In an effort to determine why Kenya consistently produces some of the fastest and most talented runners in the world, Finn packed up his wife and three kids and jetted off to the Kenyan running mecca of Iten to research their techniques, immerse himself in the culture for six months of training, and then run the Lewa Marathon—26 scorching miles across plains populated by elephants, lions, and rhino. Along the way, Finn, a longtime running enthusiast, explores the efficacy of hi-tech, comfortable shoes that allow runners to "hammer the road as hard as want," and tests the virtues of barefoot (or nearly barefoot) running, a method many Kenyan runners have gracefully mastered on account of having grown up without cutting-edge Nikes. In addition to technical issues, the author entertains possible cultural factors behind Kenyans' running prowess, including their diet (many drink mursik, "an unpalatable but potent tonic" of blood and cow's milk), and the fact that running provides some Kenyans with the opportunity to make decent money. Throughout his personal trials, Finn introduces readers to an interesting cast of characters, including Brother Colm O'Connell, the Irish priest and legendary coach from Iten's Catholic boarding school, and charming local runners Japhet and Chris Cheboiboch. Part scientific study, travel memoir, and tale of self-discovery, Finn's journey makes for a smart and entertaining read. (May)
Advance praise for Running with the Kenyans
“Completely satisfying, as well-paced and exhilarating as a good run.”—The Boston Globe
“Not everyone gets to heaven in their lifetime. Adharanand Finn tried to run there, and succeeded. Running with the Kenyans is a great read.”—Bernd Heinrich, author of Why We Run
“Part scientific study, travel memoir, and tale of self-discovery, Finn’s journey makes for a smart and entertaining read.”—Publishers Weekly
“A hymn to the spirit, to the heartbreaking beauty of tenacity, to the joy of movement.”—The Plain Dealer
“Equal parts cultural examination, cult-of-running treatise, and poignant memoir, Running with the Kenyans thrives on a variety of levels. Like the skilled distance runner he is, Finn paces this book marvelously and then saves the best for the final kick. This book packs all the pleasure and satisfaction—and none of the ancillary pain—of a long training run.”—L. Jon Wertheim, senior editor, Sports Illustrated, and co-author of the New York Times bestseller Scorecasting
“Not everyone gets to heaven in their lifetime. Finn tried to run there, and succeeded. Running with the Kenyans is a great read.”—Bernd Heinrich, author of Why We Run
“If you want to know the secrets of Kenyan runners, and have a rollicking adventure along the way, join Finn in his fascinating tale of what it is to go stride for stride with the fastest people on Earth.”—Neal Bascomb, author of The Perfect Mile
“An extremely good book . . . If Born to Run taught us what to wear (or not to wear) when running, Finn’s fascinating Running with the Kenyans teaches us how to run. . . . In the tradition of the best sports writing, Finn embedded himself fully in his subject and reveals, for the first time, just how close we are to the holy grail of the sub-two-hour marathon.”—Robin Harvie, author of The Lure of Long Distances
“A beautiful and inspiring must-have for every runner, Running with the Kenyans is far more than an inspirational story, but a guide toward running, humility, and life, from the amazing people of Kenya.”—Michael Sandler, author of Barefoot Running
Kenyans routinely win the world's big races, and Runner's World contributor Finn wanted to know why. So he moved his family to Iten, Kenya, home to hundreds of world-class runners, and trained in their camps. A serious study of running and an interesting way to visit Africa, this hits right before the summer Olympics gets America's 25 million runners all psyched.
A six-month journey in search of the secrets behind the world's fastest runners. Guardian production editor and Runner's World contributor Finn is an avid running hobbyist. Fueled by the desire to improve significantly, the author set his sights on training in Kenya, home to the top marathoners in the world. In 2011, he uprooted his wife and three small children to live in the high-altitude small town of Iten, sometimes referred to as the running capital of the world. Finn was a good runner in England, but in Kenya, he was slower than the slowest "junior girl" racer. After reading Christopher McDougall's Born to Run (2009), he tried running barefoot, which he counts as one of the keys to Kenyans' speed because "it forces you to adopt a better running style." Finn notes additional secrets to their success: training camps, running to school, getting plenty of rest and eating a primarily vegetarian diet. As the author and his family adjusted to the cultural differences, including roaming lions and a night watchman, Finn prepared to run a marathon by training with a group of excellent runners. Even among those who have no chance of going to the Olympics, there's an attitude of reverence for the sport. "After a run," Finn writes, "you feel at one with the world, as though some unspecified, innate need has been fulfilled." The same could be said of his quest, which strikes a balance between memoir and applicable lessons for those interested in learning the reasons for the success of Kenyan runners. Finn's writing is accessible, and he threads entertaining familial vignettes through the book. Recommended for runners as well as the sport's fans.