Friday, 7 March 2014

Running with the Kenyans......Crazy not Lazy!

Some of you will know that recently I've been doing some track sessions with the elite KipMovin team,  who are managed by my coach Thomas.
It has been brutally hard, but I'm pretty sure it will pay off.
Apart from the times when I've felt dizzy or wanted to vomit, it's also super fun. However, there is certainly a totally different mentality and training ethos, compared to the regular "Western" ways of training.
To start with, actually getting to the track can be a comedy of errors. Nobody turns up on time, people get lost, we plan to go to one track only to find that it's shut so then have to find another.
The pace is super relaxed, and everyone is cracking jokes the entire time.
That is, it's relaxed until the session starts, and then it's game on in a big way.
The sessions themselves are crazy; last week the set was 25x400m, although not everyone completed the session - the focus is on running hard in each interval, as opposed sticking to a relatively arbitrary previously decided set. It seems to be that it's more important to run yourself to the point of having nothing left on that day - while not writing yourself off for the rest of the weeks training - as opposed to a more "Western" idea of completing the set at all costs. Interestingly, I remember reading a quote by legendary American athlete and now coach Alberto Salazar that supported this notion. He said something along the lines that he would not watch while his athletes committed suicide, meaning that if the pace drops off too much, he will tell his athletes to stop the set rather than entirely burn themselves out and lose too much confidence.
But in my experience, this is not how the majority of Westerners train. The general mentality is finish the set at all costs and consequences.
Yesterday was another brutal session. The original suggestion was for 6x5000m on the track. Insane!! As one guy said to the guy that had suggested this set, 'the thing I like about you is that you are crazy, not lazy!"
Thank goodness we did not do run that set!
Instead we did 5000m, 3000m, 2000, 1000m, 800m, 400m.
It was very difficult to stay positive and only focused on the lap you were running when you knew how many you had to go.
Having said this, at least by the time we got to the 2000m, it started to feel a lot easier and that I had a chance - even if it was a remote chance - of completing the set.
For me, it was particularly daunting because apart from once or twice at a school athletics carnival, this was the first time I've ever even run this distance on a track. While I'm not new to running per se, I am relatively new to doing this type of more serious training and competing - May last year was the first time I actually ran on a proper athletics track.
It was also interesting to watch the guys train - they really work together and take turns pacing and leading the group on each lap. Again, in my experience, this is somewhat "unWestern" in approach. Conceded, I have very limited experience in this, but the other track group I train with on Tuesday nights do not tend to do this. While everyone starts off the same watch, it's then everyman (or woman) running for themselves - you tend to set your own pace more.
The next striking thing is how relaxed these guys are. While the session itself might last an hour, it takes a long time to get everyone organised. For many of the non-Kenyan runners I know, the idea of spending half a day to get your training down would be both incredibly frustrating, and also not feasible. But I do believe that it helps with your actual training. Everyone is having a good time, and it's  in part at least because they are so relaxed that they are able to train so hard and be so incredibly focused during the session.
Nonetheless, most of us do not have the luxury of being career athletes and able to train in the middle of the day.
The final, perhaps most striking thing about running with these guys is how positive they are. They believe in themselves and their ability to run well more than anyone I've ever met. Of course, they do have an incredible amount of talent, however I think a small part of that at least stems from the fact that they believe so strongly in their ability to achieve, that they train harder than just about anyone I've ever met. Their self-belief and strong work ethic is very strongly linked. And it's totally inspiring to see.
They also have such a passion for running that you can't help but have a great time when you are running with them. At the very start of the session, one of the guys said to me, "Be happy, that is my advice to you!"
This same guy hopes to one day attempt the world record in the marathon. And he's got a shot at it too -  though he's yet to run a marathon, he told me that he'd been a pacer in one marathon until he did the obligatory drop-out at 35km; the winners of this race were only 3 seconds off the world record! This guy is only 25 and has so much talent and passion that I believe it's possible. So incredible and inspiring! What is most inspiring is meeting someone who is actually prepared to put everything on the line and try.
And this seems to be the lesson that we can take from running with the Kenyans; believe, train, and be happy!
The team (and me)
Crazy not lazy!
If you are not running, just chill and help out the others that are.
Me and the lovely Mercy.. she won a marathon in Taipei two weeks ago. Amazing to be in the company of someone so humble and yet so talented!