As has become tradition, one of the last events in the closing weekend of the summer Olympics is the men’s marathon. It’s completely reasonable to expect to see a Kenyan or three in contention for the gold medal.
Adharanand Finn examined the phenomenon in his new book Running With The Kenyans, and he joined Only A Game to discuss it.
The Beijing Olympics in 2008 was the first time a Kenyan man won the marathon, but Kenya made its mark on middle and long distance track running.
“It’s only in the last 10 or 15 years that they’ve graduated to the roads, and they’ve done it in huge numbers,” Finn said. “All the talent is heading to the roads.”
According to the IAAF, the world’s governing body for running, the top 25 male marathon runners in the world are all Kenyan.
The author, who is British, began his journey when his sister-in-law suggested he run the Lewa marathon, an annual event that winds through a wildlife conservancy. Throughout the book, readers get a glimpse of what life is like for Kenyan athletes and the opportunities that running can give them.
Finn’s book also details how the world is trying to catch up to the Kenyans by training with them and learning their methods, but he thinks the backdrop of Kenya is something that will provide its own advantage to native runners.
“When you see the conditions that exist in Kenya for running, it’s hard to see that being mimicked on a wide scale in Europe and America.”