Running with the Kenyans

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 10 June, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 10 June, 2012, 12:00am


Running with the Kenyans
by Adharanand Finn
Ballantine Books (e-book)

Is it because of ugali (made of maize flour and water), barefoot training, or the fact so many want to escape poverty that Kenyans are the fastest people on earth? Trying to answer this question Guardian editor Adharanand Finn, himself a runner, heads, family in tow, for highlands above the Rift Valley for six months of training. Finn admits he is 31/2 minutes slower running 10 kilometres than the most sluggish junior female racer in Kenya. But that's nothing to be ashamed of when you consider that Kenyans ran the top 20 fastest marathons last year. So Finn removes his shoes to try to mimic the Kenyan style of running, which has them landing forefoot rather than heel first (the latter apparently puts the brakes on every stride). He also studies their 'maverick approach' to long-distance races: they tend to sprint ahead from the start. Finn trains for a marathon with Kenyan runners and considers other possible secrets to their success as runners, including the thin air in which they train and the long hours of rest runners take. If you do any form of exercise, you will enjoy the book.