10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 17 May 2012
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!
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 3 May 2012
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.
30 of 32 people found the following review helpful
on 4 April 2012
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 [...]
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 30 January 2013
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.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 7 January 2013
Anyone who's into running will love this good-humoured and well written book. Finn's journey with his wife and three children in tow to the small town of Iten, where he becomes absorbed in the extraordinary world of Kenyan middle and long distance running, is captivating. As he tries to hone his running style by learning the secrets of Kenyan running success (at least trying to learn), he charmingly describes life in a remote and alien culture. There are so many excellent runners in Iten that on one occasion he dials a wrong number and finds himself randomly speaking to someone who happens to have completed a marathon in just over 2hrs (almost everyone seems to be an amazing athlete).
The friendliness of the people he meets shines through as does his genuine love of running; developed as a child in Northampton, when he realised one day that he had some talent. The goal of a marathon in Lewa at high altitude carries you along. It's a gripping and (appropriately speedy) read.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 29 April 2012
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.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 17 December 2012
i ficked this book up in the summer as ive always been interested in kenyan runners and distance runners in general. I wasnt sure how the book was going to pan out so it was shelved along with my list of other books, however the wife and myself had a holiday booked for portugal and i thought what better chance to read this than with the sun on my face and a nice cool beer in my hand away from all the worries and running inflicted injury problems back at home. i have to say as soon as i opened the cover i hardly put it down until it was over...i was looking for time to read this book as each chapter went on and the story deepened i felt like i was actually there and part of the writers journey, it was informative & humerous and just a great book that anyone who has ever had an interest in running should pick up and read
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 27 January 2013
A book that shares a spirit with 'Born To Run', this is follows the author as he uproots his wife and three small children from the UK and settles them for six months in a Kenyan village. He's gone in search of the secrets of the Kenyan running story, why this tiny percentage of the world's running population has consistently won most of the major distance running prizes in the last thirty years. There must be a secret, buried somewhere in their genes or lifestyle, and he wants to find out what it is.
The answers are simple, and either disappointing or reassuring depending on how you look at it, but the book succeeds not on that basis, but as a travelogue and personal adventure. As he trains, immersing himself in the running life of Kenya's athletes (who run, mostly, because it's the only escape they can envisage from poverty - a level of motivation and necessity we don't have in the West) he sets his eye on putting together a team for the Lewa marathon - where apart from the usual running hazards, there are lions to contend with - and it is this personal mission that gives the book guts. Runners should love this book, as it puts you back in touch with some of the thrill of the sport that you can lose track of in the weekly grind of training. It's also a book that will entertain those seeking some vicarious travel and adventure, more authentically told than the sometimes hyperbolic "Born To Run" and just as inspiring.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on 13 September 2012
I picked up this book and was captivated by it. I loved the whole concept of packing your bags and moving your whole family including 3 very young children to a part of the world most of us would last five minutes and immerse your whole family into a very simple life style to experience the life of a Kenyan runner! Total respect and admiration to Adharanands Wife and 3 children who lived the life and gave up a western lifestyle to support his project. This is not only a really interesting journey for Adharanand it is a very brave thing to do and I think Marietta his wife deserves massive credit for supporting this. There are thousands of people who say "I would love to be able to do that" and there are only a handful who actually take that leap of faith of actually do it. Its great to read about his journey to learn about the top kenyans and I love how he meets them, mingles with them and how accessible these extremely talented but very humble people are. I also enjoy the personal goal to run like the Kenyans and improve his own running times which is a great inspiration to all us casual runners who will be inspired by this.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 15 May 2012
If you had the opportunity to take 6 months off of work to be able to head to Iten, Kenya to train and learn about the workings of the Kenyan runners, would you? Most of us would jump at it, and this is precisely what author Adharanand Finn did. Luckily, he documented this travels and learnings in his new book, "Running with the Kenyans." Finn is an assistant production editor for the British national daily newspaper, The Guardian and was given this special opportunity; one he took full advantage of and delivered an excellent read for fans of distance running worldwide.
Finn's book is filled in fact that while very fascinating, is also is filled with unearthed and often times, sad truths that tell of the not so wonderful tale of the magical Kenyans. Finn finds a friend in Toby Tanser (of the excellent book, "More Fire: How to Run the Kenyan Way") who quickly answers the question of why do Kenyan children run to school. "Are they hoping to become athletes?" asks Finn. "No, they're running because if they're late, they get caned." He also digs into the "age old" question of why many Kenyans official ages are less than their real age. "Each person has a different story, although it usually involves someone else, such as a manager, getting the date wrong at some point." That's one thing that is very evident. The managers are the ones in control of the Kenyan runners, as they operate the running camps, that are essentially tryouts to earn chances to compete internationally. Some run in the camps for years and never make more than a few hundred dollars, relying on the kindness and hospitality of family to help them along.
The most rewarding thing about Finn's 6 month journey to Kenya is his personal journey from 38 minute 10k runner to a very competent "mzungu (foreigner)," who is given incredible access to the who's who of the then and now of the storied Kenyan running scene. The people he met and ran with will any distance running fan's mind.
Read the blog that Finn kept while writing the book at the Guardian and be sure to follow him on Twitter. Finally, be sure to listen to his interview on the House of Run podcast.