Running with the Kenyans by Adharandand Finn
In the Olympic Games there are few certainties. Gold medal favourites may false start, a world record holder might succumb to injury, the baton is easily dropped during a relay.
But one expectation likely to be fulfilled is that a Kenyan will win a long distance race. In recent times, Kenyan athletes have dominated marathons and half marathons, and often have appeared invincible.
Adharandand Finn, a regular writer for the Guardian and Runner’s World decided to uproot his family to live in Kenya. By running on Kenyan soil, training with Kenyan athletes and hopefully learning the secrets of what makes Kenyans such excellent runners, Finn hoped to improve his own times.
Published earlier this year, ‘Running with the Kenyans’ reveals a personal journey as well as a fascinating insight into the Kenyan way of life.
Running is not a hobby in Kenya, Finn discovers. It is a potential promise of a better life, where you can make enough money from winning one race to pay the rent for three years or more. If you are good enough, you could be selected to race abroad, to run in world Championships, in the Olympics, to become well-known throughout the world. In Kenya, people do not run to keep fit or because it’s fun. They get up at 5am, run along the roadside and up hills because, if any talent is spotted, it could completely change their life. What is most startling is how many Kenyan people have given up their jobs to become full-time athletes.
Finn’s book is full of intriguing characters, each with their own running stories. “What is your time?” turns out to be an incredibly common phrase throughout the country, as each runner’s fastest time is a massive source of personal pride.
Runners will easily be able to connect with Finn’s feelings as he battles pain, heat and the strong urge to just give up in order to beat his personal best time by a matter of seconds.
The ‘secrets’ to what make the Kenyans so good will also be of interest to those who regularly get up at 6am to run around their local park. Does running barefoot really make a better athlete? Is eating ugali the key to fast times? Or is it time to just give up, because the Kenyans simply have better running genes?
‘Running with the Kenyans’ will appeal to anyone with an interest in athletics. This is not a book on ‘how to run better’. It is a man’s journey through the dark streets of Iten, trying to keep up with some of the fastest runners in the world. It is a interesting study of Kenyan culture, and gives insights into just why Kenyan athletes are likely to dominate the Olympics for years to come.