Passion, Adventure, and the Secrets of the Fastest People on Earth

Quote: “Even if you never become an Olympic champion, or even manage to race abroad, just being an athlete here seems to lift you above the chaos of daily life. It marks you out as one of the special people, who have chosen a path of dedication and commitment. You can see it in the runners’ eyes when they talk to you. Even the slowest of the runners talk about their training with an almost religious devotion.”

13147812Kenyan runners are world renowned as the undisputed champions of running, but what makes them so good? Back in 2011, Adharanand Finn spent six months in the town of Iten with a mission to discover the secrets of Kenya’s elite runners. While doing so, he assembles a team of colourful locals to take on the Lewa Marathon in Nairobi.

I loved the relaxed nature of this book as Finn and his family delve deep into almost every aspect of Kenyan culture. Through the lens of running, we explore the daily life, diet, schooling of the Kenyan people and we meet several interesting characters along the way. Popular fads and theories such as running barefoot to school are explored and dispelled as the author trains with some of the best athletes in the world.

In the end, after asking every possible stakeholder what the secret is, it turns out of course that there is no singular answer. Kenyan runners are simply the best because they work hard, they love running and their culture holds running up as the ultimate pursuit.

This does not mean that Running With The Kenyans is a predictable or boring read. In fact, the opposite is true. Like all good reads, this book is about the journey. Here there are several as the writer explores the mystery behind the success, takes part in his first marathon and lives abroad with his young family for half a year.

After reading this, you may even feel the urge to lace up your own runners and do what we were all born to do.

“Running is a simple activity. Just lace up your shoes and go, one step at a time, like each breath.” 

Notes:

The Rise of the Ultra Runners audiobook cover art

  • Adharanand Finn has a new book out titled The Rise of the Ultra Runners. After finishing Running With The Kenyans, I bought it straight away.
  • Several times in Running With The Kenyans, Finn references  Christopher McDougall’s incredible book Born To Run. A must read for anyone interested in running.
  • I previously posted a list of my favourite books about running. Check them out here.