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Book Review

Peek into fast-paced field of Kenyan athletes

Adharanand Finn
Running with the Kenyans: Discovering the secrets of the fastest people on earth by Adharanand Finn. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA | NMG 

This past Sunday, Kenya’s Geoffrey Kamworor shattered the half marathon world record in the Copenhagen Marathon, to cross the finish line at 58:01, a 17 second improvement from Abraham Kiptum’s previous best of 58:18 a year earlier.

Looking at the world’s major marathons or competitions, Kenyans flock in abundance, racing through the foreign streets as they would be back home, in the hills of Iten, or at the NN Running Team base in Kaptagat, where both 21km world holder Kamworor and 42km winner and global sensation Eliud Kipchoge train.

From Medellin, to Cape Town, Sydney to Boston, London to Doha, Kenyans are reigning supreme on the road races. This is what inspired Adharananad Finn to come here for a year and “discover the secrets of the fastest people on earth.”

Written in first person, Running With The Kenyans, is simply exhilarating. It’s an easy read, full of a sense of adventure. You’ll fall hard and fast, walk over the shop to buy your running shoes, if you have not and head out for a bit of a jog once you understand the structure of running.

Just how did our ancestors hunt and forage for food, run away from danger? Adventurous Finn leaves his comfortable home in the UK, travelling halfway across the world, to Eldoret, with his wife and three children, to create a running group dubbed the Iten Town Harriers and proceed to eat, rest and train as a professional athlete, meeting coaches, world champions in the small villages and hillsides of training sessions just to understand what makes Kenya a ‘Mecca’ for pro runners. Does he discover the secret? Well, he eats ugali, drinks strong tea, eats plain bread, eggs, sukuma wiki (kale), sleeps when he’d rather run and run when he’d rather not so he could improve on his stride, gait, posture, increase overall fitness, losing his pouch in readiness for the Lewa Marathon, one of the hardest races on earth.

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Finn stayed in the country for six months researching on the book. Given that he was already an exceptional runner when he was young before age set in, it comes as no surprise that he came back to running. And more so in this manner so others could benefit from his experience. It’s a great book to read or recommend to foreigners, especially the ones who ask how is it that only Kenyans are winning the marathons and have the fastest man alive. Simply give a wink and suggest Running with the Kenyans. They’ll thoroughly enjoy the read, and start running too by the time the book is done.

With all eyes on the INEOS 1:59 challenge, a record breaking attempt at the sub-two-hour marathon record by 34-year-old Eliud Kipchoge set for October in Austria, this is a fantastically timely book to delve into.

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