For Manangoi and Cheruiyot, it's the Rongai Athletics Factor

Elijah Motonei Manangoi and Timothy Cheruiyot own the fastest time in 1500m this year with 3:28.80 and 3:29.10 respectively, both times posted in Monaco.

Their names feature six times in the top 10, no doubt these two have controlled the 1500m event in 2017.

It is no surprise that these two are world leaders, they know each other well. They are training partners from the Nairobi based Club – Rongai Athletics Club (RAC).

Elijah Manangoi reveals:  “I joined Rongai Athletics club in 2011, I was a 400m runner. In 2014 I went for national trials but didn’t go to Bahamas, I finished 7th in trials and shifted to 1500m, went for Commonwealth trials, I was second.

Rongai Athletics Club is a good club. I have been here before the commonwealth games, World championships, Rio Olympics, Diamond league. It is not high altitude but the place doesn’t matter that much, it is the training, discipline and concentration.

Timothy Cheruiyot said “I have been with RAC since 2014, 2014 world junior trials, 800m in august 2014, in 2015 I went for World Relays in Bahamas, it was my first race out and then the world championships in Beijing…It has helped as an athlete, environment is good.”

Rongai Athletics Club – whose training ground is based at the Nazarene University in Nairobi was founded by coach Bernard Ouma around 11 years ago. Coach Bernard is a former athlete and former gold medalist in martial arts. He is also an IAAF trained and certified coach in athletics and martial arts.

“This is way back, from being an athlete, then I had a stress fracture for a while and the group we were training with was breaking up, one Saturday we met and that is who RAC was born in October 2006,” said Caoch Bernard Ouma in London. He is currently the assistant head coach of Team Kenya.

RAC is located on the outskirts of Nairobi in Ongata Rongai in Kajiado County Rongai sits 5,682 feet above the sea level. A club which started slightly over a decade ago can boast of bringing out some of Kenya’s best talents.

“It is 1600m, it is good for middle distance running, altitude works well with, less congested, air is good, population is not much, national park is here,” Coach Bernard Ouma explained

“It is all about coming together as a team, It is also more importantly about the coach. RAC has 800m and 1500m mostly and we help each a lot during training,” said Timothy.

“RAC is a very good club, we train very hard and well, and we have a very good coach in coach Bernard Ouma, we train like 3 times a day,” Elijah said.

Aside Elijah Manangoi and Timothy Cheruiyot, others 5000m African champion Sheila Chepkirui, World champion finalist Winnie Chebet.

“The club is formed on the basis of tapping talent of the less fortunate in the society. It is more like charity. I deal with parents, learn their background, not so much into current shape of an athlete, it is more about physical assessment and discipline,” said Coach Bernard.

Bernard Ouma who has studied Sports Science breaks down what makes a good 1500m athlete.

“There are various factors that make one a good 1500m athlete. There is first the physiology and characteristics of individual athletes. Then there is the training programme.”

Training phases

RAC’s training programme has been divided into 3 stages, explains coach Ouma. Preparation phase, Transition and Competition phases.

"This is more of specificity of periodization. This has to be followed to the latter. It is a combination bits and pieces of what constitutes during off season which emphasizes on body condition- sports specific training to create proper foundation."

The other key training component is Brain Endurance Training (BET) which works on an athlete mental strength.

This is the kind of training Elijah and Season undertakes. From the performance, it is something they follow to the core. The two cruised into the final of the 1500m with Timothy controlling the second semi and easily finished second. Elijah won the first semi final.

“The championships have limited energy, there is only so much you can use during heats and semis. You must have a reserve, that means you have to be conservative as possible not to deprive the reserved energy while running.

"How conservative you run helps you not to burn out..Then go all out in the final. One may not be 100% during the final, but has all the energy to battle out,” noted Coach Ouma.

Heading to the final, the coach says “We have trained well and that is our motivation ahead of the final.”

World silver medalist Elijah Manangoi who celebrates his birthday a day before the final notes “It is a special day having a birthday before the final tomorrow, I hope it is setting the stage for a surprise in the final, I hope to go home with a medal, any kind of a medal.”

“The silver from Beijing gives me the motivation, it keeps me focused to defend it.”

'Eli' as he is popularly known has the fastest time of 3:28.80 this year.

“2017 has been good. I have been in a good form, posted some good results in the Diamond league, my body is responding well. Focus now is on the big one,” Manangoi said.

“I feel tensed, it is a couple of hours before the final. But we have a strong team, we face strong opponents, we pray for a good performance, It is possible that Kenya can do a clean sweep, anything might happen,” he concluded.

Timothy, the second fastest man in 1500m this season notes that 2017 has been his year of improvement.

“I have been training well. 2017 has been good, I’m expecting any medal in the final because my body is responding very well. I have been improving each year, getting better. It is possible we can have a Kenyan podium finish,” said Timothy, a man of few words.