A six-month journey in search of the secrets behind the world's fastest runners.
Guardian production editor and Runner’s World contributor Finn is an avid running hobbyist. Fueled by the desire to improve significantly, the author set his sights on training in Kenya, home to the top marathoners in the world. In 2011, he uprooted his wife and three small children to live in the high-altitude small town of Iten, sometimes referred to as the running capital of the world. Finn was a good runner in England, but in Kenya, he was slower than the slowest "junior girl" racer. After reading Christopher McDougall's Born to Run (2009), he tried running barefoot, which he counts as one of the keys to Kenyans' speed because "it forces you to adopt a better running style." Finn notes additional secrets to their success: training camps, running to school, getting plenty of rest and eating a primarily vegetarian diet. As the author and his family adjusted to the cultural differences, including roaming lions and a night watchman, Finn prepared to run a marathon by training with a group of excellent runners. Even among those who have no chance of going to the Olympics, there's an attitude of reverence for the sport. "After a run," Finn writes, "you feel at one with the world, as though some unspecified, innate need has been fulfilled.” The same could be said of his quest, which strikes a balance between memoir and applicable lessons for those interested in learning the reasons for the success of Kenyan runners. Finn's writing is accessible, and he threads entertaining familial vignettes through the book.
Recommended for runners as well as the sport's fans.