Queen's Baton Relay: A week with the 'extraordinary' Kip Keino
- 27 January 2014
Kipchoge 'Kip' Keino is a legend in eastern Africa and it is not hard to see why.
The 1500m champion enjoyed a hero's welcome whilst leading the Queen's baton delegation through Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania.
It speaks volumes for his legacy that fierce competitors of old and medal hopefuls of the future all hold him in such high regard. He is a man who I saw always jogging up to the podium to give his speeches and who also celebrated his 74th birthday whilst on the road with us.
In 1968 Kip set the Olympic Record for the 1500m at 3:34.9 - a record which would stand until Sebastian Coe ran 3:32.53 in 1984. Lord Coe was one of the first to call his old friend Kip to wish him happy birthday.
I asked Kip if he still manages to run at all. "I don't run anymore, but I jog for my life!" he laughs "Maybe three times a week for 5 or 10km."
Our conversation moves on to the facilities and the kit that modern athletes have. Kip marvels over how well supported they are. "Did you have shoe sponsors when you got started?" I asked casually.
"I didn't have shoes," he laughed again. "I ran the one and three mile races bare foot until 1958. Around then I got my first shoes, with very long spikes, and the distances were changed to 1500m and 3km."
What Kip has achieved off the track is even more inspiring. As well as bringing up his own seven children, Kip and his wife Phyllis have homed over 100 others. His oldest is 48, with his youngest just a month and a half old.
This amazing extended family started after the war between Kenya and Somalia when Kip heard about how many children had been orphaned.
On his home farm, west of Nairobi, he now has his own primary and high school where the fees from outside students help support the education of his own children.
Kip's 'farm' also boasts one of Kenya's premier athletic camps, where athletes from around the world come to train.
There is accommodation for up to 30 runners at 6900ft (2103m) and a track at 6600ft (2011m). The athletes train at altitude with Kip and some of East Africa's top coaches.
You would think that his extended family and coaching commitments would keep Kip extraordinarily busy for someone in 'retirement'.
But as we wave goodbye to Kip after a week of ambassadorial work for the Commonwealth Games Federation, he is off for a flight to Malaysia for a few days of meetings before heading to Sochi for work at the Winter Olympics.
I was lucky to spend a week with this extraordinary man, who was always happy and constantly smiling. He explained to me that he has reason to be content. Sport has given him such an amazing life and allowed him to travel to over 150 countries.
As we part I ask him about Glasgow 2014 and he comments, "Well, when the Games were in Scotland in 1970 I won the 1500m.
"They were very well organised and very friendly. I also got bronze in the 5000m, beaten by two Scots: Ian Stewart and Ian McCafferty... they were very tough. I am sure Glasgow will be just as successful."