Run like the Kenyans…Yea Right

Run Like the KenyansHere is a question that was emailed to me about Kenyan runners by a visitor:

“Random thought- I know a lot of people wonder what makes Kenyans so fast. So why are they so fast?”

I think a lot of people have answered this question, so I am going to try to recap what I have heard and then give a new perspective.

Here are the top things that I have heard people say that makes Kenyans so good:


Top Thoughts on Kenyan Runner’s Success
•    They have an extra muscle in their butt or Achilles. Seriously I have heard more than one person say this.  Not true!
•    They were born, live and train at high altitude. True and yes this is a huge benefit. I don’t know the exact number, but I challenge you to find an athlete that is not training at altitude that has won a 1500m to Marathon medal in the past World Champs or Olympics in the past 10 years.
•    They run to school everyday. True. If you are from Kenya and you are late for school there is no school bus to pick you or parent to drop you off in their car. So, you run the two miles to school as fast as you can. These kids do not consider themselves runners. They are just normal kids trying to get to school. In Kenya running is normal. Contrast that to the US where running is abnormal.
•    They weigh less and are more efficient. True that they weight less and that does make them more efficient.
•    They run more than any other country.  True, they jog and walk everywhere. Instead of driving 3 miles to a friends house they often walk.
•    Their diets are better for runners. I believe this is true. Spend one week eating Ugail and Sukma Wiki and you WILL feel stronger, recover faster, lose weight and feel more satiety (fullness).

My Perspective on Kenyan Quickness
As all of the above points are true, spending significant timing training with Kenyans here in the U.S. I have another factor to add to the list. The biggest factor, their attitudes, which are more consistent with the attitude necessary to recover from hard sessions and reach higher intensities.

Basically what this comes down to is that they are more in tune with their bodies. I think that the U.S. kids have lost touch with their bodies by not experiencing them. We spend to much time on the computer and phone (although every Kenyan I know also talks on the phone a lot), but my point is that we don’t feel things they feel with their bodies.  Americans push when it is time to rest in training and they lack the feel of training as a distance runner. Ultimately they do not stress about times and places but about the feeling of their bodies.

I believe that the weather in Kenya is a big advantage too, allowing for consistent training. The weather in Kenya is very constant with cool mornings in the 50’s and afternoon highs in the 70’s. This is perfect training weather and makes for near perfect training and that produces near perfect racing.

One more thing to add is that their lives depend on running in many cases. They run out of LOVE and the need to provide for their families.

So how do you run like a Kenyan? Think simple and pick-up as many of their tricks as you can.
•    Train at altitude in perfect conditions
•    Eat a simple diet rich in fruits, veggies, lean protein, carbs, lose weight and become more efficient (if you are not already at an ideal weight)
•    Run more as a child
•    Walk more places
•    Spend less time with electronics but maybe still talk on the phone a lot
•    Find out how to “feel” your body
•    Change your attitude
•    Make your life and your families life depend on your success
•    Run out of LOVE


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  • By Andrea, November 27, 2011 @ 9:47 pm

    I actually really liked this. I hope I am better at “feeling” my body than making electronics work because I meant to give it more than one star:)

  • By Charles karugu, November 30, 2011 @ 5:25 am

    Grear article.