Running With The Kenyans



The Kenyans are the fastest people on Earth, I mean they’ve pretty much got this distance running business down. In the west, we’ve got more money, more technology and more advanced sport science yet we still get our asses handed to us on the world stage by guys who learnt to run without shoes.

Now I’m not going to get into the ‘Born to Run’ debate as it is the quickest way to start a full scale riot in a room full of perfectly polite runners, but I think there are a few other things that we could learn from these speed demons.

I just finished this book by Adharanand Finn where the author goes to train in Iten with the Kenyan running royalty. I’m not sure what the intended message was, but this is what I took from it, rather than technique, was that being Kenyan is a state of mind.

In the west we have become bogged down by our running data, we have our splits, not justgadget runner mile splits but 0.5 miles, 1 miles, 2 miles and 5 miles. Our times, elevations, wind speed are shouted in our ear, along with cheesy motivation quotes through a variety of technologies.
We look at this data on a daily basis, comparing it, analysing it, making excuses for why we think it could have been better. And every single time there’s the slightest blip (about once a week) we have a panic attack and adjust our nutrition, hydration and training plan.

Let’s face it, we’ve got our head shoved up our ass.


Now raise your hand if you’ve waited for your phone to charge before going out running because you just COULDNT run two miles without Runkeeper. Go on raise it………..raise it………I know you’ve done it.





I could be wrong, but I’m guessing that the Kenyan’s couldn’t care less bout Runkeeper, (mostly because I’m not sure that they’ve got 4G yet). According to Finn they don’t really see the point in over analysing a weeks worth of data. They know if they’ve got faster by one thing, and one thing alone……how they race.


Sometimes I think we all miss how far we’ve come by overloading ourselves with information. Real improvement from training takes months not weeks, and if we looked at our race results over time we could see better our own progression. Instead we compare the days, sometimes even the MILES. How insane is that? How unrealistic is that? It’s like we think it’s all happens in an eighties training montage.
Two flights of stairs lrunwebater and a freezer load of beef I ran a sub 2 hour half marathon……….

There’s no telling what this expectation does for our head, but I’m guessing it doesn’t help the runner’s endless battle to beat the ‘blerch’.  Picking apart our short term data makes most of us feel disappointed which does nothing to push us out the door on a cold morning.

We use information as a replacement for listening to our bodies, a watch to set the pace, instead of judging for ourselves when we are tired and giving our legs the chance to show their training, instead of being limited by our expectations. Or worse, pushing our bodies when they need to rest and ending up with a serious injury.

It also takes the fun out of it, we run because we love it sometimes the pressure for times, for data makes us forget all that. I’ll tell you a secret…..running is actually fun, it makes our bodies feel great and if you get your head out of your watch there is some pretty amazing scenery out there.
In Finn’s book, the Kenyans eat when they are hungry, sleep when they are tired, and the rest of the time they run.

Run like the Kenyans. Listen to your body, not the data. It’s more fun I promise.



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