'I’ve found my spot in Iten'- Belgian marathoner training in Kenya ahead of Paris 2024 Olympics

Koen Naert

ATHLETICS 'I’ve found my spot in Iten'- Belgian marathoner training in Kenya ahead of Paris 2024 Olympics

Abigael Wafula 21:31 - 27.03.2024

A Belgian long-distance runner has opened up about how training in Kenya has changed his mindset ahead of the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.

Koen Naert, a Belgian long-distance runner loves training in Kenya and he also has a favourite spot he loves training at as he gears up for the Olympic Games in Paris, France later this year.

The 34-year-old already qualified for the Olympic Games, clocking a stunning personal best of 2:06:56 at last year’s Rotterdam Marathon.

The Belgian is targeting a top-eighth finish after finishing 22nd at the 2016 Rio Olympics and then improved that with a 10th-place finish at the delayed 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

To achieve the goal, Naert has been burning the midnight oil in Kenya, and in an interview with Athletics Weekly, he explained how it feels training in his new-found spot in Iten.

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He explained that being in Kenya has helped him work on different aspects of his training since he is away from family and has time to work.

“It depends on the build-up. I think right now I’m doing 100km of running and a 50/60km alternative on the Elliptical Machine. In between my marathon blocks, I’ll do a lot of alternative training like aqua jogging but during the marathon block itself – the 12 weeks preceding my marathon – I’ll run 200km a week. Sometimes even 240km or 250km.

“I meditate at least twice a day and when I’m on camp at altitude I do a lot more sessions of meditation. That’s one advantage of being in Kenya. I also like to train in the US and have been to train with Deena Kastor’s group on occasion.

“Since 2021 however, I’ve found my spot in Iten. I waited a long time to go to Kenya because I was a little bit afraid of the food and life there but once you are on the ground, there’s no distraction and it’s a bit like living like a monk on a mountain,” he told Athletics Weekly.

He added that Olympic success for him would be to have to be honest with himself and he explained that he would need a little miracle to get on the podium.

“However, sometimes miracles exist and you never know. It will be challenging with the weather and the course. I will prepare myself the best I can but the top eight is my absolute goal. I was pretty close in Tokyo but we will see and every race/championship is different,” he said.