Monday, January 4, 2010

Are Kenyans wearing heart rate monitors or speedometers?

By Ulrich Fluhme, Iten/Kenya, 04.01.10

It was one of the typical Kenyan runs. We all started as a group at a pedestrian pace. Once warmed up, the pace increased slightly from mile to mile. After a while, one of the two runners who were spit out the back with me, asked how long we have been running. The plan was to run an out and back for an hour. “27” I replied and added “Let’s get to the next hill and then head back.” to which he nodded silently.

Are all Kenyans running “gadget-free” these days? Definitely not. While Kenyan tradition is all about running by feel, those who can afford a watch will wear one. Also, heart rate monitors and even pace and distance monitoring devices can be spotted here and there.

That said, how were these tools used? I am yet to see a Kenyan runner who wears a heart rate monitor to check his heart rate, as chest straps are usually used as clotheslines. Also, I am yet to come across a Kenyan who determines the pace for his road or cross country workout with a speedometer.

Whatever watch they wear, it mostly has come as a race award and its purpose is generally limited to tell when to be back for another tea.