Kenyans and the Simplicity of Running
First and foremost, a HUGE CONGRATULATIONS to Meb Keflezighi on his amazing 4th place finish in today’s marathon. I have to be honest – I had all but counted him out halfway through the race. He seemed so far back, and I thought it was highly unlikely he would be able to catch up to the other runners. But as with the marathon, anything can happen. One by one, he picked off the other runners and went from 20th to 4th. What an amazing way to complete his last Olympics. And my heart goes out to Ryan Hall and Abdi Abdirahman. Some races just don’t turn out the way we hope.
Now to the Kenyans…
Although a Kenyan did not take gold today, one can not deny their unbelievably amazing running talents. There are many reasons we believe contribute to their dominance of the long distance running field. Altitude, diet, their need to escape poverty, running from an early age, etc. John Burnett from NPR spent a few days last month eating like the Kenyans and his article makes a point well worth noting: the Kenyans eat simple. No special drinks, no special bars, no protein powders, and no supplements.
“It’s just normal Kenyan food — vegetables, spaghetti, ugali,” said Wilson Kipsang, captain of the Kenyan marathon team… They eat food eaten by ordinary Kenyans. You wouldn’t expect an Olympian to eat what they eat. The cook is not a sports dietician, just a woman from the village,” he said, chuckling.
On top of their typical Kenyan food, their approach to fluid intake is also a little different.
Hundreds of aspiring athletes — and a few world record holders — ran past us with efficient, relaxed strides in their daily 30- to 40-kilometer course along the rust-colored paths surrounding Iten. Not one of them carried a water bottle.
No special drinks. No special food. And they continue to dominate. I’m the first to admit I’m always looking for foods or drinks that may give me that extra boost. I mean I actually consumed an entire bottle of beet juice the day before a race because I thought it would improve my performance. But Burnett’s article has encouraged me to reflect a little more on the sport. Running, for as complex as we can make it, is still a simple sport. There is no replacement for the miles of training. There is no magic food… well maybe chia seeds 🙂 Simple, clean nutrition is what your body needs. Even Meb says in this article that he has no specific nutrition plan – just a clean diet and to have pasta the night before a race.
Tomorrow marks 12 weeks until my next race. I’ve been running all summer injury free and have been able to put in more miles per week than normal. I’m focusing more on finding joy in the sport. Take easy days, push hard, rest, eat, and pay attention to my body. Certainly I am no Kenyan but I appreciate their approach to the sport.
Happy Last Day of the Olympics!