I step out of the house into the moonlit night. Dogs and cockerels are doing their best to wake the valley below. There is still no sign of the dawn as I walk through Iten towards the meeting point; a junction between one of the many dirt roads and the main tarmac one. I've been told that athletes meet here just after six every morning to go running. Anyone is welcome to join them.
Up until now, all the running I've done has been with people who have agreed to run at my pace. This time I'll be just like any other runner - it will be up to me to keep up.
Most young Kenyans who arrive in Iten looking to forge a running career begin by joining in with groups like this. They hope that if they run well, someone will invite them to join a training camp, from where the best athletes are sent to race abroad.
Iten is quiet at this time of the morning, and I slip by incognito in the darkness, without anyone staring at me. Already there are people out running. I don't know how they can see well enough to negotiate all the bumps and potholes without twisting an ankle. There are also children running to school, racing past with their pencil cases rattling in their school bags.
Not surprisingly, I'm the first to arrive at the junction. I do a bit of stretching and jogging up and down to keep warm as the occasional matatu (small bus) drives slowly by, beeping for customers.
After about 10 minutes, runners suddenly start appearing from everywhere, materialising out of the darkness. Within a few minutes there are around 60 crack Kenyan athletes standing around. Some of them are talking quietly and stretching. They are mostly men, their long, skinny legs wrapped in tights, some wearing woolly hats. I suddenly feel out of my depth. What am I doing?
Without any announcement, they all start running, heading off down the dirt track. The pace is quick without being terrifying, so I tuck myself into the middle of the group. Up ahead the full moon lights the way, while behind us the dawn is creeping across the sky, making it easier to see. The last few stars go out as we hurtle along out of the town and into the African countryside.
It feels as though I've become part of something bigger than myself. The children who usually call out and get excited when I run by, just stand and stare as we go past.
A few of the runners are chatting quietly, but mostly we run in silence, passing small settlements of round, mud huts, following the red dusty trail as it winds its way further and further from anywhere I recognise.
Gradually the pace begins to pick up. I feel it most up the hills, and after about three miles I find myself drifting to the back of the group. I ask someone how far we are running.
"One hour 10," he says, and I realise I'm going to have to do the run of my life not to get lost.
Luckily for me, there are two women also struggling with the ever-increasing pace and I end up sticking with them for the second half of the run. They are very kind and encourage me whenever I start to fall behind. Up one particularly steep hill near the end, as my weary legs finally start to rebel, refusing to match the patter, patter rhythm of the two women, one of them turns to me and says simply: "Try."
I can't help but respond, and I manage to stay with them until the end. When we finish we find the other runners all standing around joking and stretching. Some are walking home. I'm exhausted, but still standing. It's as much as I could have hoped for.
• The book Running with the Kenyans by Adharanand Finn will be published in 2012