Running with the Kenyans By Donna Bays

Donna Bays
Donna after finding out she gets to cool-down with the Kenyans.

“In my dreams I am a Kenyan.” That’s a slogan on one of my running shirts and in some ways it’s a true statement. When I’m running I have a mental image of myself . . . good posture, elbows bent at 90°, hands loose, and the stride of a Kenyan. I’ll never forget the first time I saw a picture of myself running. That’s when I realized that my feet never get more than a foot apart. I’m not even sure you can classify what I do as a stride, it’s definitely more along the lines of a waddle.

This year, a good friend and I had the honor of serving as coordinators/hosts for the elite athletes who ran in the Crazy 8’s 8k. Our job was to basically make them feel welcomed, be available for questions or concerns, and to make sure they actually got to the race from whichever hotel they were staying. What a blast! It was an exhausting but very rewarding few days.

If you know me at all, you know I love to meet new people. I want to talk to them, learn about their life, where they’re from, their family, life experiences, and goals. But with the elites I didn’t know if this would be acceptable. I mean, would they be physically and mentally preparing for the race? Would they want quiet seclusion so they could focus on their goal? Or would they be elitist who didn’t want to be bothered by a waddler?

I’m happy to say that the fifty or so elite athletes I met (from Kenya as well as Ethiopia, Morocco, and the good ole USA) were some of the nicest, most humble and appreciative folks that I have ever met. They answered every ridiculous question I asked and even seemed to be interested in my running tales.

kenyan Runners
The Kenyans trying to keep up with Donna on their cool-down.

They gave me a few suggestions and ideas about how to make my “dream” a little closer to reality. Here are a couple of things I found very interesting.

Their idea of training and my idea of training are two totally different concepts. My hard-core marathon training might get me up to 60+ miles a week but that’s their maintenance schedule. None of them ever told me their weekly mileage; instead it was always the amount of time they ran. One person told me it was more about the amount of time I spent on my feet than the distance I covered. He said that my focus should be on the quality of my running and not quantity of miles.

I was very curious about their diet. A couple of the athletes arrived in town a few days earlier than most and they wanted to go to the grocery store to get some food to keep in their rooms. Here’s what their grocery list looked like: whole grain bread, honey, bananas, apples, water (gallons, not bottles), hot tea, and orange juice. Yep, that’s what I was afraid of . . . no chocolate milk or chips on their list. But there was one bright spot with food. A number of them asked me to drive them to Waffle House after the race for a celebration dinner/breakfast. They get their hash browns scattered, smothered and covered too! Wahoo!!

On the night of the race I stayed with the elites until about thirty minutes before it was scheduled to begin. At that point we parted ways; they went to the front of the line and I went to the back, the way back. I finished the race, let’s just say “a considerable amount of time”, after the elites but they were still doing their cool-down runs and stretches when I crossed the finish line. This was the highlight of my time with them. I was running around trying to find out how everyone did when I was ask by Edna Kiplagat, Hyvon Hgetich, and Irene Kimaiyo to join them for the last ten minutes of their cool-down run. They welcomed me to their group, talked to me the entire time and made me feel like I was exactly where I was supposed to be . . . running with the Kenyans. Now that’s a waddler’s high!