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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

Eldoret (200,000)

Iten (3,000)

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

Training Camps:

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

Local orphanage

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.


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)

Side Steps


Butt Kick

High Knee




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

‘competition’ footwear.


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.

Organic meat.

Organic vegetables.

Fresh local milk.





Four cups corn flour, white cornmeal or ground maize (white cornmeal is preferred, it

should be finely ground, like flour)


Salt (Optional)


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



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