Running with the Kenyans – Review

Well, we’re back from holiday. And so far, the weekend has been spent doing various DIY activities. Today I found myself buying lawn food and spreading it across our lawn – this is a sure sign that I have well and truly left my twenties.

As I traveled to London for Run to the Beat, I finished reading Running with the Kenyans by Adharanand Finn. Basically, after winning a 10k charity run in the UK, Finn decides to move to Kenya for a period of time to train with Kenyan runners, and in the spirit of adventure, brings his wife and kids along too.

It appealed to me because of the subtitle: ‘discovering the secrets of the fastest people on earth’. It seems that at every major running event the champions are Africans who aren’t very well known, who outrun the competition by a long shot, and who accept their success with composed pride. If there was a secret to this success, I definitely wanted in.


However, soon after starting, Finn makes it quite clear: there isn’t really a secret to their success. The memoir looks at what makes the Kenyans successful, which includes eating huge amounts of ugali (a maize-porridge thing) and taking rest periods seriously (ie. not doing anything). There are three recurring themes which run throughout the book:

  1. Barefoot running is how they run when younger, but the athletes do train in trainers when professional
  2. The lifestyles of the more rural Kenyans prepares them for running in a way that our Western lifestyles won’t
  3. They see it as their way to make a massive difference in their lives and the lives of their families, and so they work bloody hard for it

It was really interesting to learn more about how the athletes trained. I know very little about how any professional athlete trains, but the simplicity of their training camps was still an eye opener. As was the sheer size of the industry: I had no idea how many training camps there were out there, nor how many international athletes trained there as well.

Finn also emphasises the humble conditions that the athletes live in compared to their successes: he describes meeting Mary Keitany and her husband in their modest house, and then seeing her win the London marathon. Apparently it’s thought among the Kenyan athletes that too much comfort can make you soft, which will ultimately impact your running. Not an entirely stupid idea.

There were a few things which meant this book wasn’t a complete page turner for me. His reason for being out there wasn’t 100% clear: beyond focusing on bare foot running and learning about their lifestyles, at times it seemed there wasn’t a lot of insight. For example, the woman in his running team struggled to complete any training runs, yet in their marathon (**spoiler alert**) she places. Yet Finn doesn’t offer any insight into how she achieved this success despite his doubting her abilities throughout the book.He also doesn’t offer so much insight into why his own time improves.

Also: some further insight into his wife’s experience would have rounded it all off a bit more. She just seemed to be a bit-player in this experience, which is a shame: a wife who travels to Kenya with 3 kids under 10 just so her husband can run all day should be celebrated I reckon!

So: it was definitely an interesting read, and it did help me when I was running in Run to the Beat: I pictured these Kenyan training camps, and “They want it more” became my mantra. It was a nice account of his running in Kenya and the people he met, and again it made me want to put my trainers on and run when I finished. But the conclusion that there was no ‘secret’ was kind of obvious, and therefore a little disappointing. I felt like I was waiting for something which never arrived: perhaps if it had been marketed differently it would have felt a lot more satisfying.

Hope you’re all having a good Saturday? Any gardeners out there? What can I do now that I’ve fed my lawn?


Ellie B

Busselton ½ Marathon – Race Recap

I had this race on my program as a ‘predictor session’ for my upcoming marathon. Did I tell you I was running a marathon????? Seeing where I am in a ½ would ideally help me set a goal pace. I had spoken with my coach about it a few days out and he thought I should be able to do a 4.20 – 4.22 min/km pace comfortably. This would have given me a 1.31/1.32 overall time. I have only ever run one half – the run leg of a 70.3 which was coincidentally also in Busselton – and my time there was 1.39. So a big jump in pace but I was excited to see what I could do.

Well. Mother Nature had other ideas. Facebook messages started flying back and forth early on that week with “have you seen the forecast” panicked tones. It’s spring here in Australia which usually means fairly mild dry weather. Unfortunately for us runners we are having the wettest September on record.(Fortunately for the farmers of course… have to say that after you moan about the rain or someone gives out to you.) I think I checked about 6 different weather sources six times a day all week. By Friday I had accepted that the weather was going to be awful. Rain I can handle. But the wind prediction was nuts. Considering the run was an out and back along the coast we could have done without the wind. J

We arrived in Busselton on Friday night. Our race was on Sunday and on Saturday morning there was a 5km and 10km. A bunch of the guys in our club were doing the 10km including my pal Vanessa. So we headed down to watch them and it was great to see them all out there. What wasn’t so great was their reaction to the weather when they finished. As each one passed the finish line and made their way over to us they all cursed the wind! Anyone who was gunning for a particular time was about 2 -4 minutes off it. Substantial enough for a sub 35min 10km runner.


Vanessa & Ronan

Despite the conditions they all did awesome. Vanessa got a PB and proved to herself she is way tougher than she thought she was. It was really cool to see her nail her race.

I find people accomplishing their goals very emotional!

Fran & Coach

In hindsight, I think we worked ourselves into a tizzy on Saturday. Normally, stuff I can’t control doesn’t bother me. But with everyone talking about ‘the wind’ as if it was this biblical plague coming for us I let it get inside my head for a few hours. I think it was because I had such a specific time goal I wanted to achieve. This goal would have needed me to run at 100% of my capability. I knew this wasn’t an option and for some reason I thought I was failing if I didn’t achieve it. Lesson 1: Do not give something out of my control any thought, focus or power.

Luckily, I spoke with my sister on Saturday afternoon and asked her advice about how to approach it. She is a triathlete and an awesome competitor. And living in the west of Ireland no stranger to inclement weather. She reminded me that running is an outdoor sport. And I chose this sport. I wasn’t out there by force. I was out there because I loved it. She reiterated that you need to accept the weather whatever it is. You can’t change or control it so there is 0% worrying about it. Accept what would be would be and try and just enjoy the day. So what if you are a little slower…..focus on effort, not pace.


My rockstar sister, Cliodhna.

Her chat really helped me……sometimes as runners we focus so much on hitting every single time goal and split and km and pace and when we can’t control something we go all out of whack. (Spot the type A over here). Thankfully I just forgot about it, accepted what would be and just relaxed for the rest of the afternoon. Unfortunately my focus turned to ‘carb loading’ and I ate way too much food. A huge pasta dish, garlic bread, biscuits, sweets, chocolate……. Sunday morning I had my usual pre long run breakfast of toast and jam and took some beta ananaline. Looking back I didn’t need that breakfast after all the food I ate the day before. I started the race with a heavy stomach and it took a few km for it to feel ok. Lesson #2….there is such thing as overloading.

We went down for a 7am start and at 6.50 the heavens opened! There was a collective groan from everyone standing around but it was all in good spirits. The race was a 5km out and back and repeat so I divided the race into 4 laps in my head. I knew the 5km back would have a headwind so I wanted to see if I could use the tailwind on the way out for my first lap. We sat off and I tried to get into a consistent pace. I couldn’t settle in for some reason; my stomach was too full and my head wasn’t focused properly. Stuff I can control next time so I need to learn from that. I think I am on 3 lessons now???

The first 5km I did at a 4.26 pace which looking back I probably could have done around 4.20 as I was a bit unsettled and not properly “in the zone”. Hindsight is a wondrous thing eh!


When I started to see the turnaround my plan was to try and keep my pace around 4.26. Under 4.30 at a maximum. The minute I turned, I realised that holding this next 5km at 4.26 wasn’t going to be an option! The wind hit me like a brick wall and I just got my head down and gritted my teeth and tried to get through it. All thoughts of sticking to a pace went out the window and I tried to run by effort. I dropped to 4.36km for this 5km.



At the 10km turn around the volunteer told me there was only one relay woman ahead of me! Sweet!!! For some reason I thought there were a few more. Hearing that definitely gave me a gee-up. The weather might be slowing me down but it was also slowing everyone else down! I took a gel which I didn’t want as my stomach was still full but thought it couldn’t hurt and headed off into my third lap.

This lap was definitely the easiest. The headwind was gone so it felt like i was flying! And I knew I wanted to try and make up some time. I was also conscious of not trying to make up too much time and blowing up in the last 5km. My average pace here was 4.17. Fast but not ‘blow up fast’. I ended this section feeling way better and was wondering how far ahead the winner was.



Coming towards the turnaround, again the plan was to try and keep a decent pace. I love how short my memory is. The minute I turned it felt even worse this time!!! I knew the same effort wouldn’t deliver the same pace. Those first 3km were the hardest kms I have run in a race or training run in a long time. I wanted to quit so bad. At one stage I thought “I’ll just lie down here and pretend I had cramps……but they’ll know I didn’t get cramp…..what else can I pretend happened!” Then a car passed and I actually thought it would be good if it hit me – gently of course – so I could stop!

I knew I had to stop looking at my watch and just ran on effort and get through it and eventually I would feel less suicidal. The race was a long narrow road so you could see quite far ahead. With about 2km to go the female relay leader suddenly appeared. This gave me a huge mental boost……I realised I hadn’t fallen that far behind and again reminded myself that everyone would be struggling, not just me. There were a few club support crew here as well and that always helps with your spirits….you have to pretend to smile. Thankfully my focus went away from my suffering (which is different than pain and we shouldn’t indulge) and I just focused on finishing as close to the leader as possible.


Pretending I’m not about to quit

The last 2km brought us back into the town center so there were a few more spectators about. I say spectators….none of them actually clapped or cheered! So I asked a group of 3 women for a clap and we all had a laugh. After this I knew I was ‘back’; I love to run and love races and can usually enjoy myself – within reason of course!  I tried to pick it up as much as possible and when I finally made it to the handover the leader was just a few seconds ahead of me. I saw her handover to a man and realised we were first female team! I literally collapsed with tiredness when I finished and was so grateful to be done. Vanessa was there and I couldn’t even talk to her! It’s a good feeling when you know you worked hard.



The last 5km was at 4.34 pace but very uneven kms. I did end up with a PR, not too hard when you only have done one race before it!

21.1km @ 4.27 for a 1.34.24 overall time.


After I finished I waited for my husband to finish. This was his first ½ marathon and he didn’t do a huge amount of training. But still finished in 1.41!! So proud of him. J The baking jogger blogger did an awesome job on her leg and kept our lead so we ended up winning the relay! $400 each. Not too shabby for a days work. I’m a professional now.


Despite winning the race, my type a personality came out later that day and I felt annoyed with myself for not hitting my time goals. After an talking to from my coach I felt a bit better. There was no way I could have hit my full potential in the conditions that were out there. No one did so why should I think I am any different?  I needed to remind myself that I got through a very tough mental race which in the run up to a marathon is actually better than everything going perfectly. Any old fool can do well when everything lines up. It’s when the chips are down that your true character and strength comes out. I was tested on Sunday and come marathon day I know I am not a quitter and I can handle anything the race throws at me. ( Do you think I have convinced myself?

It’s better to have a tough day in prep as opposed to race day!! J


Turkey Time

This is the first post I’ve done on my phone, so I’m sorry now if it sounds like it was written by an 8 year old.

SB and I are still in Turkey. It’s been quite the chore getting up, eating, lying by the pool, eating, more pool, more food and a smattering of cocktails throughout the day. I promise I’ll stop now in case you don’t come back!!

We went for a run two days ago, and it was the first time I’d ran since the GNR last week. My knee started to hurt immediately and I was gutted! I did 4k before stopping.

I reckon this means some serious rest/stretching before I can do any long distance. So whilst tanning covering myself in factor 30 I have been thinking about my goals for the Autumn now that my two big events are done. Here’s what’s on the list so far:

– get back into pole!! It’s taken a back seat since the comp & since my running events. I can feel a new routine just bubbling away & in October I’m going to unleash it!

– get my knee better :( beyond stretching, foam rolling & spending £££ with my physio, there’s no plan. Anyone got any ideas?

– start doing speed work and drills into Winter. Then next year hopefully I’ll be in a better condition for my halves & can smash the time I was aiming for this year

– flex it up!! I have splits two ways, but not my left leg. And not without warming up! By the end of the year I WILL have them looking flat & fabulous all ways!!

Has anyone else re-assessed their goals now that 2013 is drawing to a close? What were your new year resolutions? Are you on track?

Here are some pics of our Turkey run.

Ellie B



Marathon Training Week 15



Last week felt a bit haphazard…..I did a ½ Marathon race on Sunday so I didn’t have a long run on Saturday. I also took Friday as a rest day and Thursday was an easy enough session. Sunday was supposed to be a predictor session for my Marathon Pace in Melbourne. However the weather wasn’t playing ball – it was pretty windy – so I didn’t get to run the pace I could.


Winds of 35km/h – 60km/h predicted!!

On the upside my good pal the baking jogger blogger and I ran the marathon as a relay. And we took our first female team! Which was so exciting! But for some reason I still felt a bit disappointed on the way back to Perth. I think it was as I had a goal pace in my head and I didn’t achieve that. Everyone’s paces were out due to the strong winds and in my head I know it’s logical. However as the race was about pace prediction I felt like it was a bit of a waste of a week. You know what helps though….writing out these recaps. I thought last week was a waste until I went through Strava and realised I did an awesome Yasso session on Tuesday. I tend to focus on what I have not done so reading what you have is great.


  • Tuesday – Yasso 800’s

This was my second Yasso 800’s of my marathon program and I saw a huge improvement from my first session. I posted the full workout last week with my splits

I went from an average of about 3.25 mins to 3.10.

  • Wednesday – 8km Endurance Run @ 5.24

Nice easy 8km Recovery Run


  • Thursday – Short Intervals

So we have this workout we call Limestone Laps. As we run laps around the entrance of a limestone quarry. The workout is sprint a lap then about a 30 second active recovery and repeat 11 times. As I was racing on Sunday I only had to do 7; it felt like Christmas!

Warm up –bike 3km to session and 1.3km run warm up.

7 laps of 600m

  • 2.09 mins.      3.44 pace
  • 2.12 mins      3.49 pace
  • 2.09 mins     3.49 pace
  • 2.12 mins     3.55 pace
  • 2.10 mins     3.47 pace
  • 2.09 mins     3.50 pace

Cool down – 1.3km


  • Friday & Saturday – Rest days before race


  • Sunday – ½ Marathon Race.

I will do a proper recap of this later this week. Suffice to say this was mentally the hardest run I have ever done. It was 2 * 10km laps and there was a brutal headwind for 10km of it. Unfortunately we didn’t get much of a tail wind the other way! But psychologically it was awesome to not run into the wind. The last 5km I turned back into the wind and I wanted to cry it was so hard. But thankfully I got through it. And as a pal said not quitting or giving up was the best lesson and probably more important than running under perfect race conditions. Anyone can perform when everything is perfect. It’s when the chips are down that we need to fight. And now I know I can get through a tough race. Baking and I ended up coming first in the female relay and the next team was 13 minutes back. So everyone was struggling I think! I ran 21.1km in 1.34.24 – 4.27km pace.


After the baking jogger blogger smashed her leg and took us to the win. Yes….I know, I am short. 

  • Week total 50km

A low week from a km perspective but a tough week none the less. I’m into my third last week and nearly at taper. Based on how underwhelmed I felt this week with a softer week I think tapering will be hard!


Have a great weekend. Gill J

Monday Musings – September 23rd

Afternoon. J I had a pretty hectic week and weekend. Franman and I traveled down to Busselton near Margaret River for a Spring Racing Festival. It was crazy weather….winds up to 60km/h predicted. Thankfully it wasn’t that when we ran but it was pretty bad! But we had a great weekend and I will do a race report later this evening. Until then these links should keep you going.

The always entertaining Huffington Post has 23 things every woman should stop doing – Definitely some I can take on board particularly around Pinterest. We are building a new house and I need to remind myself about expectations vs reality.


Not that I know anything about fashion but this article about Anna Wintour is fun.


Have you heard of this 7 minute workout? Being a long distance runner I am always skeptical of any quick fix workouts.


This one however if done daily has great results. It seems to incorporate all key movements and exercises so they might be onto something. And it makes you feel invigorated and sanctimonious in 7 minutes. Always a win.


Check out the finish between Mo Farah and Kenenisa Bekele at the recent Great North Run. That’s how you finish a half marathon! So cool to see Haile Gebrselassie still giving it socks when he’s now technically in the Masters group.  Inspiring stuff.



We have had awful weather here in Perth the last few weeks so really enjoying stews and soups lately. I think I might have to try this Barefoot Contessa one later. If I can’t have her amazing house I can make her soup.

Winter Minestrone and Garlic Bread 

Have a great day. J