Fit Books: Uncovering the Secrets of Elite Global Runners in Running with the Kenyans

I’ve been on a little kick lately of reading books about long distance running. Of course, Born to Run is a classic, and Eat and Run is a new favorite, so once I was finished with that, I immediately picked up Running with the Kenyans: Discovering the Secrets of the Fastest People on Earth. Perfect! I would read this book and immediately learn all the secrets of great Kenyan distance runners and marathon training would be easy-breezy. Disclaimer: that’s not the way books work. But, the information in this book is enlightening, both in terms of running techniques and in the way it opens up the reader’s eyes to another culture. The author, Mr. Finn, picks up his family and moves to Kenya to train with the most elite runners in the world, with the culminating achievement of running the Lewa marathon. Inspired by the joie de vivre of winning a 10K race in his England home, Finn wants to know more about what makes a runner great, so he heads to the source of the vast majority of elite runners competing today. At Kenyan training camps, record holders and finishers in top international races casually stroll around the villages, running every morning and every night and resting in between. Finn joins them and slowly begins to piece together the running puzzle. In contrast to Eat and Run, in which Scott Jurek is a champion runner through and through, Finn is relatable to the reader in an everyman sort of way. No matter how much you may wish to think otherwise, not everyone can run ultramarathons like Jurek- but many more people can run a 10K, a half marathon and maybe even a full marathon. Finn doesn’t begin his journey in the greatest of shape, but his training shows that anyone with the will and dedication to improving can succeed. Of course, it helps if you’re taking a six month hiatus from work to do nothing but run, eat, sleep and write, but hey, we can’t all live that dream! Finn’s book also offers a great insight into the cultural differences between training in the United States and training in Kenya. The camps are far from the IMG Sports Academies of the world; they’re bare bones, but in spite of that (or maybe because of that?), they get the job done, producing champion runners at an unprecedented rate. And while he can never really narrow it down to ONE great secret that makes Kenyan runners head and shoulders above the rest, these cultural differences seem to encompass the “secret.” Without going into too much detail, Kenyans’ diets, their stellar running technique and form from growing up running barefoot, the way they grow up running EVERYWHERE, the altitude, their complete dedication to the sport once in training and their motivation to succeed as a runner to help support their families – these things combined make them the best runners on the planet. As for me? I’ll just keep trotting along, working on my form and my speed. I may not have the benefits that Kenyan runners have when it comes to marathons and more, but I can still enjoy the run. Intrigued about Mr. Finn and his book? Check out his interview with CNN here. Anyone else read this book? What did you think?

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About Kristen Geil

A native of Lexington, Kentucky, Kristen moved to Chicago in 2011 and received her MA in Writing, Rhetoric, and Discourse from DePaul while trying to maintain her southern accent. Kristen grew up playing sports, and since moving to Chicago, she’s fallen in love with the lakefront running path and the lively group fitness scene. Now, as a currently retired marathoner and sweat junkie, you can usually find her trying new workouts around the city and meticulously crafting Instagram-friendly smoothie bowls. Kristen came on to A Sweat Life full-time in 2018 as Editor-in-Chief, and she spends her days managing writers, building content strategy, and fighting for the Oxford comma.