A typical day of Kenyan athletes

A typical day of Kenyan athletes

You can bet that at least one Kenyan will be on the podium of almost every marathon and race with prize money around the world. Every year, major marathon podiums are filled with Kenyans. Currently, 3 Kenyan women have their times for the 7 fastest marathon times ever and 5 Kenyan men are responsible for the 7 fastest marathon times ever.

A typical day of athletes at *St. Patrick's Highschool in Iten, Kenya

*St. Patrick's Highschool in Iten, Kenya, runs a youth running camp every year in April and December. Their camp has produced numerous world champions, from Peter Rono, Wilson Kipketer, David Rudisha, Lornah Kiplagat, Edna Kiplagat, and Mary Keitany.

6 am:

The alarm goes off. I slowly change into my running gear. The sky is still dark; stars are visible and the moon still shining bright at the 2,400m of altitude. Birds are already up though, singing to each other. Some athletes from the camp are jogging by, so I join them.

After jogging for about 40 minutes, the sun is already up. After the morning run, we refuel ourselves with Kenyan milk tea (a delicious cocktail of Kenyan tea, water, milk, and sugar) and some pieces of bread. At 7:45 am, I am back in my room, getting myself into the bed for the 'morning nap'

9 am:

I wake up from my morning nap and get ready for the main training of the day. It's 9:30 am and athletes are already out on the small grass field within St. Patrick's Highschool. Today we are going to the Tambach track for interval training. The training is tough; the Kenyans do hard sessions really hard. After the session, it's 11:30am and we eat ugali and cabbage, the staple food in Kenya. Then, I go for a second nap of the day.

4 pm:

I get up from my mid-day nap and get ready for the last training session of the day. We do 20min jogging and some core exercises. After this session, I eat dinner (ugali and beans) with the athletes and coaches. I read, write, edit videos, and get ready for sleep at 11 PM.

9 things that keep Kenyans fastest in the world

The above schedule continues every day except Sunday. On really hard training days, there is no afternoon (4 pm) session. The camp is composed of some of the best junior and senior athletes of Kenya. Some of the junior men run 13 min 5km and 3:45 1,500m. A girl runs a 33 min 10km. A 17 years old boy just ran a 24 min flat 8km cross country, placing 3rd in the nationals. Two boys won 1st and 2nd in 1,500m, at times of 3:46 and 3:48. Senior athletes include Ronex Kipruto, who ran 2nd fastest 10km on the road last year in Prague, with a ridiculous time of 26:46 (he was only 18 at the time).

There are many components to what makes Kenyans fastest in the world. From them I noticed 9 things.

  1. Consistency: Athletes here don't skip workouts or jump from one program to another program. They stick to their program and do it for +5 years until they see good results.
  2. Gratitude: Athletes here train with a big sense of gratitude. The opportunity to train under best coaches in Kenya makes them alert, thankful, and inspired.
  3. Focus: I have never seen Kenyans losing focus of what is important, which is training. When they are on the track, doing hard interval sessions, you can see that their body and mind are 100% at the moment.
  4. Hard work: Kenyans put in hard work every day. 3 times a day. Some people say they are born with it. They should come and see how Kenyans commit themselves to the art of running every single day.
  5. Environment: The terrain is perfect for training. Altitude keeps them tough. Hills are everywhere. Also, the best runners are their peers and locals. The graduates of the camp are world champions. Their goal is not to "making Olympics" but "I will break his/her world record." Standard is high and that makes them ever more competitive.
  6. Rest: Kenyans are world-class at resting. They run, eat, sleep, 3 times a day. This keeps them fresh for hard sessions where they really work on their speed and stamina.
  7. Simplicity: Kenyans don't complicate things. They don't measure lactic acid or heart rate or how much time each foot spends on the ground. A simple stopwatch or GPS watch is all they need. This helps them develop their intuition and awareness of body and mind to the level that Western runners who rely on machines and numbers will hardly reach.
  8. Trust: Athletes here completely trust their coaches. They simply follow and trust the system. This relieves them of great energy to just focus on training, not doubting the program or thinking about program.
  9. Background: I am very careful to talk about this. But as far as I am told from coaches and locals here, all athletes who decide to run come from humble background. For them, running is a lifetime opportunity to transform not only their lives but their families. Of course, all athletes want to be great. But the motivation and drive of Kenyan runners seem to run much deeper than others.

So, what can we learn from Kenyans and how can we apply it to our work?

Patience: Things take time. It takes time to make an impact through our work. I never met a Kenyan who started running for a year or two and reaped world-class success. However, we think that after working for a year or two, we should make a product or a career that makes a huge impact in the world. Many Startup founders think that after a year or two, their child will turn into a unicorn. Great things take time. If you know what you are doing is valuable, take your time and put in the work.

Surround yourself with colleagues and peers that motivate you: This is a cliché that never gets old. The people around you likely determine what is good or bad work. If you want to work better and grow further, you must surround yourself with people who motivate you to work and live better.

Rest: Make sure you learn how to rest your brain and body. You can't think of creative ideas or make sure your work is great when sleep-deprived and sick.

Do it everyday: If you really care your work, do it everyday. If you don't care about it that much, perhaps it is better to look for another job - and that is great. You don't want to waste your time on things that don't excite you to work hard on every day.

Keep it simple: What 20% of your work produces 80% of your outcome? What is the single most important thing that you want to achieve in your work? Declutter your work routine. Focus on what matters to you and your organization.

Trust: If you have committed yourself to working with a company or a project for a period of time, give it 100% of your trust during that period. There are aways moments of disappointment and doubts. So set a period of time where you are going to give your 100%. It might change everything.

Gratitude: We take the opportunity to make a living and an impact for granted. If you are reading this, you are 1% of the world's population who has internet connection and time to read an article on LinkedIn while sipping on coffee or clean water. Being grateful does not make everything better; but it surely inspires you to make things better with new source of energy.

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