What is your earliest memory? I remember sitting in my garden on a summer’s evening (it’s always a summer’s evening in earliest memories, right?), and I’m with my baby brother and we’re making tents out of these fold-up sun loungers. And I’m eating a homemade scone and jam, and the jam is getting everywhere.
What other jobs have you had? The worst job I ever had was directing traffic in an IKEA car park in Birmingham. It doesn’t get much worse than that. Since then, as a freelance subeditor, I’ve graced the offices of ITV News, Channel 4 News, the Telegraph and the Guardian – where I still spend a lot of my time.
What do you find inspiring? I’m constantly inspired by the Kenyan runners. From such simple, humble practices, without overthinking anything, they continue to confound the rest of the world with their running powers. I’m also inspired by anyone who can keep up with them. I’m looking at you, Mo Farah.
What was the best thing about writing this book? I got paid to fulfill two life ambitions – run with the Kenyans, and write a book. It was the dream assignment, and I even got to take my family with me. Saying that, the actual running with the Kenyans bit was pretty tough.
What was one of the best things that happened because of this book? This book just keeps on giving. Almost two years after it was published, two of the young runners I met and wrote about – who would never have otherwise had the chance to compete internationally – have been invited to run the California marathon. A reader in the US, inspired by my book, organised it all and easily funded $8,000 to pay for their visas, flights etc. That’s pretty cool.
Which books do you recommend? I’m a sucker for wild, crazy, beautiful fiction – writers such as Thomas Pynchon and William Faulkner. However, I rarely recommend them as most people find them too difficult. For runners, although I wasn’t mad about his writing style, it’s hard to ignore ‘Born to Run’. As well as being a great story, it introduced the world, and me, to the concept of barefoot running, which has had a huge impact on the sport.
What are your favourite products? My Nike Free running shoes. I hate to be so gung-ho about a product from such a huge multinational corporation, but they really are lovely to run in. I’ve tried a lot of alternatives and have yet to find a pair of running shoes I prefer.
Do you incorporate any traditions from Kenyan culture do you incorporate in to your life? I try to go to bed earlier, and I try to run with a smile on my face. Neither of which are easy.
Do you collect anything? I used to collect toys. Then I had children and they destroyed my collection. I think I still have a few choice items hidden away in a box somewhere.
What are you working on next? I’m currently living in Kyoto writing a book about the crazy running scene in Japan (due to be published in 2015). The Japanese are running mad and ekiden races (long-distance relays) are among the biggest sporting events of the year, attracting TV audiences of many millions.
Read my review of ‘Running With the Kenyans’ here.