How One Kenyan Village Fuels The World’s Fastest Distance Runners | Feed The Flame

I’m here in the small
village of Iten, Kenya,
home to the Kalenjin tribe
and some of the world’s
most dominant
long-distance runners.
The Kalenjin tribe makes up
0.6% of the world’s population.
They are always in the top
of long-distance runners in
the world at any given time.
I’ve been told their diet is
the driving force
to their success.
Over the next week,
I’ll train, diet, and
fully immerse myself into
the Kalenjin lifestyle.
I want to find out about
their training regimen,
motivation to compete, and what
exactly it is about their diet
that fuels their bodies
for long distance running.
Gladys Chesir is one of the
women to watch this year.
She has been running
for almost a decade
and is a highly
decorated runner.
She has almost won every race
that she has ever competed in
and has even recently
claimed the title
Fastest 10,000m In The World
at last year’s Diamond League.
She is training for her first
Olympic trials this year
and is expected to make
the Kenyan team and place.
Maybe with one-minute recovery,
we do only once in a few weeks,
depending on the season.
Hugo Van Den Broek is
coach to Gladys Chesir
and a famed and well-respected
member of the Iten community.
I met Gladys in 2014.
From the first time
I saw her run,
I realised that she’s
a very big talent.
She has such a big foundation.
She’s really focused
and very professional.
I think she has everything
it takes to become
one of the best
athletes in the world.
I know Gladys always use a
little bit faster than I ask
and I shouldn’t
ask for too fast.
Most of the time
most Kalinjens have run.
They have retired
like Lornah Kiplagat.
I want to be like Lornah.
Now if you meet a kid,
they say,
“I want to run
faster than Gladys!”
So that motivation comes
when you’re young.
The circumstances here
definitely contribute.
Training here at high altitude,
it looks like training
has more impact.
Plus the fact that we’re in
the tropics, it’s hot.
The roads are really a good
training for your lower legs.
What at least you’re doing
90% of the time
is just running in nature.
Maybe also the diet helps.
The food is always healthy,
it’s always natural.
It has impact on the recovery.
They eat lots of vegetables.
Once in a while, they eat meat
but meat is a kind of a luxury.
They eat beans, rice, ugali,
which is just boiled corn meal,
you would say.
Most of the big marathons
now prepare ugali,
because the Kenyans like that.
In the first place
they have this diet
because they have
no other option,
because they have
not enough money.
Ugali is like…
You need only a small portion
of it to get enough calories.
Hello! I’m Rosie.
Thanks for meeting me.
Are you Kalenjin?
Yes, I’m Kalenjin.
– Specifically Keiyo.
– OK.
This is my home district,
my home country.
So what’s the ideal breakfast,
lunch and dinner
for a long-distance
athlete here?
You know there are no
You can’t say, “Take this,
take this, take this.”
It is what is available on
the table for them.
So long as it has the main –
the carbohydrates,
the protein, the vitamins,
to meet their requirements.
I’ve been learning a
lot about ugali
and a lot of people have
been telling me that
it’s a much healthier
carb than other carbs.
Ugali is a very simple meal.
It’s a source of carbohydrates.
It’s complex.
It is milled with the outer
so it has roughage
and it has fibre.
It is locally made here.
So no additives,
no preservatives added.
So simple.
And then the maize germ
in it provides iron.
And then it is also cheaper
compared to other
So there’s not even a training
diet specific for the athletes?
The food that
they eat is actually
the food that
their families eat.
– Hello!
– Hello!
Yes, you are welcome.
We plant the maize in April.
By September or October,
it will be ready.
So that is the time
when we can harvest the maize,
so that we can make ugali.
You only need the seeds,
don’t need fertiliser.
Yeah, it’s not expensive.
Most of the people
here, they grow maize.
So most families grow their
Yeah. We like ugali because it
makes your body very strong.
So now you’re going to show
me how to make ugali?
Yeah, I’m going to show you.
Step one – find the perfect
maize and collect.
Step two – remove kernels.
Step three – collect the
perfect kernels
and keep only the good ones.
Step four – finely
grind the maize.
Step five – boil water.
Step six – add little by little
the finely ground maize
and stir with a wooden spoon.
It’s good! You can
soak up a lot of flavour.
You could eat it
with a lot of things.
– Huh?
– Yeah.
The idea is to add something.
Like stew. Maybe a soup.
It soaks it, no?
Yeah, but eating it bare,
it’s very difficult.
It’s very hard.
Viola Lagat comes from a
decorated family of runners,
one being her legendary
brother, Bernard Lagat,
a two-time world champion
and Olympic silver medallist.
Viola has yet to compete in the
Olympics and she faces
a lot of pressure to make
the team this year.
Viola went to college and
trained in the US
for the past few years.
And despite being
considered a clear underdog,
she is determined to make the
team and make both her family
and country proud.
So huge difference
from the US, right?
– Huge!
– Yeah.
You might feel sore after
because of the altitude.
I feel that every time
I come back here.
– Oh, really?
– Yeah.
Iten is almost like
a running community.
So if I go on a run
and I feel like
someone could help me, I could
just jump in their group
and just run with them.
– OK
– Whoo!
– You’re sweating already.
– Yeah! You’re not?! Shit!
That was fun.
Viola Kibiwot
is a two-time 1,500m
Olympic runner and has been
running for most of her life
here in Kenya.
As a highly accomplished
veteran runner,
Kibiwot has taken Viola Lagat
under her wings,
and has been mentoring the
young hopeful to help
her make the team.
They train together, eat
and even live together.
How about we make
a deal for 2017?
You’re welcome to 5k.
Well, after… No, I’ll come to
five when you retire from five
because you’re going
to kick my butt.
But you
still have a long way to go.
I know.
Supper now.
Today’s good. It doesn’t
have a lot of fat.
You know what, I actually don’t
enjoy eating meat in the US.
I like it in Kenya.
I think it’s because I know
that it’s organic here.
How long have you been running?
More than 15 years.
Wow! So she can definitely
give you a lot of tips.
It started when I
was in primary school.
Every time you are late,
you have to
run from home to school
and then from home,
you go for lunch time.
The bell goes,
and you have to run.
I am from a family of ten
and I’m the youngest.
So all my older
siblings used to run.
I’ve never been to the
For me, it would be
a dream come true.
It would mean so
much to run, especially
in front of my family because
they’ll be coming over to
And it would also change my
career. Being an Olympian would
open doors for me and…
I have a lot of kids looking up
to me in my village,
and when I was growing up
I have a brother-in-law
who passed away when
I was in high school and
he always encouraged me to do
the best in everything
that I do, so…
running reminds me of what he
wanted me to achieve.
And also the kids in my
whenever I’m running out there,
they just cheer for me and they
tell me that they’re following
on my footsteps.
I told her
she has to run very fast.
Not 4.05 because I ran 3.59
when I was running 5,000
so I want her to
run maybe 4.01, 4.02.
OK, can you guys tell me
what we’re going to have?
This is managu.
That’s beef stew, with ugali.
So in Kenya we have 42 tribes
and every tribe has
their own food.
Kalenjin’s main is ugali.
Without ugali, it’s
like you haven’t taken a meal.
Do you ever miss being in Kenya
and eating…?
Yeah, I miss having
that family time.
In the US, mostly people
just live on their own
and you have to eat by
So when I’m home,
our neighbours come over
and you’ll eat
together sometimes.
And like Viola today,
she didn’t even eat lunch until
I got back
from my training. She cooked
and waited for me to get home.
– Do you also drink mursik?
– Yes.
Do you drink that regularly?
Mm, we drink fresh more.
Mostly fresh.
But if you go to the village,
most of the people like mursik.
Viola and Viola told me I had
to try
this drink called mursik.
I’m going to meet a couple that
provides the town with
locally made mursik
and see what it’s all about.
Mursik is a fermented milk.
This is the calabash.
This is now the
first process of preparing
the calabash before
they put the milk inside.
The inside of the calabash is
all smeared with the ashes
from that tree.
The special
type of tree they’re using
will bring a
good flavour to the milk.
And put milk into the calabash
and leave it for like
two to three days.
It is already fermented.
So if I drink this I should be
able to do a marathon?
Yeah, you can just do
something good but not once,
you have to
drink it several times.
Smells like a
really strong cheese.
Ah, more or less.
It’s more of less like cheese.
The fermentation process
breaks the proteins in the milk
down to simple proteins
to be easily absorbed
into the blood stream,
providing energy and
the proteins that we need.
Mursik also has live culture,
so it maintains the good
bacteria in the stomach.
OK, it’s not bad.
I just feel off.
I think it’s one of those
things that,
unless you’re Kenyan,
maybe it’s not your thing.
We’re almost a litre down…
I’m feeling like
it’s time to go to sleep.
She looks good today.
The way she’s running…
I can see already.
You make sure, at the first
line you are at maximum speed.
I’m going to cook with Albert
and you’re going to relax.
This is your day off.
I’m at the market right now
with Gladys’s husband, Albert,
and we’re going to look for the
perfect chicken
for dinner tonight.
Oh, my goodness!
This is the cock.
Really? We’re going to eat
a cock?
He’s a nice cock?
Oh, my God.
– Do I need gloves?
– No gloves.
– Don’t say mercy. No mercy.
– OK, no mercy.
The whole neighbourhood
is eating this chicken.
– Yeah, no mercy.
– OK, let’s do it.
Look at that neck.
This is guillotine style, OK.
Faster, Rosie…
Faster! Faster!
So, I saw you today on the
track and you were outrunning
even the men.
How did you feel about
your training today?
I’m happy because I’ve
I was sick one month ago.
Now I can
continue with my training.
I have to believe in myself.
You know, if you are no stress,
nobody disturbing you…
you can run good.
Do you think that after you win
the Olympics
and other marathons,
and set more records…
you’ll still stay here?
Yeah. Because here I started
my training,
so everything is here.
Life in Kenya is easy.
Not like in some
other countries.
Like, for us, we can
have food from our farm.
Everything is
grown from a farm.
If you don’t have,
your neighbour asks.
Like me, I can assist my
neighbour if he doesn’t have.
Do good and do your own way.
It’s clear that there are
many theories and reasons
as to why the Kalenjin produce
the most amazing distance
It’s a perfect combination
of elevation,
climate, diet,
lifestyle and genes.
Everyone here in Iten
seems to be so connected.
To their food,
their environment,
their land and their families.
When I was starting running,
no shoes,
no training shoes.
But my parents
were assisting me a lot.
I said, “Ah! Let me
try my best.”
I would like to
have a small farm
because when I get home
I enjoy working on the farm
with my mom,
growing vegetables.
I feel like life goes by
so fast in America.
Here in Kenya, it’s just about
running and relaxing,
and waiting to run
the next day.
I’ve witnessed athletes
of all levels.
From beginning runners to
world-class Olympians,
training on the same dirt roads
at 6am sharp
every day of the week.
Food is absolutely the common
thread here in Iten.
But also the Kalenjin’s
undisputed discipline,
combined with their ability
to maintain
a balanced lifestyle,
leads to their
constant accolades.
It works for them
and they will
continue to do so
for generations to come.

100 thoughts on “How One Kenyan Village Fuels The World’s Fastest Distance Runners | Feed The Flame

  • 13:50
    kirate sinendet ak artet olanyo bi boyot kai, ne ba gutwa haleiyo,
    kicham chepto nyo kakogure, oh ongeroo

    "There's a man on the hill with a cow who has loved one of our girls. He's calling the girl who he has loved…"

  • We give God thanks. Yes, God gave the Kalenjin people the genetics to run, that's the answer, God given talent through some running endurance gene. We humbly give God thanks. From Kipchoge Keino, Conseslus Kipruto, Faith Kipyegon, Paul Tergat, Mary Keitany, Lornah Kiplagat etc. And across the Uganda border the Kalenjin on the Uganda side, Joshua Cheptegei, Stephen Kiprotich…keep on running brothers and sisters…and don't forget to offer glory and thanks God.

  • 🌽🌽🌽Finna eat some grits and see what that do! LOL, Corn is running food. Y'all check out the RARAMURI. They use it too and are included in the group of the world's best runners too🌽🌽🌽

  • At 12.34, that wood stuff is actually activated charcoal. Charcoal is a product of incomplete combustion of wood. The activated form can be used as a purifying agent. On the other hand, Ash is a product of a complete combustion of wood or charcoal. Studies show that the main component of wood ash is calcium carbonate. Wood ash can be used to increasing the alkalinity of soil if the soil is too acidic.

  • I guess u can be whatever u want to be with right knowledge, hard work n dedication..n pray to Almighty God for His blessings


  • 飛脚と同じですね。

  • Ugali….in Mexico where corn is from, they call it Pinole and is an ancient source of carbs….stilled used by long distance runners like the tarahumara.

  • As I already have recognized during my life it seams to be here also a part of success….the energy! You can take it out if somebody brings it in… this case I have seen a lot of unprocessed food which seams to be a important factor beside the positive energy the people provide to each other with their interactions…..allways milling faces if they meet each other. Time to think about make a step back for the most of us…..

  • I bet vegans love this documentary lol. Great stuff. They all are so happy, laid back, and at peace with the world… i love it!


  • Fantastic documentary…..! Also, the look on her face when she went from drinking that Mursik to sitting on that stool out in the yard….PRICELESS!! 🙂

  • Get rid of this white trainers that can't even run. Actually they are the once introducing doping to Kenyan athletics. Bure kabisa.

  • as a child Jamaica my mom would give me a bowl of cornmeal porridge and one egg for breakfast, at one point in time i was so broke i ate cornmeal for breakfast lunch and dinner for a month and still was training for track.

  • It’s not there diets it’s the dedication and devotion to the sport. Also there in altitude which is an advantage. If someone has dedication they sac accomplish a lot.

  • We Nilotics just have it.
    What's interesting is how fascinated people are about what is normal everyday life for us.
    16:19 Well done–you've been initiated !😂

  • Reasons the Kenyans are great:
    -high-altitude training
    -non-processed food diet and lots of vegetables
    -simple lifestyle
    -have to run to school at an early age building endurance into their systems
    -motivation from winning offering a way out of poverty
    -high morals
    -Dedication to training
    -they go really easy on easy days
    -they go really hard on hard days
    -skinny but strong calfs allowing for minimal loss in energy
    -barefoot style foot-strike
    -long legs, short torso
    -clean air
    -soft running trails
    -training opportunities (outside coaches all the time hold training/running camps)
    -mental toughness
    -positive attitudes
    -strong running communities

    I'm a young runner in America and I see these people and strive to be like them. Our family is a poorer family in a town of rich families and it makes eating healthy seem hard but I know it's not. I am blessed to live in a town with one of the best running programs in the state so I work hard and make the most out of everything. I've turned out to be the best XC runner in my grade and I strive to be better every time I run, but that doesn't always mean running as hard as I can. Sometimes it means slowing it down and paying attention to my relationships and well-being.

  • Hats off Olympic Channel… You r Great Channel… And team behind this channel is Great… They really worked hard to get this Awsome video for us.. 👍👏👏🙌💖💖💖I respect Athletes ❤️❤️❤️I love Olympics and Olympic channel 💖💖From India 🇮🇳❤️

  • I had the privilege of spending 8 weeks in Kenya in my late 20's and was able to run each day with the locals. Not only are they just natural born to running, but they are genuinely the nicest, humble, selfless people I have met. I hope to go back someday soon.

  • Awesome video ! Thank you for sharing! I agree with you what makes them amazing runners is likely their environment and life style very suitable for that activity and not primarily their genetic. One way to test that theory is to check in regions that produce the best swimmers in the world to see if similar reasons are found. So maybe genetics is an adaptation to their extensive running and not the major reason of their success as runners.

  • Awesome! My best advise is run for pleasure as it is so much fun and use your brain to make money! That’s what I did and it surely worked for me. To train to become a doctor a lawyer or an engineer is called studying and a good studying coach is called a teacher. You have all the infra-structure in Kenya to make it happen. Do not invest in the Olympics as it is a lost cause. Invest on being nice and knowledgeable instead and you will go much further in your development. Amazing runners which I am sure have amazing brains so use it. I believe in you guys. 👍👍👍

  • Am sure that chick interviewing the Kenyans got really sick after consuming the foods for the first time….sisi tumekauka tumbo

  • No gloves and no mercy,must have pull thebheck of this yankee,But this is adventure she will live to remember, Love u kalenjins siz for being gud ambasadors

  • Lies….ugali is a staple food of Kenya. The whole country eats ugali. Its not only the Kalenjins. And mursik is just farmented milk. I have made it before and am nit kalenjin but am Kenyan.

  • Nicht einem Stamm sondern mehrere. Ist richtig obwohl zu sagen daß 97% von sie sind von einem Stamm. Speed, resilience and endurance is definition of we Kenyans 🇰🇪🇰🇪🇰🇪🇰🇪🇰🇪🇰🇪 we don't just participate…we participate to win and we win in our minds before we set out to compete.

  • Great production and genuine documentary of this beautiful Kenyan training village having lived there for two years while in high school. Thank you for sharing.

  • We don't eat geneticaly modified meals or backed food because they are not good for health, instead we drink fresh milk,eat ugali,kitheri,fresh vegetables, fresh meat,sweet potatoes etc

  • Who told this man we eat ugali because there's no other option and we don't have money. That's our staple food. It's what we love. I have money and I can't eat rice twice in a day. That's too light for me. If you don't know something,, please ask to be taught.🖕

  • Diet is replicable, so is altitude, so is poverty, so is hardwork. Kenya, and Kalenjin areas particularly are not the highest, poorest and most natural diet places on earth. Neither are they only places where children run to school for longest distances on earth.

    That leaves you with genetics. Plain and simple. They could eat mac and cheese and still be very competitive globally.

  • Life here is so simple, if I don't have anything to eat I can ask my neighbor to help or help the neighbor as well. That's called true community spirit. Lucky you Kenyans love from Lahore Pakistan

  • Ugali is the main staple food in Kenya and it is always served with a stew, it can never go alone 😅. In fact I don't think if their is a Kenyan who can go more than a day without eating ugali. Here we keep it simple, food is direct from the farms, no preservatives. We also have a hard working DNA in our systems, in fact we are go-getters and we always wish to emulate or even surpass the champions who were there before us. We are a humble nation utilizing the little we have, and most of all we love visitors so much.

  • I've seen this before, and I have to say you can eat their exact diet and not run as well. Running is a part of their culture and they run in packs, so if you are a teenager you are literally training with the best in the world on a daily basis. It's like practicing dribbling with the best point guards in the NBA for several hours every day.

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