This is a work-in-progress post. It’ll be updated as we learn more and more about running, in preparation for visiting a running school in April/May 2019.
Running has long been one of our weaknesses. And yet it’s the best self-defence mechanism available to us.
This is why one of the things we’re planning in 2019 is to learn to run quickly, and to learn it in one of the countries most known for producing middle distance runners: Kenya.
If you are unsure why Kenya, then contemplate this note:
Runners from highlands that snake along the western edge of the Great Rift Valley that cuts through Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania have clocked more than 60 percent of the best times ever run in distance races. Kenyans alone win 40 percent of top international events. The Nandi district of 500,000 people–1/12,000th of the Earth’s population–boasts an unfathomable 20 percent, marking the greatest concentration of raw athletic talent in sports history.John Entine, “Elites are Born, Not Trained“, Chicago Tribune
Or we could just spend our time running through the many amazing national parks in Kenya. The animals chasing us could only be added incentive!
There are two specific things I want to improve: a) sprinting (up to 400m) and b) the long-distance run (to marathon distances, and beyond).
Training for both of these are very different.
For a long time, I’ve been able to run reasonably quickly, but then for some reason, anyone who tries can pull ahead of me without much trouble. I know this after years of Crossfit, whenever I’d playfully attempt to race someone, they’d win. It wasn’t just the launch or just the stride… I’m slow at everything. No idea why.
Why running? Simple – it’s the best self-defence we have. If attacked by three people in an alley, chances are slim I could take them all out. Who knows how they’re armed? But you can always run. Hopefully, it’ll just be me running, too.
A lot has been written about running faster, luckily. The theory has evolved a lot over the decades, so unlike other disciplines, we can’t take the wisdom of the 1970s and apply it to today without analyzing it, because some might be outdated.
Long-distance running is actually where Kenya shines. However, it’s safe to say they’re not slouches at any kind of running.
Where to train in running in Kenya
The first place people think of in Kenya for running is the town of Iten. The local high school has produced a plethora of world-class athletes. The town is also home to high-altitude running training camps as well as to many world-class athletes. The idea of running in Iten is intimidating, and making me work on speeding up my game.
- The Kenya Experience – two weeks, 1200 GBP
- Transcend Running Academy – for locals, $1000 a year
- A collection of towns to stay in and run
Yes, the first thing I tend to do is to buy too many books, most of which I only half read (not entirely my fault; many books themselves peter off halfway through, as if the writers were also losing enthusiasm).
My starting point on form is going to be Ready to Run by Kelly Starrett and TJ Murphy. This is an excellent book on form, by one of the form masters of the Olympic weightlifting world. It comes in Kindle format, which is good; though the reviews of the format are not very good (oh well). If you don’t want to read it, here’s a list of lessons I learned.
Here’s what’s on my reading list so far.
- Running with the Kenyans by Adharanand Finn: a journey to elite training camps of Kenya to figure out why they’re so fast, as well as to run with his heroes while growing up in Kenya.
- Born to Run by Christopher McDougall: More a fun read to get us in the mood. It preaches barefoot running. (Done! Enjoyed it; review coming soon).
- Finding Ultra by Rich Roll – story of how an overweight dude became an EPIC5 racer.
- 80/20 Running by Matt Fitzgerald. A guide to getting good at running without over-investing.
- Nike Run Club. Aside from the social aspect, I really like how much content on training this app has. Like this training plan for a 5km run.
- Strava – obviously. To find great runs. However, the music integration of RunKeeper is probably why I’ll use that.
- RunKeeper – to track runs, and give Spotify music that is in time with running pace.
- TrailMix – this was an app I saw recommended by Pat Flynn of all people. It’s only available for iPhone so I haven’t tried it.