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Running with the Kenyans: Passion, Adventure, and the Secrets of the Fastest People on Earth

3.75 of 5 stars 3.75  ·  rating details  ·  1,866 ratings  ·  266 reviews
“A dusty road stretches into the distance like a pencil line across the arid landscape. Lions, rhino, and buffalo roam the plains on either side. But I haven’t come to Kenya to spot wildlife. I’ve come to run.”

Whether running is your recreation, your religion, or just a spectator sport, Adharanand Finn’s incredible journey to the elite training camps of Kenya will captiv
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published May 15th 2012 by Ballantine Books (first published 2010)
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Community Reviews

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Finn uproots his (extremely supportive) wife and kids from their home in England and moves to Kenya to...well, it's not totally clear. He wants to see if he can run better, even starting in midlife. And at least nominally, he wants to learn what makes Kenyans such good runners. So he goes to live in Kenya for a few months, and runs with some Kenyans.

And that's more or less my issue with the book, insofar as I have an issue. It isn't that Finn doesn't acknowledge his privilege. He does, sort of.
May 18, 2012 Jeff rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Jeff by: Found it on the library shelves
I must confess the reason I loved reading this book is not that I'm a runner, a former runner, a fan of running, although the sport has been of interest for many years. And not because Finn has written an enjoyable, interesting, self-effacing journey-of-discovery tale filled with unique observations and fascinating facts; a good read, to be sure.

No, the main reason I loved this book is its portrayal and descriptions of Iten, the town on the Rift Valley Escarpment that is the main setting and a
It's the most tantalizing title since Born to Run, and along the same lines: a Westerner, intent on learning the secrets of a culture truly "born to run," goes and lives among this foreign people temporarily, partly to see if some of their secret sauce can help his own running, but partly just to see, well, what it's like, and what that secret is. Along the way, he meets some true characters, subjects himself (and his family--in Finn's case, family includes three small children) to culture shock ...more
Cheyenne Blue
I'm not quite sure what to make of this. It says it's the running secrets of the fastest people on earth. It says it's the memoir of someone who wanted to see how good a runner he could be. It's a travelogue of Kenya. Well, it's sort of all of those, but not really any of them.

For starters, there are no secrets revealed. It's all pretty obvious: Kenyans are fast because they run a lot as children, miles day in day out as part of their lives. They live and run at altitude. They eat a lot of carb
A familiar format for a sport book these days: author goes off and hangs out with sportsperson/people for a while before taking part in some kind of ultimate challenge, sprinkling in some facts ‘n’ figures along the way. In this case it’s Kenyan runners and the very tough Lewa Marathon (the author’s first). Despite the well-trodden structure, the author is a funny and likeable chap and it’s an interesting read.

According to Finn, in 2011, 66 of the world’s top 100 marathon runners were Kenyan, a
It's no "Born to Run," but it was still quite good. This is a nonfiction book about why Kenyans are beating the pants off the rest of us in basically all running events (be they short sprint-distance races, or marathons). It's part travelogue and part running book, which is key, I think; even as a runner myself, I think books *purely* about just running and nothing else are kind of boring, so including the aspects about life in Kenya and travel through Kenya make this a much better book.

Last month I ran a big 15K near my hometown. It's a race that, despite taking place in a small city in the middle of nowhere (upstate NY), is locally notorious for being dominated by Kenyan runners every year. And during the last week, I've been watching East African runners consistently leading the pack of every distance race in the London Olympics. So when I spotted this book at the library, my curiosity was piqued: why are Kenyan runners so talented?

Having already read Christopher McDougall's
If you're looking here for the secret of the Kenyan runner you may be disappointed. But if you are interested to see how some Kenyans, who are runners, live in a small community while training for the big win, then you may enjoy this book. Much like a voyeur, the reader is given a glimpse into life in Kenya for a runner while the author trains amongst them and attempts to tap into their secret for winning race after race after race. I presume it's a good gig for an author if you can get it so ku ...more
I think when you read it, despite the fact that the author says there is no "secret" to the Kenyan success, you'll find that there is one major secret:

The children don't sit on fat asses playing video games and waiting for all things to be Given to them.

Laziness isn't an option in that culture, country, or way of life. The kids know that the only way they're going to become something better and improve their lives is by becoming an athlete... by becoming the best. It's the same reason why our i
Adharanand Finn, a casual runner who "might have been really good" and also a writer for Runner's World magazine, sets out to realize the dream of many runners, visit what one journalist has called "The Halls of the Mountain Kings," the town on the edge of the Rift Valley that is the epicenter of the Kenyan running explosion. Over the past 15 years, Kenyans from one particular ethnic group, the Kalenjin, have nearly completely dominated distance running from the 10K to the marathon. Their domina ...more
Surprise, surprise, it turns out there is no simple secret to why the Kenyans are such dominant racers. At least not one that a middle aged white guy from England can find beyond the fact that all the successful racers come from poor, rural backgrounds and are driven mainly by financial reasons. They push themselves up the hills because the prize money can change their lives. That and eating a food called ugali all the time. Finn moves his family to a town called Iten where there are 1,000 runne ...more
I've read a lot of different running books in the last few years, and although I did enjoy reading this one and learned quite a bit about the Kenyans and their emergence as a dominant force in the running community, there was something a little bit lacking in the presentation of this particular story. Perhaps I am over-saturated on running books, but I just didn't get especially inspired by this one. I enjoyed the actual racing parts the best and was always happy to hear about Finn's successes a ...more
Ray Fini
This book really grabbed me. He paints a vivid picture of the daily life of elite runners training and living (run, eat, sleep, run) in the Rift Valley. While keeping track of some of the runners he comes across was a bit confusing any fan of international racing over the last 20 years will recognize many of the names. And that's the beauty of his experience, he gets to share so many intimate and personal moments with these world class athletes. I was left with an entirely positive view of these ...more
Brenda Buescher
This is the ultimate story about the impact of the environment on personal health. Adharanand Finn, an accomplished runner himself, takes his wife and young children to live in Kenya for six months to learn the secrets of their speedy runners. He spends his days eating simple food, meeting sub-2:30 marathoners on every corner, and training for the Lewa Marathon with his new Kenyan friends. He finds that there is no secret potion, no magic pill. The Kenyan runners grow up running to school, they ...more
Sofi Corso
So i'm at Barnes and Noble quietly checking the spines of books related to sports and suddenly this book comes up. I had marked it as to-read on Goodreads and, because of its reviews, i knew this would be a good book. The author hooked me from the start and I must have spent two or three days marvelling at the stories of this man, whose last name I FINALLY MEMORISED AFTER STARING AT IT FOR HOURS SOMEONE APPLAUD RIGHT NOW PLEASE and the book, okay, the book was so insanely good all my dreams got ...more
Paul Forbes
Why are Kenya runners so good? I think this book gives us the best answers. It's a nicely written and informative story of Adharanand Finn, the white "mzungu" who took his family to live in the small village of Iten, Kenya for 6 months to run with the Kenyans. Adharanand meets up with many Kenyans nearly all of whom have won a marathon or olympic medal or even world record and they're all from the same town! The Kenyan people seem so lovely in his story and their simple lifestyle of sleep-run-ea ...more
Jeffrey Echeverria
An analysis of Running With The Kenyans is a story of man who is raised as a runner, and is curious in search of the Kenyans success in running. This book moreover is for readers that love the feeling of running into the free and are in hope for success. In addition, the author grows up as a talented runner, watching The Kenyans win every running event, for he admires their success. On the other hand, the author does a phenomenal job describing the events he has done in his past, and puts more d ...more
Part memoir, part travelogue, part teaching on running. Dhar Finn had experienced success as a youth running in his native England. As an adult, an opportunity to participate in a race (which he surprised himself by winning) made him wonder just how far he could push himself with proper training. He had always been intrigued by the Kenyan runners wondering why they were so good. As idea took shape and he uprooted his family and moved to Itan, Kenya for six months in order to train with the Keny ...more
Novinář, amatérský běžec a autor Adharanand Finn se rozhodne změnit styl na bosoběhání a zároveň odhalit, proč jsou Keňani tak skvělí a nejrychlejší běžci na dlouhé tratě. Odjede do Keni s celou rodinou a začíná s místními běžci trénovat.
Čte se to docela dobře, ale spíš je to kniha pro lidi, kteří jsou rapli do běhání, není to beletrie. Stránku za stránkou se brodí čtenář drobnými postřehy a úvahami, čím dál natěšeněji čeká na to velké tajemství, proč jsou sakra tak ale TAK dobří. Zbývá posledn
Ruthless Critic
Dec 28, 2014 Ruthless Critic rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Runners
One expects a book with the title Running with the Kenyans to be exhilarating on the one hand and informative on the other. It's not a combination that's easy to achieve, but it's what sets memorable documentaries apart from the so-so ones. Running with the Kenyans was exhilarating at some times and informative at others, but there were a lot of in-between moments when it was neither. The descriptions of the training runs and of the races were high points in the narrative. Finn was able to captu ...more

Finn’s book reads fairly quickly and, if one is a runner particularly, remains engaging. Whether he uncovers any secrets of Kenyan runners is debatable. Most of the things he lists as factors have been generally known, I think, for some time: lots of running from a young age in a particular, mechanically healthy and advantageous style, now commonly known as “barefoot” style. This book did accomplish for me what I had hoped: injected me with some bits of motivation to continue trying to run farth
I'm not a runner (yet?), but I thought this was an excellent book. If it weren't for the Goodreads giveaways, I probably never would have picked up this book, assuming I wouldn't understand it. It's completely accessible, part non-fiction running book and part memoir.

I got so involved with the "characters" in the story that, for the first time ever, I excitedly read the Acknowledgements section to see what else was said about them.
This book is really interesting but it is a bit repetitive and loses its way in the second half - is it about the secrets of Kenyan running, is it about the author's first marathon or is it about moving his family to a foreign country? Ultimately it's all of them but not in the most satisfying balance. Incidentally I felt that the latter was massively understated to the point of ridiculousness - the descriptions of the author's young children being confused/excited/happy/upset at being exposed t ...more
Paul Kearney
In the Olympics and world championship's between 1991 and 2009 Kenyan men won a total of ninety-three distance running medals. In that time Britain won none. And the USA three. Two of which were won by an EX-Kenyan who only switched to the USA team at the age of 30.Since then the Kenyans have been concentrating on the more lucrative world marathon circuit. In 2011 the top twenty fastest marathon times of the year were all run by Kenyans. Even more strangely all of these athletes come out of the ...more
Jack Palmer
Running with the Kenyans is cleverly marketed as a book that aims to draw back the curtain on the secrets of the success of Kenyan runners. Yet the book isn't really a nonfiction investigation, but a meld of personal travelogue and memoir. Adharanand Finn travels to Kenya to run, and throws in some primarily anecdotal research about the keys to the Kenyan's success. He has a little notebook where he jots down the secrets he discovers, but in the end he realizes that it is really a combination of ...more
I strongly suspect Finn's fruitless search for the secret of speed was really a front for doing his boyish running thing and getting a book out of it into the bargain. I'm not knocking it because it was an interesting read. I never sensed any depth in the relationships he made with Kenyans but I admired Brother Colm with his niche missionary activity.
Marina Sofia
Fascinating story - part travel-memoir, part research, almost like an anthropological book. The author does a good job of pacing his book and adding plenty of human interest, but the many, many descriptions of races does tend to get a bit repetitive after a while. And I am very interested in running.
Reviewed this for Amazon's vine voices program. I didn't care for this book at all. Poorly put together, pointless, and there wasn't much interesting to report. Got the feeling the author himself wasn't sure what he was doing in Kenya or why he was writing a book about it.
Jeni Enjaian
I really enjoyed this book especially once I got past the notion (which the title invites) that the purpose of the book was to find out what makes the Kenyans such great distance runners. While that is a big part of the book (Finn temporarily moves to Kenya to train with the Kenyans because he's fascinated by their dominance at distance events) it is not the overall purpose of the book. Finn wrote (I believe) this book as a way to chronicle his journey. I loved that. (It doesn't hurt that I'm in ...more
Argentina Lozano
I really enjoyed this book! It inspired me to get back out there and get running again. As the author so aptly described for himself, despite all of my best intentions to get out there and just do it, something always gets in the way, and that something is called life. The Kenyans are almost born running, and then later dedicate their life to the sport, because it offers them perhaps the one opportunity to rise above their subsistence level life. Because of this, running becomes a job: they lite ...more
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“Right before you head out running, it can be hard to remember exactly why you're doing it. You often have to override a nagging sense of futility, lacing up your shoes, telling yourslef that no matter how unlikely it seems right now, after you finish you will be glad you went. It's only afterward that it makes sense, although even then it's hard to rationalize why. You just feel right. After a run, you feel at one with the world, as though some unspecified, innate need has been fulfilled.” 9 likes
“Running is a brutal and emotional sport. It's also a simple, primal sport. As humans, on a most basic level, we get hungry, we sleep, we yearn for love, we run.” 7 likes
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