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Running with the Kenyans: Discovering the secrets of the fastest people on earth [Paperback]

Adharanand Finn
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (106 customer reviews)
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Book Description

4 April 2013

Sunday Times Sports Book of the Year

Shortlisted for the William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award

Winner - Best New Writer category at the British Sports Book Awards

After years of watching Kenyan athletes win the world's biggest long-distance races, Runner's World contributor Adharanand Finn set out to discover what it was that made them so fast - and to see if he could keep up. Packing up his family, he moved to Iten, Kenya, the running capital of the world, and started investigating. Was it running barefoot to school, the food, the altitude, or something else? At the end of his journey he put his research to the test by running his first marathon, across the Kenyan plains.

This edition includes a new chapter covering the 2012 Olympics.

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Running with the Kenyans: Discovering the secrets of the fastest people on earth + Eat and Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness + Born to Run: The Hidden Tribe, the Ultra-Runners, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen
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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber (4 April 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571274064
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571274062
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 12.4 x 2.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (106 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,293 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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'I've seldom read a better account of the exhilaration of running...what gives Running With the Kenyans its special appeal is Finn's charm ... He's unusually engaging company both on and off the track.' Evening Standard

'A revealing study of the African nationa's long-distance supremacy.' Daily Telegraph Sports Books of the Year

'What sets Finn's book apart is that in trying to 'discover the secrets of the fastest people on earth' he realises something far greater - that there's no 'elixir' but the hunger to succeed.' Metro Books of the Year

'An engaging memoir...The book is populated with engagingly drawn characters and towards the end, Finn's quest - the burning need to attain a certain marathon time - is gripping.' Daily Telegraph

A hugely inspiring story of what is possible when we dare to try.' --Ruth Field, author of Run Fat Bitch Run

'If Chris McDougall's 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, and should be required reading for anyone planning their first fun run or marathon. In the tradition of the best sports writing he 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 Why We Run

'[This] beautifully crafted account of an expedition of discovery to Kenya defies categorisation ... The adventure is captivating.' --Nick Pitt, The Sunday Times Books of the Year

'In unobtrusively beautiful prose, [Finn] evokes the will to run at the heart of Kenyan life.' --Sunday Telegraph

'[Finn's] unfussy, evocative prose makes it an engaging odyssey.' --Sunday Telegraph

Book Description

An epic personal quest to discover the remarkable secrets of the world's greatest runners.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant insight 4 April 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
After reading the articles that Adharanand wrote in the Guardian whilst he was out in Kenya, I was extremely excited to have an opportunity to read the book. It did not disappoint - at time funny, moving, instructional and inspiring, I think that in the end Finn manages to answer the question that runs throughout the book - what is it that makes Kenya such an endurance running hot spot. I won't ruin the book for readers, but the answer is both simple and deeply complex... and well worth reading the book for. My extended review is at [...]
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
By HazBeen
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Long distance-running was pretty low down on the list of sports I'm interested in (I'm a very occasional jogger) but I found this book compelling. The things that make it what it is are the author's engaging style coupled with his open-mindedness and refusal to rush to easy stereotypes about the reasons for the phenomenal success of Kenyans in long-distance running. It's much more than a book about long-distance running - it's also part travel book and part personal journey. It is the interweaving of these three themes that kept my interest so that by the end I was willing Finn on as he runs a gruelling marathon in Kenya. He meets a number of characters, ranging from running greats to those striving to become elite runners, and describes them, idiosyncrasies and all, in such a way that I felt that I knew them. Finn often lends dry humour to observations of the characters and cultural differences he encounters but never lacks respect. He is open-minded without glossing over the aspects of his time in Kenya that he found unconventional or challenging. Running with the Kenyans had me so enthralled it made me want to go out running barefoot in the local park and to visit Kenya ...although whether I will do either remains to be seen!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sports book of the year contender 3 May 2012
By Ben
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Sports books of this quality are rare, running ones even rarer. This is Born to Run but better written, and with better runners (I'm sure the Tarahumara are lovely, but ... come on). Finn's personal quest to recapture his youthful talent is gripping, and along the way he meets all the important figures in Kenyan running, and makes a measured examination of what makes them so good, calmly cutting through the bs that often clouds the debate. His life in Iten and the stories of the runners he befriends are fascinating, but what sets the book even further ahead of the rest is the side story of how his partner and young family deal with being uprooted from Devon to Iten. Running for Kenyans will delight running fans, but this is a book anyone can enjoy. Fascinating.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Running with the Kenyans 28 May 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
As a CrossFit Endurance training, high protein and low carb diet eating, marathon runner I probably should have put Adharanand Finn's "Running with the Kenyans" down before I ended the first chapter. Just pages in, this book went dead against everything my training regime stands for.

But it was enchanting. Page after page my attention was held. I've recommended this book to both runners and non runners since reading it. It's a chronicle of an amazing journey and teaches so much about commitment to a cause, mental struggles, physical hardships and believing you've got what it takes to do something.

When Finn leaves the UK for Kenya in search of just what makes the country's runners so good and an opportunity to better his own running techniques, we meet the most incredible cast of colourful characters. As the fist part of the book flits around his pre-departure time in the UK, we're soon living there with him in Iten, also trying to fathom out just what this Kenyan secret is.

Finn's new life builds with every chapter, as do the remarkable friendships he grows.

I could share so many spoilers but I refuse to. This really is a must read for yourself. It left me with so, so much to think about, drawing several parallels with Matthew Syed's "Bounce" that I read earlier this year.

I ran the London Marathon on April 22nd 2012 in 4:39:31. I read Finn's book before the Edinburgh Marathon on May 27th 2012 which I completed in 4:08:17. I say no more aside from you will never, ever look at the front of the pack in the same way again.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I trained Kenyan runners before Finn... 30 Jan 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
As one who 'ran with the Kenyans' in the early 60's, I found this book fascinating and a superb read. Those with whom I spent months training at altitude (West Pokot) were from a number of tribes attending the local government school (Chewoyet School, Kapenguria), but the fastest were the Kipsigis who ran, even then, with head thrown back - and barefooted. A technique I followed when running later in life as a cadet in the RAF, but not to such success as 'Finn'.
Well recommended for any runner - past, present or future.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fun, instructive and inspirational 29 April 2012
By Ursula
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I loved this book. A really good mix of travelogue, "run-a-logue" and interesting description and thoughts about what makes Kenyans tick and why they are so good. A fascinating description of life and training in Iten, and also an enlightening view of how running means something completely different for Kenyans, and for "Western" leisure runners and, to some extent, also athletes. A balanced view of current "in-aspects" of running, such as barefoot running, and of the (overanalysing?) Western mind - and how each of these fit into the different lifestyles and cultures. And running through this the author's own experience of running with the Kenyan's, during which he never takes himself too seriously, and also of his family, who moved out to Kenya with them and also experienced being a "mzungu" first hand. Highly recommended - particularly for running enthusiasts, but also for fans of travelwriting.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars amazing
I loved this book so much! Made me want to lace up my trainers and see where they took me.
Published 3 days ago by mrs b
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating for any runner and inspirational
Some times there are just too many facts about times and names of Kenyan runners, but overall quite an interesting book, especially for anyone trying to get or be motivated to run.
Published 7 days ago by bev 19
4.0 out of 5 stars Very readable, very interesting
A good story, very easy to read. He keeps the theorising to a minimum. The personal stories of the runners are engaging, and the contrast between their approach and that of... Read more
Published 10 days ago by james carmichael
5.0 out of 5 stars Inspiring!
A fantastic book. Finn's search for the secret of Kenyan running is fascinating. I would highly recommend this book to everyone, runners and non-runners alike.
Published 10 days ago by Alastair Veysey
5.0 out of 5 stars Bought as a gift
I haven't personally read it but I bought it as a Christmas present for my dad. He loved it - started reading it immediately and kept reading until it was finished - he found it... Read more
Published 11 days ago by Aydin
5.0 out of 5 stars Very engaging
Some true running inspiration here. Some of the runners mentioned in this book went on to win big races right after it came out, which says something about the town of Iten, and... Read more
Published 23 days ago by E.T.
5.0 out of 5 stars Worthwhile
Well written, personal but not full of itself.

I am sure there are many details that did not make print but overall shows the depth of talent and the broad range of... Read more
Published 26 days ago by Brian W. Morris
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read, very interesting
It is really interesting to read a book by a local British running who is looking for some answers. Very cool.
Published 1 month ago by K. Day
4.0 out of 5 stars Inspirational
I found the book very inspirational. I would recommend it to any level of runner, or just good reading about other cultures and how they approach sport.
Published 1 month ago by Mr. Graham J. Woodison
3.0 out of 5 stars No idea why I bought this book ... but glad I did!!
Found this in my Kindle library and can't really remember why I bought it. But it was fascinating, beautifully written and enthral long ... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Catherine Young
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