Ryan Hall's Kenya Blog #1: Early Lessons

September 09, 2013 at 4:00pm EST | by Barbara Huebner, NYRR News Service

Ryan Hall and his wife, Sara, are spending the month of September training at Lornah Kiplagat’s High Altitude Training Center in Iten, Kenya, from which Ryan will be sending periodic reports as he prepares to compete in the ING New York City Marathon on November 3.

It's hard to believe that this is only my third full day here in Kenya. It seems like it has been much longer, largely due to the epic long travel it took to get here. I departed my home in Flagstaff, AZ, at 5:30 a.m. on Sunday [September 1] to catch the first of my first of six flights to get to Eldoret, Kenya. Thirty-six uneventful hours later we finally arrived. My friend, Wesley Korir, who won the 2012 Boston Marathon, picked up Sara, myself, and two of the film crew guys from The 41st Day (a documentary that tells my story beginning from the last Olympic Trials through this year’s ING New York City Marathon). It was a miracle that we could fit all of our luggage in his car. Actually now that I think about it we couldn't, and had to get a cab for one of the guys and our bags.

We traveled to Wesley's home to visit with him and see the hospital that he and the Hall Steps Foundation partnered together to build. One thing that I learned already from our time here is that Kenyans have a different sense of time. For example, when you ask them how long it takes to travel somewhere, if they say one hour then it’s probably closer to two. It's not that they are trying to trick you; I think it's just that they aren't overly concerned with being precise. I think this also is true when you hear stories of certain training runs. It’s not that some aren't exact, but it's good to know to just take “time” in Kenya with a grain of salt.

It's been interesting already to be in Kenya and have certain stories you hear about Kenyan running culture either confirmed or proven wrong. For example, yesterday when we were driving from Wesley's house to Iten, where we are staying at Lornah's High Altitude Training Center for the next month, I noticed many, many different schools of kids walking home from school. Notice I said “walking.” I did not see one kid running home from school, which leads me to believe that the whole notion of the Kenyan dominance being rooted in the base of mileage that little kids have from running to and from school to be untrue. Maybe the kids only run to school when they are going to be late and they walk home when they don't have to be home at a certain time. All I know is that I didn't see one little kid running.

A couple of the Kenyan running culture things that have already been confirmed are:

1. The tea is ridiculously good and they drink it in mass quantities.

2.  The food is also not only really tasty but as natural, organic, and healthy as it comes.

3.  The roads are indeed treacherous and when being driven anywhere here it is best to keep your eyes closed.

4.  The people are even more welcoming and friendly than I have heard, especially here at the High Altitude Training Center.

5.  The roads for training on are very hilly and can explain why the Kenyans don't do much in the way of weights.

6.  The Kenyan way of life is slow yet pleasantly refreshing from the high-paced American way, when you feel guilty for just lying around. The Kenyans’ high value for rest is certainly a major reason why they are as good as they are

7.  The Kenyans work very hard. In my opinion, the biggest factor why the Kenyans are as dominant as they are is because they have thousands of elite level athletes training very hard in training groups. I would say that the biggest lesson I have learned from my first few days here in Kenya is the importance of training with others. This is a lesson that I will take back to the States with me. I will be much more proactive in seeking out training partners and groups to train with, even if it means starting my own.

Well, that's all from Kenya for now.  I look forward to updating you guys with more of my observations next week.  Happy training!