“I am surprised that it had to take me over 6,000km of traveling to finally understand what “easy” in running really meant,” Steven Vanlancker told me -his online running coach- as we sat and sipped some hot tea outside on a hot sunny afternoon in a shade at Iten Club in Kenya.
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!
He fell in love with Iten from the first minute he arrived.
On the right is the picture he sent me shortly after arriving at the High Altitude Training Centre accompanied by the words “I am eating” as I tried to get to him on phone.
“It is an inspiring place. It is so tempting not to go out on a run here, any time” he said, confirming it by going out for a 1hr 25-minute run when I had given him a program to do just one hour. He also added a 45 minute afternoon run on a day that I had scheduled a recovery afternoon for him.
But, all these were fine given that, as his online running coach, I had given him fewer workouts for the week in order for him to get plenty of extra time to explore Iten and enjoy his first-ever trip to Africa.
In Iten, there are so many runners of different abilities out there running at different times throughout the day, from the time the sun rises to when it sets; it is really so tempting not to join some of them.
On Thursday, he joined a group of about 100 athletes for a Fartlek, which was also another great experience for him. I asked him later if he was able to see the leaders for the next 3 minutes after the fartlek was started and he laughed, “Unless you mean 3 seconds!!”
Below are some of the things that puzzled him after his short stay in Iten.
He wondered why some runners would spend a lot of their money in buying books that claim to help them improve on their running instead of spending them on a personal running coach who would monitor their progress and advise them at a personal level.
“Besides the fact that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to running, books can never provide feedback to the daily challenges that a runner may encounter on their day-to-day training. Only a coach can do that,” said Steven. “I think the value of having a Kenyan online running coach is so much more than that of buying Kenyan bracelets, Kenyan national team kits and visiting Iten, all combined,” he added.
Secondly, he wondered why some foreign runners would come in search of a Kenyan running experience yet they still get a private car arranged to take them to the starting point of fartlek merely 5km away while the Kenya runners are actually jogging there!
He also wondered why some foreign runners would travel all the way to Kenya to discuss ice cream, protein shakes recovery drinks, etc, instead of focusing more on the Kenyan food, culture, and lifestyles.
According to him, perhaps most of the books, programs, and products out there on running are actually just being designed to satisfy people who “want to hear good things about their bad habits” and not necessarily to help them improve on their running.
At the end of it all, Steven learned that 90% of what it takes to become a successful runner actually comes from pure hard work and daily runs. Everything else from shoes to supplements, among others, only accounts for the remaining 10%.
From the feedback that I get from the runners that I coach online on my individual running training. It helps in designing the best online coaching programs to offer to our clients.