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

3.83  ·  Rating Details ·  3,446 Ratings  ·  345 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 capti
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Hardcover, 288 pages
Published May 15th 2012 by Ballantine Books (first published 2010)
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SSaracina Not much action but not just a book of facts. It is intense, exciting, and adventurous.

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Karen
Jul 03, 2012 Karen rated it liked it
Shelves: 2012, bechdel_test_no
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.
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Terzah
Jun 01, 2012 Terzah rated it really liked it
Shelves: running-books
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
Jeff
May 18, 2012 Jeff rated it it was amazing
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
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Cheyenne Blue
Jun 30, 2014 Cheyenne Blue rated it liked it
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
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Katie
Jun 06, 2012 Katie rated it really liked it
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.

SPOILER
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Heidi
Aug 07, 2012 Heidi rated it really liked it
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
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Kerry
Nov 23, 2013 Kerry rated it liked it
Shelves: audiobooks
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
Skylar
Mar 14, 2013 Skylar rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
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.
L.A. Starks
Nov 22, 2015 L.A. Starks rated it it was amazing
This book will only interest runners, but every runner should read it to understand why the Kenyans dominate running.
Wesley Ward
Jan 07, 2014 Wesley Ward rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: Someone with no prior knowledge of Kenya, Kenyan culture, or beginning marathoners/runners
“One woman tells me, as we sit on the grass, that she thinks running is like getting drunk in reverse. With drinking, it feels great at first, but then you start feeling awful. With running, you feel awful at first, but then, after you finish, you feel great. That sounds like a much better deal.”

Verdict: If you’re a runner, and have read all of the other books: probably a worthwhile venture. If you’re not a runner, there are a lot of other books that are more worth your time.

Brief Summary
British
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Andrea
Feb 16, 2013 Andrea rated it really liked it
Shelves: kenya
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
Heather
Jul 04, 2012 Heather rated it it was ok
Shelves: running-books
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
SSaracina
Jan 11, 2016 SSaracina rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ir-15-16
The book, Running with the Kenyans, is an incredible book. It is written by Adharanand Finn, who is also the main character of the book. This book is a non-fiction book, and starts of in England. The author lives normally, until he gets into running. He does a lot of running and researches how to run faster, or improve. He discovers that Kenyans are considered the fastest in the world, and wants to know more about them. He thinks the only ay to know more is to live with, and run with them. So t ...more
E
Jan 25, 2013 E rated it it was amazing
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
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Ray Fini
Aug 15, 2013 Ray Fini rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 25, 2012 Brenda Buescher rated it liked it
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
Keith
Nov 10, 2012 Keith rated it liked it
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
Christian
Sep 27, 2015 Christian rated it liked it
Probably ironic that I read this considering I've started (light) jogging two weeks ago :P
But I had recently been looking for literature from or about Africa, so it happened to coincide well.

The premise of this non-fiction book is finding out what makes Kenyan runners so successful. When the author started to explain how barefoot running is better from a scientific point of view, I came close to quit reading: why do we need to look for a "reason" in the first place? It seems like it's only dimin
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Sofi Corso
Feb 03, 2014 Sofi Corso rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 01, 2013 Paul Forbes rated it it was amazing
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
Marina Sofia
Aug 21, 2013 Marina Sofia rated it liked it
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.
maggie
Jul 06, 2013 maggie rated it liked it
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.
Andy Norris
Aug 09, 2015 Andy Norris rated it it was ok
This book reminded me how much I dislike reading "race reports." They're always pretty boring and self-centered (egotistical, usually). This is the longest race report I've ever read. Spoiler alert... he shaved three minutes off his half marathon time. w00t.
Lain
Jun 29, 2012 Lain rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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.
Kariuki Njiru
Nov 17, 2016 Kariuki Njiru rated it it was amazing
When Finn set out for Kenya, it was to learn the secret that make Kenyans the most dominant force in athletics. However this book is not about running or secrets (there are none), this book is about a small town in Kenya and what happens when the locals discover a way out of poverty. They run.
Anna
Dec 02, 2015 Anna rated it really liked it
I found it a quick and easy read that captured the beauty and grace of excellent runners. His conclusions in his search and analysis of the 'secrets' of Kenyan's running success were interesting. Made me want to put my shoes on and head out the door :)
Leslie
Definitely worth a read if you're a runner. Inspiring. The author goes in depth from his training runs with the Kenyans and concludes on the key secret to their success being that they want the win that much more because it promises a better life when they return home. You have to want something so bad that you end up succeeding. A lot of Kenyan athletes work hard at various training camps, so running is the only focus. Whereas the western part of the world has to work running in around a school ...more
Kent Keifer
Nov 07, 2016 Kent Keifer rated it it was amazing
I loved it, but then I really like books on running. This one is by an English journalist and amateur runner who takes his family to Kenya to train and write about the Kenyan's and their success at running. His goal is to try and determine what makes them so successful at long distance running. As you might expect, there are a lot of reasons, but the author does a good job at finding out what they are. In the process, he meets a lot of interesting characters, forms his own running club, and trai ...more
Ross Brown
Jan 12, 2017 Ross Brown rated it really liked it
Despite the condescension that permeates the book - Finn describes the people and poverty he sees in Kenya through a distinctly Western lens - this was a thoroughly enjoyable read that collected the reasons for Kenyan running dominance. As you'd expect, there's plenty of common sense behind the hegemony, but it's still an interesting exploration. As usual, the book also features the author's personal journey to better running - exactly what the running reader wants.
Gustavo Iriarte
Dec 02, 2016 Gustavo Iriarte rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I learned many things about the Kenyan running culture and why they are the fastest runners on earth. The author explains how they live, what they do, how they train and offers a scientific explanation to back up some of the reasons these things work for the Kenyans and that can also work for anyone interested in running.
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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.” 17 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.” 11 likes
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