|Brother Colm O'Connell|
At the heart of Iten sits St Patrick's high school. Set up in 1961 by Irish Patrician Brothers, it is in many ways a typical Kenyan secondary school. In other ways, though, it is a quite remarkable school.
Along one wall in the large, dimly lit dining room, beyond the rows of long benches and tables, is the school's wall of fame. It's full of framed photographs of runners. If you look closely, you'll spot an incredible array of Kenya's most celebrated athletes. There's the former St Patrick's student Wilson Kipketer (three-times world champion and former 800m world record holder) planting a tree in the school grounds, while Richard Chelimo and Matthew Birir sit on a sofa showing off their medals after the 1992 Olympics. Another grainy shot shows the 1988 Olympic gold medallist Peter Rono hurtling around a dusty track.
I'm sitting at one of the tables under the pictures, eating jam and Blue Band sandwiches with a red-faced Irishman. Brother Colm O'Connell is a living legend here in Kenya, although he's reluctant to admit it.
"Ah, the legend is bigger than the man," he says smiling.
He joined St Patrick's as a teacher in 1976 and became headteacher in 1986. But it is his role in athletics that he is most famous for.
"I didn't know anything when I started out," he tells me. "But I learnt from watching the athletes."
Brother Colm started coaching kids at the school in the late-1970s and had a lot of success at national level, so in 1986 he was asked to pick the Kenyan team for the first ever world junior championships in Athens. Despite only taking nine athletes, mostly from the local area, the Kenyan team won nine medals.
"It was then I thought, there's something here," says O'Connell. So a few years later he started the first Kenyan running camp. Today there are over 100 camps in Kenya and most of the top athletes live and train in one. But back then it was a novel idea.
Initially his camp was just for schoolgirls and it took place in the school holidays. Today, sitting on the tables next to us, are about 15 teenagers quietly drinking tea and eating dry bread. They're here for the Easter camp.
"They don't like jam," says O'Connell, reaching for another sandwich and then leaning back against the peeling wall, his feet up on the bench. "So these are just for the coaches."
Despite the fact that O'Connell is no longer a teacher at the school, he still lives on the compound with four senior athletes whom he has coached since they were juniors. Among his small ranks are the former Commonwealth champion...CONTINUE READING HERE.