How to Run Faster and Longer

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.

Run!

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

The goal

There are two specific things I want to improve: a) the short-distance sprint (say 200-400m) and b) the middle-distance run (say 1500m).

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.

The theory

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disciplines, we can’t take the wisdom of the 1970s and apply it to today without analyzing it, because some might be outdated.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

Iten is a tiny town.

The first place people think of in Kenya for running is the town of Iten.

Resources

Websites/Blog posts

Books

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).

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.
  • 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.

Apps

  • 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.

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