It is no doubt that Kenya has the fastest long distance runners in the world. Annually, the Kenyan athletes bring home trophies making us all proud. For years, world scientists and experts have been seeking secrets linked to high performance in these runners.
The results have brought inspiration to many athletes and the general population of the world. In this article, we will briefly discuss the secrets of the successful Kenyan athletes and the life lessons we can draw from them:
- Lead a simple life
Athletes ensure that they focus on daily training. They keep away from other distractions and keep their schedules simple, that is, wake up, think about running, run and rest, socialize with fellow athletes and strategize on winning.
In Nike’s documentary Breaking 2, Eliud Kipchoge displays a simple, low-key life and states that he likes to earn through honesty and hard work.
Lesson: Avoid distractions and focus on your key goals.
- Rest hard
Kenyan athletes rest equally to how hard they work. In a training camp situated in Iten, lights are switched off at 9.30 p.m. and then athletes wake up at 6.30.a.m. to run. Rest is good for the muscles and it helps to recover from hard training.
Lesson: Rest is as important as work. Strike a balance.
- Know when to speed and when to slow down
Anyone who has watched Kenyan marathoners will notice that they are very slow when they start running. Sometimes they’ll be the last to sprint. This helps their bodies to warm-up as they steadily build on speed.
Before retiring, world marathon champion, Catherine Ndereba had an impressive training plan. She did hard days and easy days in intervals to allow her body to recover.
Lesson: Understand your body, plan wisely, and then execute.
- Run with others
Most Kenyan runners train in camps and practice running in groups. They do not always compete with each other; there are times they will run fast, and there are times they will slow down. Running together helps them push further than they would have doing it alone.
Lesson: No matter how good you are, you can be better in a ‘pack’.
- Have faith
Most Kenyan runners have come from humble backgrounds. Hellen Kimutai, who has won five gold medals, did not start running as a hobby, but due to challenges. At the age of 15, she would run barefoot for 6 kilometres to school and back. Most of the elite Kenyan athletes have joined the marathon with faith that it will be a ticket to overcoming poverty.
These runners believed in themselves and worked hard to ensure that they joined the Olympic team and secured medals in the marathons. What motivates them to break records is the faith they have. An athlete such as Henry Wanyoike and other physically challenged athletes make it through self-belief.
Lesson: See yourself as a person that can achieve albeit your background or hindrances.
- Train at high altitude
Majority of the Kenyan successful runners, mainly from the Rift valley, train on high altitude (around 2400m/7900 meters above sea level), where there is lesser oxygen. From a young age, these runners get used to running in these altitudes. This strengthens their aerobic capacity, by increasing the production of red blood cells and makes them better athletes.
Lesson: Hardship or unusual circumstances can shape you for success.
- Mind your diet
Elite runners, such as Eliud Kipchoge are multi-millionaires by now. However, their diets are simple Kenyan meals mainly of ugali, vegetables and animal protein. These are organic foods that are balanced and healthy. International athletes who have used this diet during training have recovered faster after running the marathons and in the overall health of their bodies.
Lesson: Your daily diet optimizes your chances for peak performance.