Running With The Kenyans Book Review
Running with the Kenyans by Adharanand Finn is a book about his search for the secrets to how to run fast. He thought barefoot running was the reason Kenyans always won most of the marathons and left with the prize money. Finn gets invited by his sister-in-law, who lives in Kenya, to come to visit, and while there he can run their local marathon. So Finn accepts this challenge and takes his audience on his adventure to Kenya to experience his observations and training with the Kenyans.
I read this book many years ago when I first started running. My intention in reading the book then was to learn techniques for running. I wasn't interested in running barefoot at that time. But now I am. I'm interested in rereading this book to learn how to run barefoot and how it can improve my running.
At first, I didn't think I would learn much from reading the book because it is more of an autobiography. The author talks about his life, but just the sections that had anything to do with his running experience and learning from the Kenyans. I was shocked within the first several pages that I was taking copious notes. Running with the Kenyans may be a helpful book in my barefoot running journey.
Running with the Kenyans Synopsis
Finn lived in England and ran cross country in high school and college. However, life and injuries got in the way, so his running stopped until he acquired a job as a journalist for a running magazine. Then, he was required to take up running again since his career was to write articles about his experiences while training and running races. Finn ran his first half marathon when he was 29 years old.
His sister-in-law lived in Kenya and invited Finn and his family to visit and suggested he run the Lewa Marathon in Kenya while he was there.
"One night, after the children are in bed. I put forward my idea. Six months in Kenya. We'll have an adventure. She'll get to visit her sister. We'll see elephants, zebras, go riding across the bush in the back of a jeep - the kids will love it. And I'll get to run. Really run. With the greatest runners on earth. And if I find their secret, I can bottle it and make a fortune." (p. 18)
Finn decides to accept the challenge and move his family there for six months to train with the Kenyans and find out what they do to become so fast. This race will be his first full marathon. He wants to learn their secrets since they win most of the running races throughout the world. He also wanted to learn how to run faster himself.
Six Months in Kenya
The author writes about his experiences with Running with the Kenyans. He trains with them and tells us about what he is observing. However, before he went to Kenya, he tried to prepare by going to an expert to get some tips. The expert said that Kenyans run barefoot, which is the best technique for running faster. So Finn learns to run barefoot, and he buys barefoot shoes.
"I decide to try barefoot running in the local park one evening. I run there in my shoes, but once I get to a clear grassy patch, I take them off, hide them in some bushes, and then set off around a field of football pitches. My running style instantly changed to a shorter, faster stride pattern, as though my feet are afraid to touch the ground. I go for about ten minutes, before deciding I've done enough. It's fun, but afterward it's nice to put my shoes back on. They feel warm and comforting, like big soft pillows." (p. 26)
Once Finn arrives in Kenya, he is surprised to find out they do not run barefoot. Instead, they wear regular name-brand shoes with a lot of cushioning.
When most people think about the Kenyans running, they think about them running barefoot. The fact is that most of them do not train barefoot nor run marathons barefoot. Many Kenyans have sponsors who receive brand-name shoes to wear during training and racing. Their coaches say they run in shoes to protect their feet from sharp rocks and other dangerous obstacles.
Finn writes notes once in a while in search of the secret to why Kenyans run faster than most other cultures. He visits the resort where the Kenyan runners stay and go on training runs with them. He's observing everything they do.
Most Kenyans are poor, so they race to win prize money. The Kenyan marathon runners live in a resort where all they do is train, sleep, and rest. They don't have a job. They are working to become the best runners to win prize money to give to their families and communities. Running is their job.
My Analysis of Running with the Kenyans
The book is about Finn's daily experiences with Running with the Kenyans. It was interesting to get to know some Kenyans with whom he became friends. However, I was reading the book to see why the Kenyans run so fast and how I could improve my running. I didn't want to know his day-to-day training.
The information is in the book. It would help if you gleaned through the book. The book became more interesting once I found the knowledge and took notes. There are a lot of facts about Kenyans that could be why they win races all the time.
I wrote a separate blog about Why Kenyans Run Fast with all the details I gleaned from the book. All the information is organized in one place. You can read this if you don't want to read through the book to find the answer as I did.
I recommend this book for runners who want to learn to run faster. I wrote a lot of notes while reading Running with the Kenyans. It is written in an autobiographic format, where the author goes through his day-to-day training runs and interactions with other people. You will get to know some Kenyans who became friends with Finn. But in between all of that, I gleaned a lot of good information.