A couple of months ago, I read on article in a British newspaper (The Guardian, or The Telegraph… I don’t remember) about that book. Running With The Kenyansrelates the experience of Adharanand Finn, a British journalists who decided to live and train in Iten, the land of a thousand runnes in Kenya, in order to find out what makes them so fast. (Luckily) he doesn’t find an answer to that question. He actually finds out that there are numerous factors that come into play:
The tough, active childhood, the barefoot running, the altitude, the diet, the role models, the simple approach to training, the running camps, the focus and dedication, the desire to succeed, to change their lives 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 (p. 237)
No, I didn’t just spoil it all, because the book is not just about finding “the secrets of the fastest people on earth” but about much more. It’s a story of someone who had the curiosity to immerse himself into the Kenyan running culture. It’s not a factual book, it’s autobiographical, nicely written, addictive, especially when you’re a runner. What I loved most is the way Finn communicates this comradeship between him and his running mates over there. I reminded me of my time cycling at the Weber Sports in Pensacola two years ago: the early training rides, the going-to-races together, the commitment, the fun!
If simply the story of a six-months, life-changing adventure of a runner. There are some funny anecdotes, like the passage where Finn writes about a long 24-miles training run . After taking a 10-minute head start with the women runners, who he can keep up with, he relates:
At about the tenth mil the men come past us. First the sound of rushing feet, then they go by, their strides strong, their shoulders leaning forward, little puffs of dust kicked up by their feet. One by one they go. At the front is Emmanual Mutai, and an Ugandan athlete named Stephen Kiprotitch, who came in sixth at the recent world cross-country championships. The others are not far behind (p. 173)
Just a heads up: Stephen Kiprotich also won the Olympic title in London. And all along the book, Finn manages to communicate this proximity between him and the athletes, between the athletes in general. This is why this book is very pleasant to read, especially when you’re a runner and you admire these insanely thin and fast runners. They don’t have a secret, “nothing that Nike could replicate and market as the latest running fad“, he writes. I warmly recommend you the read!