Eliud Kipchoge - “100 percent of me is nothing compared to one percent of the team.”
While the NN Running Team is just that; a team - a key behind-the-scenes component is the tireless work carried out by its physiotherapists. One of the team’s esteemed physiotherapists is Kaptagat-based physiotherapist Peter Nduhiu.
Leading a team of three, the healing hands of the highly-respected and veteran physio, who has personally worked with Eliud Kipchoge for the past 19 years, have helped ensure that athletes in the NN Running Team training camp have been free of injury and best able to demonstrate their athletic talents.
Living in camp from Monday to Saturday, Peter serves a key medical role for the 25 or so athletes who reside in the camp such as Eliud, Geoffrey Kamworor and Olympic, and World 1500m champion Faith Kipyegon.
“I handle all matters health-related because we don’t have a medical doctor operating here, so I am both medic and a physio,” he explains. “Those cases that require a medical doctor, I refer them to colleagues in Eldoret. But essentially my role is to work on injuries and the prevention of injuries to ensure the athletes are in the best possible health to deliver on their training which allows them to perform to their peak in competition.”
Working with multiple athletes, the hours can be long and the work demanding. However, besides his extensive work treating injuries he also instills good injury prevention practices in the camp through the implementation of twice-weekly core stability exercise sessions. Tailormade for the individual needs of each athlete Peter insists that since their introduction several years ago it has been of huge benefit.
“It has been very helpful in minimizing not only the number of injuries but also the severity of the injuries,” explains Peter.
If an athlete picks up an injury but has good core then it will take a far shorter period of time for them to recover compared to the athlete whose core stability is much weaker.
Peter insists that living in camp around the athletes has several advantages in that he is on hand to quickly address any incident that may occur. However, this not only pertains to any injury but any more general medical issues which may occur allowing Peter to revert the athlete to rapidly receive the best medical care.
Peter admits the role can present its challenges. One of which is helping manage an athlete’s expectations when injured.
“With some athletes who are injured it is getting them to understand you cannot have your cake and eat it,” he explains. “It is not easy for them because they feel they are being denied the thing they love to do – which is to run.
“It is important to get that balance right between getting them running as quickly as possible but doing so in a safe and healthy way.”
Peter insists his role is part physical but also part psychological and he says establishing rapport and understanding with the athletes he treats is vital.
“The truth of the matter is to succeed as a physio you must form a strong bond between you and your client,” he says. “You must have that chemistry. If you are walking on different paths, it can lead to frustration and disappointment for both parties. You must have that connection and partnership.”
Working five days a week away from his wife, who lives more than 300 kilometers away in their family home in the Kenyan capital city Nairobi, is a sacrifice but one he and his family have been prepared to make.
You do feel the pain that you are detached from the family but I discussed this with my wife and the whole family and they said, ‘this is your passion go there and do it’. They support me, are my biggest fans, and celebrate when things go well with the team.
A former volleyball player, Peter has treated sportsmen and sportswomen since his days studying time as a medical student and his passion has never waned. First meeting and treating Eliud at the 2003 World Championships in Paris – when Eliud won 5000m gold – the pair have established a rock-solid bond and the Olympic marathon champion serves as a huge source of motivation for the Kaptagat head physio.
“When you look at what Eliud has achieved, I think I have to keep going for him. To tell you the truth, I never feel tired or exhausted when I see the growth and that satisfaction that comes with his success. To have contributed and to have been a small part in the success is a wonderful thing.”
Immensely proud of his role working with Eliud on the INEOS 1:59 Challenge more generally he has been delighted at the progress made by the NN Running Team.
“To see the partnership that NN has brought has been one beautiful journey,” he adds. “It once seemed unimaginable to have a support system in place to help the athletes in this way. I can only say a big thank you to NN.”