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Kenyan Running Style

Kenyan Running Style

Listening to the audiobook, Running with the Kenyans, the author, Adharanand Finn, uncovers the secrets of the world’s fastest long-distance runners. The first running secret is the Kenyan barefoot style. If you run barefoot, you naturally strike the ground forefoot first.

Whether you run with or without shoes, the Kenyan barefoot running style is landing on the forward part of your foot. Your forefoot, the ball of your foot, is between your arch (mid-foot) and toes. To run forefoot first, you need to lean forward which promotes faster running.

Running Form

Man running mountain trail Kenyan style

In the audiobook, Finn discovers his running form changes towards the end of a training run. When you get fatigued, most runners slow down. As a result, you stop leaning forward and land midfoot or heel first.

When you run downhill and want to slow down, you lean back and land heel first. Heel striking puts on the brakes. As a result, you slow down with every heel strike.

However, running fast requires you to lean forward and strike the ground forefoot first.

Kenyans Train on Dirt Roads

One of the biggest training differences between Kenyans and the rest of the world is the running terrain. In the town of Iten, Kenya, runners train on dirt roads because this poor African country does not have paved roads. Training on soft surfaces like dirt and grass helps Kenyans to sustain long-running careers. For example, the Greatest marathoner Of All Time (GOAT), Eliud Kipchoge, running career is 20 years (2002-2022). In comparison, the Japanese long-distance runner, Suguru Osako’s running career is 10 years (2010-2020).

In Adharanand Finn’s audiobook The Way of the Runner, a Kenyan champion makes an accurate prediction about an upcoming Japanese competitor. The Japanese runner would not become his rival.

Why? Because runners in Japan, like most other developed countries, train on concrete roads. These hard surfaces cause higher impact stress on joints and shorten running careers. Instead, train like Kenyans on soft trails for a longer running career.

Kenyan Running Style

Watch the Kenyan running style of world champion Eliud Kiphoge, and see him break the two-hour marathon barrier. He is the first person in history to run 26.2 miles (42.195 km) in 1:59:40. Because it was a closed race and used a dense rotation of professional pacers, it is not officially recognized as a world record.

Nonetheless, Kiphoge still holds the official world record time of 2:01:39 from the Berlin Marathon in 2018.

As a recreational runner, you may have questions about the marathon, including:

  • Who runs faster marathon times men or women?
  • What’s the average male and female marathon pace?
  • Which age group has the fastest marathon finishing times?

Discover answers to these marathon finish time questions and more.

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