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cover image of Running on the Red Dust

African days are the inspiration for Colin Thomas

Regular visits to Iten, the home of champions, is the inspiration for Colin Thomas's account of life at the heart of a unique Kenyan running community

Glasgow-based coach Colin Thomas is pleased with the reception his book 'Running on the Red Dust' has received since its publication last month (April 2021). Thomas told runABC: "I've been pleasantly surprised at sales in both hardback and Kindle formats."

He added: "More importantly it's great to be spreading the word about a way of life and the sporting and personal success it builds. I've been hugely influenced by the time I've spent working with athletes in Kenya and it's a honour to tell their story."

Thomas, a physiologist, is a UKA Level 3 running coach and a personal trainer tutor and assessor. He works with a number of athletes from beginner to elite level and is a regular visitor to Iten, known as the 'Home of Champions.

'Running on the Red Dust' is the compelling story of how running, particularly at international events, is the route out of extreme rural poverty for hundreds of young Kenyans. Thomas chronicles the dedication, hardiness and remarkable self-belief of the men and women who are attracted to Iten's many training camps, from the well-appointed facilities that top international athletes use to the very basic shared accommodation that is available to the majority.

A feature of this account, set against the colourful backdrop of contemporary Africa, is the authentic detail of the daily lives of the athletes which centres around hard double-session days, the tracks and terrain they use and a Spartan, but adequate, diet. Some of the best sections are detailed descriptions of the early morning 100-strong 'tempo' runs  or the dawn 'long run' where the aim is not to complete the 40k route but to run at the fierce pace as long as you are able.

Thomas also captures the dynamic of support and competition and, above all, the determination to transcend discomfort and pain. He discounts arguments around genetic pre-disposition to claim that the real key to understanding the success of Kenyan athletes in recent decades is this immense desire and total commitment. Plus something of an 'X' factor in the constant pushing of boundaries, of going to the limit of physical capability and finding ways of challenging that limit.

A strength of Colin Thomas's admirable book is how he translates his Kenyan experiences into training advice for the reader, probably a recreational runner. So 'Running on the Red Dust' provides excellent pointers on training plans, the advantages of group training, the role of recovery, diet, strength and conditioning, mental approaches and much more besides.

Keen to find out more? Check out 'The Basics of Kenyan Training' excerpt from 'Running on the Red Dust'.

'Running on the Red Dust' in both hardback and Kindle versions is available on Amazon.

Image courtesy: Colin Thomas

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