Kenyan Running Secrets
Handout from talk given by Dr. Silberman at CJRR Club Meeting May 2008:
East African Coast between Ethiopa and Tanzania, size of Texas
30million people, 70 ethnic groups, no one comprises more than 20 percent of the total
Median age 18
41 percent are less than 14 years old
World’s third largest exporter of tea
Tea, coffee, agriculture = 50% of economy
Second is Tourism
25% live on a dollar a day
25% under age 5 are malnourished
In 2001, there were fewer than three telephones for every 100 Kenyans and 1 computer
for every 200
North Rift Valley
8,000 feet, 50 – 80 degrees, no humidity, 12 hours of daylight
Kalenjin Tribe (10% of kenyan population) live throughout western highlands
Years past, ran for national pride. First for God, second for country, third for self.
Now Running = an escape = financial opportunity (for self and agents)
5 of the 10 fastest 10km
7 of the 10 fastest marathons
Catherine Ndereba 4 Boston marathons
Robert Cherioyot 4 Boston marathons
15 out of the last 17 Boston Marathons
In 2007, 68 of the top 100 marathoners in the world, 13 in the top 20
Gold in every Olympic steeplechase since 1984
Basic living quarters, run, eat and sleep.
Housing, daily 2-3x / day training runs, coaching, gym, food, library
High Altitude Training Camp (HATC), Lornah Kiplagat, Iten
World Records in 5km (14.47), 10mile (50.54), 20km (63.56)
Specializes in training female athletes
Kipkeino High Performance Training Centre (KHPTC), Kipchoge Keino, Eldoret
Gold 1500m 1968, Steeplechase 1972
IOC approved high altitude training center
Nurture talent irrespective of origin
Fila training camps, Eldoret, Kapsait, Mount Embu; Moses Taniu
Develop Kenyans but now cross cultural exchange programs also
St. Patrick’s at Iten, small Catholic College
Graduates: Wilson Kipketer (Denmark), Bernard Lagat (USA), former Olympic 3000m
champion Mathews Birir, former Commonwealth 800m champion Japheth Kimutai, the
Chirchir brothers—Cornelius and William, former world 3000m steeplechase record
holder and champion, Boit Kipketer, former world 10,000m champion, Sally Barsosio
and former Olympic 1500m champion Peter Rono.
Kenyan Training Secrets from Scott Douglass:
1. Start slow, finish fast
2. Easy runs easier, harder runs faster
3. Train with a group
4. Run on dirt and grass
5. Run hills
6. Run diagonals
7. Do drills
Martin Lel has been quoted, “I like to keep my legs fresh so I can run”.
Most runners don’t run. They struggle and suffer, focusing on distance at the expense
of technique and form. Terry Laughlin, of Total Immersion Swimming, has summed it up
best, and it holds true for running: “never practice struggle”.
Never focus on quantity at the expense of quality. Never run faster than you can. “Run
as fast as you can without straining (Daniels); and only as far as you can without
straining. Build slowly, remember, you didn’t run 10 kilometers to school every day.
There is no long slow distance run in Kenyan training. They train in 3 zones, easy,
medium, high sessions.
Link to article from Runners World
The key workout of your week is the tempo run at your maximal steady state or lactate
threshold, that pace that is fast but manageable, described as ‘comfortably hard’.
The run should always start off slow (15 minute warm-up) and pick up pace as it
progresses but not to the point of race pace (20 – 40 minutes) and then cool down (15
minutes). If you slow down then you started out too fast.
Recent Race: Add 30 to 40 seconds to your current 5-K pace or 15 to 20 seconds to
your 10-K pace
Heart Rate: 85 to 90 percent of your maximum heart rate
Perceived Exertion: An 8 on a 1-to-10 scale (a comfortable effort would be a 5;
racing would be close to a 10)
Talk Test: A question like "Pace okay?" should be possible, but conversation won't be.
VO2 – Lactate testing can help determine exact pace.
4-6 miles for 10km race
6-8 miles for 13.1km race
10-15 miles for the marathon.
Karioke (Cross Over)
Stronger feet equal stronger legs. You have to be able to feel the road to run properly.
Running in cushioned bulky heavy sneakers impedes your proprioception (ability to
perceive the road), ability to lift your feet off the ground, and ability to fire and contract
your leg muscles.
If you don’t have terrain to run barefoot, perform your drills barefoot. As you improve
your technique and get stronger, you should find yourself running in flats or
You have to be rested and recovered to train. This is a learned skill that comes with
maturity. Listen to your body, not your training program.
Contrary to American marketing, power bars, Gatorade, granola bars, Fig Newtons,
yoghurt, and pretzels are not ‘health’ foods. Eat real food. You’ll lose weight and feel
Githeri, a stew of beans and corn.
Ugali, a stiff maize meal.
Fresh local milk.
Four cups corn flour, white cornmeal or ground maize (white cornmeal is preferred, it
should be finely ground, like flour)
Bring water in a pan to a boil (about 8 Cups). Reduce heat to medium and put flour,
gradually stirring until the consistency is stiff. Stir continuously, and cover for about 5
minutes. Stir again and form into a mound. The Ugali will be done when it pulls from the
sides of the pan easily and does not stick. The finished product should look like stiff
grits. Cover the pot with a plate and invert the pan so that the Ugali "drops" on the
plate. Serve with meat or vegetable stew.
More Fire, How to Run The Kenyan Way, Toby Tanser
Train Hard, Win Easy: The Kenyan Way