Welcome to In the Pen, our new series of articles with the runners that inspire the Lonely Goat community.
First up is the author, Adharanand Finn, whose books are cited among our members’ favourites.
Finn is the author of Running with the Kenyans and The Way of the Runner. The first of these was the Sunday Times Sports Book of the Year, won Best New Writer at the British Sports Book Awards and was shortlisted for the William Hill Sports Book Award. The Rise of the Ultra Runners was also shortlisted for the William Hill Sports Book Award. He is a journalist for The Guardian and also writes regularly for the Financial Times, the Daily Telegraph and others.
Finn was kind enough to answer our questions…
1. Why do you run?
It’s a difficult question to answer. I used to run to compete, then to run as fast as I could, but those days are slipping away now. But I realise what always lay behind that was the feeling of strength, of movement, of enjoyment that I got when I was reasonably fit and feeling good on a run – it’s just so satisfying to push hard and feel good.
Then, also, I love the post-run feeling – satisfaction, endorphins, a sense of contentment all rolled in to one – it’s a hard feeling to beat, and all self-sufficient… not dependent on other people, the weather, your bank account… just on your own two legs!
2. What motivates you?
Well before it was to run fast times, and I still have a few goals. I also feel motivated when I have a race coming up. But mainly I’m motivated by the feeling of fitness… I hate feeling lethargic and out of shape. And I like that feeling of fitness because it brings me more enjoyment in my running… see answer to question 1!
3. What are your top tips for beginner runners?
Start each run slowly. Even if you’re quite fit, don’t race off at full pace, but ease your way into a run, wait for your body to feel ready to speed up. It’s much more enjoyable that way, rather than running hard and then trying to hang on.
Also, don’t worry too much about stretching. If you feel the need to stretch, do it after you run when your muscles are warm. Too many people injure themselves over-stretching a cold body before they run.
4. What is your favourite place to run?
Iten in Kenya is hard to beat. To run in a town where almost half the population are incredible runners is very special. Also the runners there are so friendly and encouraging, no matter how slow you are. They really don’t judge but are just happy to see you trying. And then the landscape is beautiful, with long, rolling dirt trails everywhere. It really is a runner’s paradise.
5. Where would you like to run that you haven’t?
I’d be intrigued to run with the Tarahumara people in northern Mexico – the people the book Born to Run [by Christopher McDougall] talks about.
6. Do you have any funny running stories?
Oh, so many. I’ve written most of them in my books but the first one that comes to mind was the day I turned up at 5:30 am to run with a group of Kenyans but I mixed up the days. I thought it was an “easy” day, where usually I could just about keep up. They were all looking a bit concerned when the group leader came over to me – it was actually the former marathon world record holder – and he said: “Do you know, today is fast?”
Ah. But, hell, I was up and ready to run. “Don’t worry”, I said. I’d see how far I could last. Even if I only made it to a mile, it would be a good experience.
So we gathered together and they said “let’s go” and we started off. Sprinting! It was an 18km run, but 200m in and I was struggling to stay with them. I saw a side road off to the left and without saying a word I simply veered off and disappeared, my heart pounding, my tail between my legs!
7. Do you have any favourite running books?
I really liked Feet in the Clouds by Richard Askwith. And two that are less well known that I enjoyed are Barefoot Runner by Paul Rambali and The Runner by Markus Torgeby.
8. What did you used to do that you don’t do now?
Stretch before a run. The more I got injured, the more I stretched. It never helped.
I also used to run hard every time I went for a run. I had to be exhausted by the end or it didn’t count. I now enjoy running slowly sometimes too.
9. What result are you most proud of?
I guess my 10K PB – 34’20”. That was pretty quick especially considering my PB for years was 46 minutes.
Also winning a few races – each one was a very proud and satisfying moment.
10. Who inspires you?
The Kenyan athletes! They are so dedicated, but also always smiling. And they have such incredible running form!
Also, most successful Kenyans are very supportive of their communities and of young runners coming through. Considering how little support they get, it is incredible to see.
11. Are you a parkrunner?
Unfortunately Saturday morning is not a good time for me to run, but I have done about 8 parkruns over the years – mostly in Devon (Killerton and Bovey Tracy), Hackney Marshes and Northampton (where my parents live).
12. Music or silence when running?
Silence. I find music just gets in the way, like someone poking me in the ears or something. I prefer to fully immerse myself in the feeling and action of running.
13. What do you like about running on your own?
Just letting my thoughts drift and wander.
14. What is your next challenge?
Well, that all depends on the coronavirus. I’ve had a couple of ultra marathons cancelled so I’ll have to wait and see before I make any new plans.
15. How can people follow you online?
Thank you Adharanand!
Keep an eye out for the next In the Pen interview, coming soon…