‘Running with the Kenyans’ chronicles a British journalist’s quest to uncover the secrets of the ‘fastest people on Earth’.
Back in 2011 Adharanand Finn bundled his family from the British midlands to the Riff Valley in Kenya. There he trained with the local runners, interviewed everyone he could find and immersed himself into Kenyan life.
As background, in the world of long-distance running Kenyan dominance is beyond dispute:
In 1975… thirty-four marathons were run in under 2 hours 20 minutes by American runners, twenty-three by British runners, and none by Kenyan runners. By 2005, however, there were 22 sub-2:20 marathon performances by Americans, 12 by Britons, and a staggering 490 by Kenyans.Running with the Kenyans -Adharanand Finn P.156
(For a case study in Kenyan running at its best see Eliud Kipchoge’s superhuman effort in the Marathon earlier this week, here.)
Just how they came to dominate so completely is the focus of the book—and, spoiler alert — here’s what the author found:
- the tough, active childhood
- the altitude
- the diet
- the role models
- the simple approach to training
- the running camps
- the focus and dedication
- the desire to succeed
- the expectation that they can win
- the mental toughness
- the lack of alternatives
- the abundance of trails to train on
- the time spent resting
- the running to school
- the all-pervasive running culture
- the reverence for running
As well, in a country where life is hard — running can truly change their lives.
This book has similarities to Christopher McDougall’s ‘Born to Run’ but it doesn’t quite deliver the same compelling narrative or quality of writing. Still it’s an interesting read from a cultural and training perspective— and if you run, or like the idea of running, this book will inspire you.
And finally, a Kenyan tip that will give you all the help you need to settle on an appropriate pace!
If you ask a Kenyan runner what was happening in his head during a race, he will usually say something as simple as, “I felt good, so I ran faster” or “I felt tired, so I stopped.”Running with the Kenyans -Adharanand Finn P.194