Kenyan runner explains homeland at Valparaiso
by James D. Wolf Jr. Post-Tribune correspondent July 5, 2014 12:27AM
Kenyan professional runner Benson Cheruiyot speaks to a crowd at the Valparaiso International Center on Friday about his country and its reputation for producing world-class runners. | James D. Wolf Jr.~for Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 5, 2014 6:12PM
VALPARAISO — Running and Kenya go together and visitors to the Valparaiso International Center last week got to hear from one of the country’s better-known professional runners.
Benson Cheruiyot spoke as the featured guest for the Fourth Friday series, a program where people of different countries give a presentation on their culture.
Cheruiyot said that Kenyan runners are so accomplished because of their training schedule, running six days a week with the Saturday run being 20 miles.
Sunday is a day of rest after that, he said.
Kenya is at a higher elevation than most countries, including the United States, at up to 8,000 feet above sea level.
Runners often have no shoes, and the tracks are dusty and dry and sometime shave cattle grazing in the center of the oval.
The dust is a motivator.
“If you are training with a large group, and you are in the back, you get all the dust. That’s why you want to be in front,” Cheruiyot said.
He began running professionally at age 18, but it’s common for children to run three miles to school, three miles home to lunch, three miles back to school and then three miles home again.
The country has 42 languages because of multiple tribes, but most people speak Swahili and English, which they learn in school.
The government is improving schools, but 50 to 60 students in a class was common, with four students sharing a textbook at one table-like desk.
The country is primarily Christian but also has a large Muslim presence.
Somali militants have hurt tourism along the coast for U.S. and U.K. tourists, but Kenya has turned to Asia, and Chinese tourists watch the elephants, rhinos and wildebeest at Maasai Mara.
African allied troops are also stabilizing the area, Ahiga said.