Profession: Coach and Author
Justin is an athlete, coach and writer. He is a columnist for RunBlogRun and covers athletics in his personal blog, The Kenyan Athlete. He is also an author and has written 5 books, focusing on road running and the running culture in Kenya. Justin is also an outspoken advocate for clean sport.
Can you tell us more about your transition from athlete to coach and author?
Being a runner and a writer came early in my life during primary school. I still remember I used to write great stories in my English composition exercise books that would at times be read in the morning assembly to inspire other pupils. It reached a point that my composition exercise books kept being stolen! As for running, I can’t remember exactly when I started it as well, but it was way before I turned 9 years.
After joining a training camp for runners in 2007, I realized there were so many stories to write about and there were no journalists visiting the camp. I finally found the opportunity to submit weekly stories to African Sports Monthly magazine in 2011, then joined the RunBlogRun as a columnist from 2012 to the present. In between, I have also been submitting many articles to different publications.
My experience from when I began to run formally from 2004 to present has presented me with running lessons to impart to other runners and I started coaching my wife in 2017 before advancing to becoming an online coach.
What was the first athletics book that you read and what do you remember about it?
Finishing Kick, by Paul Duffau. The novel was a real depiction of what cross country runners go through physically and mentally in and out of their races.
Between running and writing which is your first love, and why?
What a hard question to answer! Can I say it’s a tie? From a country where everyone is a good runner, I think being a running writer makes me a little unique from the rest of the runners.
You have covered athletics stories through RunBlogRun and now through The Kenyan Athlete. For you, why is it important to tell these stories?
Like I said earlier, when I visited the training camp for the first time, I saw a lot of inspiring stories among the Kenyan runners that were not being captured by anyone. I woke up with them at 4 am in the morning to go out and run. The media would only feature an athlete at a race as though it only takes 1 minute and 40 seconds to become famous. There is the story of hard work, resilience and hope that can only be captured by someone close to the athletes.
What excites you most about the future of athletics in Kenya?
It is no longer about finishing in the top three in any race to be known as a runner. People are seeing the benefit of enjoying their runs for physical and social well-being, and as a way of having fun.
This will help open up more sporting stores that will sponsor more races around the country, among other benefits.
You have written on the running culture in Kenya. What makes Kenyan runners so special and dominant?
They are focused on what they want to achieve, work hard towards it, and are disciplined in their training. They also train in a competitive environment which encourages them to push harder. A male Kenyan runner with a 2:06 time in marathon has a hard time finding a sponsoring brand, but a runner with 2:18 from any other country will easily get a lot of support from brands and even from their nations to fund their training.
In your book “Train like a Kenyan” you stress the importance of mental preparation. In what ways do you include this in your coaching programmes?
I do not just issue program after program to the runners that I coach online. I ask them their goals and ambitions and gradually build their confidence and ability to achieve them.