Those who followed the elite fields of the Bank of America Chicago Marathon at the beginning of the millennium may recognize Lornah Kiplagat from her second place finish in the 2000 race. The 2:22:36 she posted that year was the fastest non-winning time in race history at that point and set the stage for a prolific career in the ’00s that included two Olympic appearances, a variety of world championships, the world record in the road 5K and multiple marathon victories.
Today, Kiplagat stays involved in the running world in a slightly different capacity, recently launching her own activewear line, Lornah.
“[Running clothes] were boring, nothing stunning, and that was something I was missing,” Kiplagat says. “It doesn’t have to be boring, doesn’t have to be black or just one color. It can be creative. If clothing lines look good, you’ll feel good.”
The line, which debuted last October at the Amsterdam Marathon, draws inspiration from Kiplagat’s Kenyan heritage.
“African design and African colors had never really been utilized in any fashion or sports line,” Kiplagat says. “I thought this would be a good time to come up with it. The colors of Africa, the atmosphere of Africa is included in the line.”
While Kiplagat and her team work to find a distributor for the line in the United States—she came to Chicago in early July for The Running & Fitness Event for Women to help introduce the clothes to the U.S. market—Kiplagat also maintains a presence in the sport with the High Altitude Training Center (HATC), a camp Kiplagat built using her winnings from road races.
“When I started training, it was really difficult for a woman to be accepted as a [professional] runner,” Kiplagat says. “In Kenya, they want us to stay home and take care of the children. As women we didn’t have somewhere to train.”
The HATC originally aimed to remedy that situation, but today also serves athletes from around the world. The center, located in Iten, Kenya at 8000 feet above sea level, welcomes runners of all levels to take advantage of its facilities.
“In the winter it’s pretty full with international athletes,” Kiplagat says. “Sometimes we have 35 international athletes in our training center.”
The HATC centralizes all the facilities an athlete would normally need and want during training, including a track, dirt roads, a gym and a clinic for physical therapy and massage.
“Athletes spend so much time traveling around to different facilities,” Kiplagat says. “You can do everything here.”
To learn more about Kiplagat, the Lornah line and the HATC, visit www.lornah.com.