My new ebook on mental, weight and pacing strategies among Kenyan runners

Irene Cheptai, world cross country champion leading
 the rest in a local race in Kenya
Kenya is known the world over for the great long-distance runners that come out of it. The factors that make this country so lies in its great climatic conditions throughout the year, the places to train on high altitudes, the availability of many groups of athletes to train with, and the culture and history of running in the country.
I am lucky to have been born in Kenya and to have joined some of the biggest training camps here in my early life. This gives me enough experience to give out some insights on how Kenyan runners deal with a number of areas in their training.
Here, I am going to deal with their mental preparations, how they deal with their weight in different stages of their training, and their pacing strategies both in training and in racing.

Available ebook formats: epub, mobi, pdf, lrf, pdb, txt and html.

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Why the right pacing in training and in racing is important

A runner on her morning run in Eldoret, Kenya.
 Photo by Justin Lagat
Whether one is pacing themselves or is being paced by other runners, choosing the right pace to use is the key to getting the best results out of any workout or race for any runner. Starting out a run too fast often leads to overall poor performance in the end, or even having to stop mid-way in a run. 

Just like in all the other elements of training, if not applied well, it becomes useless and might even be counterproductive.

In training, we have jogging, easy, moderate, and hard runs. Every run has a reason. Harder runs help build the aerobic capacity while the easier runs help in recovery while at the same time assisting in building endurance and muscle strength. Moderate and tempo runs help the body get used to the racing conditions.

A pacesetter is there to ensure that the runner maintains the right pace that will help them meet their goals both in a race and in training. They are not there to push the runner to run more than their ability as this will often result in a bad race. At times, some pacesetters end up competing with the runners they are supposed to help!

It is very common for elite Kenyan women runners to have male pacesetters accompanying and pacing them in their training and also during their races. In fact, some male runners are earning their living as professional women pace setters here in Kenya with some of the biggest camps here paying a stable monthly salary for their services.

Mental preparation for race day among Kenyan runners

Wilson Kiprop, the 2010 world half-marathon champion,
versus Bedan Karoki at a local race in Kenya

An athlete may have done enough training to run well in a race, but without the right mentality going into the race, all the training might become useless.

They say that experience is the best teacher, and if there is one place that this applies more, it should definitely be with the mental preparation among Kenyan runners getting ready to run their dream races. Some learn about the best ways to deal mentally with their races through experience while others are taught by a coach or by fellow runners.

One of the runners that have impacted me more on how to be tough and courageous in a race is Wilson Kiprop, the 2010 world half marathon champion. He told me how determined he was to finish in a podium place at a local race before no one ever knew about him. He had never finished in the top ten positions at any big race before. But here, the race meant everything to him. He had no more food where he stayed away from home, no money, and no one to ask for help. He was in Nairobi and he wanted to win some money at the cross country race to enable him to travel back to Eldoret. The race was paying the top three finishers only.

How Kenyan runners deal with weight at various stages of their training

A Kenyan runner doing an easy morning run. Photo by Justin Lagat

In their initial days of race preparations, one would find Kenyan runners wearing semi-waterproof tracksuits that make them sweat profusely during their runs. In addition, they would do these runs in the mid-morning to noon sun in order to maximize the effects of the heat.

These easy runs in the hot sun soon get them into their ideal training weight in about one month.

Kenyan runners believe that it is good for one to find out their ideal racing weight in order for them to tell if they will need to gain more or lose during their training. And the best way to get to one’s desired weight fast is not in the likes of lemon concoctions, but by training and sweating in the heat. It is also important to feel healthy and fit, so one should not quickly train more to lose more weight regardless of other factors.