Having a Kenyan coach is much more valuable than buying Kenyan jerseys and bracelets

Steven Vanlancker (centre) training in Iten, Kenya
“I am surprised that it had to take me over 6,000km of traveling to finally understand what “easy” really meant,” Steven Vanlancker told me as we sat and sipped some hot tea outside on a hot afternoon at Iten Club in Kenya.



Steven is from Belgium and is one of the runners that I coach online and who at times borders on nagging with many questions whenever I give him a program for the week. Often, he would want to know the exact pace to use in each one of the runs I give him. So, when he came to Kenya, did a few runs, noticed that an easy pace on some routes can sometimes get faster than hard runs on some routes; he then realized the need to use feeling for his runs rather than follow the pace on his watch!

Common methods used to prevent and treat injury among Kenyan runners


Injuries happen in many ways. Most of the time, it starts out as something that one may feel like a slight discomfort that would simply go away on its own. Sometimes, it happens abruptly in the middle of their run and forces them to stop and find other means to reach your house.

Looking back at the time that I was a small kid in primary school, I think I now finally figured out why I would run to school daily for over eight years and cannot remember any day I ever got injured because of these runs.

There was a river I would cross every morning on my way to school. It didn’t have a bridge and I would wade through the icy cold water briefly stopping in the middle to bath my legs and face before proceeding to school.

Anyway, below are some of the common ways in which Kenyan runners use to prevent and treat their injuries.

Heat Therapy

Applying some heat to an injured part of the body enables more blood circulation in that area soothes the pain and speeds up the healing process.

The most common form of heat treatment among Kenyan runners is mostly the moist heat application where some leaves of special plants, and even cabbages, are heated over an open fire and applied gently on the injured part of the leg. Besides retaining the right amount of heat during the treatment, most of the leaves used by the Kenyan runners often have some additional healing properties in them as well.

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.

The 2020 Standard Chartered Nairobi Marathon is canceled and here is their message

I heard the news about the cancelation of the 2020 Nairobi Marathon through the social media, and as though they knew that it would be hard for me to believe it, I just checked my email and got the message below:
Dear Justin,
Thank you for your continued support towards the Standard Chartered Nairobi Marathon. We have been closely monitoring how Covid-19 has impacted large scale public events worldwide and in Kenya. Naturally, this raised concerns for our marathon. 
When we consulted with Athletics Kenya and the Ministry of Sports it was evident that we would not be able to plan for a physical event with any certainty.