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Book Cover

Book Cover

The Way of the Runner – A journey into the fabled world of Japanese running” is Adharanand Finn’s second book after the much celebrated “Running with the Kenyans – Discovering The Secrets Of The Fastest People On Earth”. Finn sets out for a new adventure to better himself as a runner and explore what running in Japan is like by immersing himself into the Japanese running scene. As he does, he travels with his family.

I was looking forward to read Finn’s new book for multiple reasons. Firstly, I thoroughly enjoyed listening to the audiobook of Running with the Kenyans. Secondly, at the time Finn wrote the first book he ran for Team Shoe4Africa the 2013 New York City Marathon. He attended the team’s pasta party. Thirdly, in 2006 I travelled to Japan myself to experience what Japanese Running is like by taking part in the men’s only Fukuoka Marathon. I was quite fascinated by my time in Japan and appreciated the dedication of the Japanese runners, something unique which we don’t find in Europe anywhere else. Fourthly, I coached a Japanese girls for a couple of months, I learned about Japanese values, believes and behaviours. Finally, my friend Kassa represented Team GB in the famous international Chiba Ekiden running the 7km leg and told me about his experience.

The Way of the Runner is about the Ekiden. The Japanese have a great interest in the Ekiden races. In England we don’t have Ekiden, though we have some tough road relay competitions as well. Once I had a chance to be part of the Serpentine RC Welsh Castle Relay team. A 20 stage running event over 2 days around Wales. It turned out to be a very close race between Serpentine RC and the organising club Les Croupiers during the 2 days. There are also the regional and national 6 and 12 Stage Road Relays. These are very traditional events positioned before the track and cross country season. However, the relays are a welcome break between seasons rather than the season’s goal. Nonetheless, the experienced club runner can get appreciation what it is like to be part of an Ekiden team and prepare with the team for a small number of Ekiden events. There is a lot of pressure when being part of the team. One need to be prepared, be honest about their level of fitness, have to perform on the day, but also support the rest of the team when not running. Similar to the Ekiden runner, when running for a team in the road relays, everything has to run like a well-oiled machine.

The main story line of the book is about Finn trying to immerse himself into an Ekiden team. The structure of the book is similar to Running with the Kenyans, There is the main story line, to unearth the mystical Japanese Running System and a number of lifestyle factor themes are weaved in, e.g. nutrition, role models, history, running technique, and physical, psychological (even spiritual) as well as tactical factors. In addition, Finn’s personal relations with his family, his friend, the coaches, training partners and fellow Ekiden team members are covered as well, which provides a rich picture of his Japanese running adventure. Out of all this it is difficult to single out a key learning from the way of the runner. Finn integrated many interesting stats and facts throughout the story. Nutrition? Discipline? Tradition? Finn surfaces multiple interesting points and there are no doubt that anyone can learn from reading Finn’s Way of the Runner.

Many people will have read Running with the Kenyans. The warm and welcoming Kenyan Runners are very different compared to the Japanese fabled running culture. Having met Finn, an enthusiastic runner keen to talk to anyone, his open and good nature may have hit a brick wall in Japan. It will be unavoidable that many readers want to compare both of Finn’s books. When exploring a country and a culture one needs to appreciate that people are simply different, rather than looking for what’s better or worse. For example, comparing running in the UK and US, Kenya and Ethiopia, China and Japan. While there are no doubt commonalities and even synergies, they are differences of course.

Having covered the Kenyan and Japanese pillar of the world of running, I wonder if Finn has found the golden key and what specific changes he made to his training as a result to his insight on Japanese running (Finn ran a 10k PB of 34:47 in the Exeter 10k!). What’s next for Finn? Taking part in the Met League and discover what’s it like to run a full cross country season? Alternatively, joining the US collegiate system.

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