Barnabus (a friend who is also Betsy’s pacer), and Dominic. We all pile in and drive to Moiben, the flattest, fastest road in the land.
6:30AM – RUN! warm up: 4K/2.5miles
7AM – start the workout! The goal is a continuous 17K fartlek:
- The workout: 5K@5:50/mile, 1K moderate @6:40/mile, 4K@5:45/mile, 1K moderate, 3K@5:40/mile, 1K moderate, 2K@5:35/mile.
- The gist of it: We start out way too fast. I’ve been trying to work at going with the pace and accepting I can’t always be in control because that’s the reality of a race. We don’t really progress the pace like I would have liked, but overall it’s a good workout.
- The break down:
- 5k: 5:41 (1st mile), 5:45 (2nd mile), 5:37 (3rd mile), :36 (for the .1)
- 4:12 (for the moderate K)
- 4k: 5:37 (1st mile), 5:38 (2nd mile), 2:47 (last half mile of 4K)
- 4:07 (moderate 1K)
- 3k: 5:50 (uphill first mile of 3K), 4:58 (last .87 mile of 3K)
- 4:10 (moderate 1K)
- 2k: 5:41 (1st mile of 2K), 1:19 (last .25 mile of 2k).
- 5k: 5:41 (1st mile), 5:45 (2nd mile), 5:37 (3rd mile), :36 (for the .1)
Watch data: 17k (~10.56 miles), 5:52min/mile average. Elevation gain: 308 ft
Then: 1.8 mile cool down.
9AM – breakfast is hot and ready when we get home! Today it’s an omelette, oats, and tea!
10AM – coaching work.
12:30PM – gym time! I love to lift and feel like it’s made a huge improvement in my stride.
I do 4 sets of 5 reps (if it is single leg I do 5 on each side):
- push press (2 sets)
- strict press (2 sets)
- backwards lunge
- overhead tricep press
- single leg RDL.
1:30PM – 2nd run – 8k/5miles.
Total: 4.94Miles in 40:39 (8:13min/mile). Elevation gain: 383ft
2:30PM – on the phone with my people back home as they wake up in the morning NY time as I ate lunch.
5PM – hang with Betsy, Chelsea, and my neighbor Faith.
6PM – Nick, the writer, came over and joined us.
7PM – dinner time! Tonight we’re introducing Chelsea and Nick to ugali (white corn flour and water), a local favorite, sukuma (local greens), chicken, and fruit salad.
9:30PM – bed time.
Total daily mileage: 19.85 miles
Tuesday Feb 27th | Day Four
5:15AM – alarm, call the BF, and scarf down some pancakes & shroom coffee.
5:45AM – out the door to catch sunrise at the viewpoint! Watched the sky light up over Kerio Valley for 30 minutes and then met up with Dickson and his cousin Dominic for a 14-mile midweek (a moderate run — slower than the long run, but faster than an easy run). We averaged 6:45/mile, starting at 9/mile and ending in a 6:30 mile.
Watch data: 14.00 miles in 1:38:42 (7:03min/mile). Elevation gain: 871ft
8:15AM – breakfast of pancakes, fried eggs, and tea!
8:30AM – massage.
11AM – Piled in the matatu with Chelsea, Gladys, Dickson, Dominic, Nick, and Barnabaus to Roimi Valley Reserve. We had a great plan to take lunch to the park, explore the grounds of wild African animals, and then return to Iten and end the day at our favorite restaurant, Champions.
After negotiating an entry fee to the park we picked up a tour guide and headed off. Immediately we came upon a lake with cows, baboons, and crocodile!
We drove safari style to different parts of the park searching for the main attraction: elephants that move together in large packs. We found huge footprints, but didn’t have any luck finding the elephants. At one point our driver climbed a tree and Barnabaus stood on top of the matatu to get a better vantage point to spot the elephants. We ended up going back to the first lake and waiting for two hours, until 5pm, when our tour guide assured us the elephants would appear. With the passing of time, our optimism weaned and hunger grew. By the time 5pm rolled around we decided to leave, even though we hadn’t seen an elephants.
We started the two hour journey back up the mountain to Iten — and dinner! As we climbed, our matatu slowed and we eventually pulled over several times, our driver sparking the wires together to get the car going again. We slowly chugged up the mountain, the check engine light on and our bellies growling. We did finally make it to Champions, but by that time they were out of most of the options on the menu (it’s pretty typical for restaurants here to not have everything available that’s on the menu).
We got home late and fell asleep immediately.
11:30PM – bed time.
Total daily mileage: 14 miles
Wednesday Feb 28th | Day Five
6:15AM – woke up sans alarm. My body really likes schedules and I often find it tough to sleep in.
8AM – run with Chelsea and Kelvin (my neighbor and best friend in Kenya — he has a scholarship to run at a University in the US in August!). 16K in the forest. Of all the loops I’ve ran in Kenya, this loop has the steepest and hardest climbs in it, but also the most beautiful views!
Watch data: 10.04mi in1:26:50 (8:39min/mile). Elevation gain: 974ft
10AM – breakfast.
12:30PM – group run. when Betsy first invited me on this run I thought it sounded crazy. We only got back from our first run a couple hours ago, but I love a group! Betsy, Nick, Chelsea, Peter, Gladys and her husband are all in. We run 9K through the forest. Runs with the Kenyans are typically progression style. For this one we started at 10min/mile and finished at around 8 min/mile.
Watch data: 5.59mi in 50:36 (9:03min/mile). Elevation gain: 441ft
2PM – lunch.
3PM – coaching work.
6:30PM – dinner – carrot ginger soup, lentils, chapati, and fruit salad.
9:30PM – lights out, off to bed!
Total daily mileage: ~15.5 miles
Thursday March 1st | Day Six
5:00AM – alarm, call rick, make coffee, eat a half a PB&J
5:30AM – the matatu was supposed to pick us up, but Chelsea, Peter (another neighbor and friend) and I stood in the dark of night at my front gate looking left and right for the car.
5:43AM – Betsy calls to say the driver has arrived at the gate. I respond with a laughable ‘No, he’s not even close!’; in the peace and stillness of the crisp, summer morning all we can hear are the animals! I hang up the phone and Peter says “Kenyans don’t like to admit they’re late.” 10 or so minutes later the matatu arrives and we hit the road picking up the usual suspects. We watch the sunrise on the hour long journey to the track in Eldoret and pray for a dry (dirt) track!
6:50AM – run. 2M warm up, switch shoes (I do the workouts in lighter shoes to run faster and train in the Nike Structures which are quite heavy), and strides.
7:20AM – everyone is anxious to start the workout:
- today we have: 5x [2K, 2:30-3min break, 1K, 2min break].
- 6:50, 3:13
- 6:48, 3:17
- 6:39, 3:19
- 6:47, 3:15
- 6:42, 3:09
This is by far my best workout yet! Dickson says if I don’t run 68 minutes in the NYC Half Marathon he will kill me. If I run 67, I get to kill him though 😉 I’ll miss him.
Cool down 1 mile.
9:30AM – took the gang out to breakfast! I had an omlette, chapati, and tea.
10:30AM – picked up some last minute gifts at the Uchumi Market. There are a few stands outside that sell touristy African artifacts. I bought 3 sets of giraffe painted salad servers and a little elephant to bring home.
12:30PM – finally back at the apartment in Iten. Basically just switched clothes and washed my face, then picked up a motor bike to Kerio View to do a second run and lift at the gym. Chelsea, Nick and I tried to outrun the rain. We went for a run before lifting in hopes we would beat the weather, but we got soaked!
Watch data: 4.74mi in 39:14 (8:17min/mile). Elevation gain: 417ft
Then Chelsea and I did the same gym session as Monday!
3PM – starving! I look at each plate with languishing eyes that our waitress carries out of the kitchen. Soon enough the meal arrives – a salad, thai chicken, potatoes, and greens!
4PM – another bike ride to a friend’s families house. The dirt roads are really muddy and we keep slipping and sliding. Chelsea and I nervously laugh off our panic off, completely falling over as the driver weaves through the puddles, basically walking us through the mud. We finally arrive at my friends place and are greeted with open arms and an assortment of treats and tea. I’m stuffed, but it’s impolite to refuse any food or tea. We chat, pray, and play (with the kids) for a couple hours before returning back to the apartment.
6PM – there’s a blackout at home. The clothes we had on the line outside are now draped inside my room in an attempt to dry before we pack our bags tomorrow and head back to the US.
I’m going to miss all the friends I’ve made and the simplicity of life in Africa. People seem to be happier here than they are in the US even though they have far less. I wish I could bottle parts of life here up and take it home with me, but I can’t. Everything will be different once I land in New York, and I’m really looking forward to a toilet seat 😉
8PM – fruit salad for dinner! Chelsea and I are were too full from lunch and all the snacks to eat a full meal. You can’t turn down Glady’s fruit salad though 😉
11PM – lights out.
Total daily mileage: ~19.3 miles
Friday March 2nd | Day Seven
5:50AM – alarm.
6:10AM – out the door.
6:30AM – meet the gang Dickson, Julia, Barnabus, and Dominic back at Kipsang Rd. The goal was to run 7 miles out before U-turning back for home. I almost made it all the way out before having to hail a motor bike back to my apartment as the pain in my foot got increasingly worse each mile.
No watch data.
9AM – massage
10AM – frantically packing!!
10:45AM – leave for the airport
1PM – arrive at airport, spanish omelet and Kenyan tea
2:10PM – take off Eldoret to Nairobi
4:50PM – 2nd flight, Nairobi to Dubai
Total daily mileage: ~7 miles
Total weekly mileage: ~116 miles
Looking back — Thoughts on the week
The weeks workouts went even better than expected. I am especially proud of Thursday’s track workout! For the first time in 7 weeks I wasn’t struggling and digging through the pain, I was comfortable. Unfortunately on the plane home my foot swelled up and I wasn’t able to put pressure on it without pain. After getting an X-ray and MRI I found out I have a stress fracture. I’ll have to put my racing plans on hold for a few weeks until my foot heals. In the meantime I’ll be hitting the pool, so I can showcase my speed this summer off the track! I won’t let the progress made and fitness gained in Kenya go to waste.
About Allie Kieffer
Allie Kieffer is a professional American distance runner for Oiselle and advocate for positive body image. She placed fifth at the 2017 New York City Marathon (and was the second American female overall). Follow her on Instagram.