Mountain Lions trip brings new meaning to traveling 'Cross Country'

By Alex Cramer published February 12, 2013

This is the first of a three-part series detailing the UCCS men's cross country trip to Kenya during the winter break. Check back at later this week for the following installments of this series.

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - The stereotype is well documented - Kenyans are some of the fastest runners this planet has ever seen.

But how do they do it?

Over the 2012-2013 Christmas break the University of Colorado Colorado Springs Cross Country team took a trip most people will never get to in their lifetime and traveled nearly 26 hours oversees to Kenya. More specifically Kapsabet, Kenya, where the team stayed at the Grace of God Children's Center for the duration of their trip.

People who went on the trip included, UCCS Cross Country head coach Mark Misch, athletes Luke Dakin, Robert Scrivner, David Marino and a pair of brothers whom coach Misch coached in high school, Adam and Nick Kern.

In addition to learning the ways of these world-renowned runners, the Mountain Lions chose to do something different than what a typical college student encounters on their holiday break. Sleeping in and weekends in Breckenridge were replaced with early morning wake up calls to run and hours spent hanging out and getting to know the local children.

"Kenyan time" was a major theme throughout the trip as punctuality is not a part of Kenyan culture. On countless occasions the Mountain Lions were forced to wait as the American in them showed up an hour early to a race that wouldn't kick off till several hours after the "planned start time."

Sitting around and waiting was well worth it though when the likes of Geoffrey Mutai (Boston Marathon record holder), Asbel Kiprop (Olympic gold medalist-1500m) and Lineth Chepkuru (world's best 12k time) show up to a race and run along side the UCCS athletes.

"The Kenyans have this weird sense of time. If they say meet at 7:00, then 7:15 is on time, 7:30 is oh they're running a little late, and by the time it hits 8:00 you just leave," Marino said. "But for running if you're not up by 6:35 when you're running at 7:00 they come into your room and ask if you're exercising today. So if you're not up 30 minutes beforehand they consider you not running with them."

Simple activities such as taking a daily shower were few and far between with days consisting of simple events.

A Typical Day:
6:30 a.m. - Sunrise and time to get up
7:30 a.m. - Finally take off on a morning run
9:00 a.m. - Breakfast
Hangout with the kids/Journal
1:30 p.m. - Lunch
Hangout with the kids/Journal/Go to the city (Eldoret, Kenya)
6:00 p.m. - Dinner
Talk with the kids/Bible reading/Sing 2-4 songs
9:30 p.m. - Bedtime

Even though three square meals was the norm, the amounts of food at those meals were far from the same portion sizes the athletes have come to expect stateside.

Marino talked about the eating situation on a blog the team kept during their trip.

"What I put on my plate today would have been roughly a quarter of my regular breakfast after logging morning miles, yet it was enough. I have a feeling that even though we might not be presented with copious amounts of food like in the States, our bodies will learn to be more efficient with the nutrients."

When the group wasn't running or walking to their destination they used a small pickup truck that they all crammed into the back of. This method of transportation made travel easier on the feet, but was still no picnic as unpaved roads made for a terribly bumpy ride.

No matter what means of transportation was used on a given day the group could always count on hearing the term "muzungu," which in Swahili means white person.

Perhaps the most special guest they met was in fact another muzungu, as the team had the privilege to meet with one of the most successful Olympic track coaches of all-time, Brother Colm O'Connell.

Coach O'Connell has coached numerous Olympians with the most recent being Kenyan athlete David Rudisha, who took gold in the summer Olympics 800-meter final this past August in London.

Coach Misch and the team were more reassured than anything after spending several hours with Coach O'Connell as they learned they're more alike than they are different.

"Really a lot of things they do are very similar to us," Misch said. "They don't have a track where they're at, they're at altitude similar to us and they do a lot of stuff on trails, hills and dirt roads, they're really very creative in terms of training. So it was good for me but it was also good for our guys because it reconfirmed certain things.

"I think it was good for them to see that you don't need all the bells and whistles and to keep it simple because I do pretty simple stuff with them and it works. It's good for them to see that yeah there's no magic to this."

Additional News Stories
March 6, 2013Cross Country Raises Nearly $4,600 for Cheptigit Primary SchoolThe University of Colorado Colorado Springs men's cross country team raised nearly $4,600 for the Cheptigit Primary School in Kaptagat, Kenya, in last Friday's Kenyan Dinner Night at The Grace Place Church in Colorado Springs.
February 27, 2013Kenyan Dinner Set for Friday NightMembers of the University of Colorado Colorado Springs men's cross country team will hold a charity "Kenyan Dinner Night" this Friday night at The Grace Place Church at 2403 Templeton Gap Road.
February 25, 2013Dakin, English Earn USTFCCCA All-Academic AwardUniversity of Colorado Colorado Springs men’s cross country student-athletes Luke Dakin and Mike English earned a spot on the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association All-Academic teams announced this morning.
February 15, 2013March 1 Dinner Caps UCCS Kenya TripOver the last couple days the UCCS Cross Country team's trip to Kenya has been told, and their explorations revered. Like any great story however, en ending was needed and the team has a grand finale already in the works.
February 13, 2013Changed Mountain Lions Benefit From Exposure to Kenyan CultureAs mentioned in the previous story of this series, the University of Colorado Colorado Springs Cross Country team took a trip to Kenya this past Christmas break. The trip was the first outside the continental United States for most participating.
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