Sunday Times Sports Book of the Year
Shortlisted for the William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award
Winner - Best New Writer at the British Sports Book Awards
After years of watching Kenyan athletes win the world's biggest races, from the Olympics to big city marathons, Runner's World contributor Adharanand Finn set out to discover just what it was that made them so fast - and to see if he could keep up.
Packing up his family (and his running shoes), he moved from Devon to the small town of Iten, in Kenya, home to hundreds of the country's best athletes. Once there he laced up his shoes and ventured out onto the dirt tracks, running side by side with Olympic champions, young hopefuls and barefoot schoolchildren. He ate their food, slept in their training camps, interviewed their coaches, and his children went to their schools. And at the end of it all, there was his dream, to join the best of the Kenyan athletes in his first marathon, an epic race through lion country across the Kenyan plains.
In an effort to determine why Kenya consistently produces some of the fastest and most talented runners in the world, Finn packed up his wife and three kids and jetted off to the Kenyan running mecca of Iten to research their techniques, immerse himself in the culture for six months of training, and then run the Lewa Marathon 26 scorching miles across plains populated by elephants, lions, and rhino. Along the way, Finn, a longtime running enthusiast, explores the efficacy of hi-tech, comfortable shoes that allow runners to "hammer the road as hard as want," and tests the virtues of barefoot (or nearly barefoot) running, a method many Kenyan runners have gracefully mastered on account of having grown up without cutting-edge Nikes. In addition to technical issues, the author entertains possible cultural factors behind Kenyans' running prowess, including their diet (many drink mursik, "an unpalatable but potent tonic" of blood and cow's milk), and the fact that running provides some Kenyans with the opportunity to make decent money. Throughout his personal trials, Finn introduces readers to an interesting cast of characters, including Brother Colm O'Connell, the Irish priest and legendary coach from Iten's Catholic boarding school, and charming local runners Japhet and Chris Cheboiboch. Part scientific study, travel memoir, and tale of self-discovery, Finn's journey makes for a smart and entertaining read.