WBEZ | Colm O'Connell http://www.wbez.org/tags/colm-oconnell Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en The unlikely coach of Kenya's top runners http://www.wbez.org/blogs/bez/2012-07/unlikely-coach-kenyas-top-runners-101169 <p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center; "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/AP08011108377.jpg" title="Kenyan runners return to training in the town of Iten in Kenya. (AP/Ben Curtis)" /></div><p>Potbellied and unassuming, 63-year-old Colm O&rsquo;Connell doesn&rsquo;t look like the kind of guy who trains world class athletes. But among those under his tutelage is Kenyan <a href="http://http://www.vanityfair.com/online/daily/2012/07/david-rudisha-olympics-2012-track-800-meter" target="_blank">David Rudisha</a>, the reigning world champion of the 800-meter race and presumed gold medalist in the London Olympics. In addition to not looking the part, O&rsquo;Connell eschews new-fangled techniques like measuring runners&rsquo; lactate threshold and maximum oxygen consumption. His is a more intuitive technique. Oh, and did I mention he&rsquo;s an Irish priest?</p><p>In a <a href="http://www.outsideonline.com/fitness/running/road-running/Father-Knows-Best-20120801.html?page=all">profile</a> for the August edition of <a href="http://www.outsideonline.com/"><em>Outside Magazine</em></a>, London-based writer <a href="http://www.edcaesar.co.uk/" target="_blank">Ed Caesar</a> chronicles how O&rsquo;Connell became &ldquo;the most successful running coach in history&rdquo; and something of a celebrity in Iten, the Kenyan village that produces many of the country&rsquo;s top athletes. Having lived in Iten for decades, the priest knows the complexities of dealing with vulnerable young people looking for a way out of extreme poverty.</p><p>Of the priest&rsquo;s unorthodox style, Caesar writes:</p><blockquote><p><br /><em>He will never coach a school-age pupil who isn&rsquo;t in school full time. He won&rsquo;t coach more than four or five professionals at a time, and he&rsquo;ll only coach would-be pros who came through his junior program. And he &mdash; not Athletics Kenya nor the dozens of European and American managers who have flooded into the Rift Valley looking to sign talent and make money on lucrative races &mdash; will decide his athletes&rsquo; event schedules.</em></p></blockquote><p><br />Unlike other coaches, O&rsquo;Connell receives no payment for his work. According to Caesar, he&rsquo;s unlikely to cheer on David Rudisha in London; he relies on the generosity of others when he needs to travel.</p><p>Cesar joins us Wednesday on <em>Worldview</em>.&nbsp;</p></p> Wed, 25 Jul 2012 10:19:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/bez/2012-07/unlikely-coach-kenyas-top-runners-101169