In 1983, a Greater Boston Track Club Member, Greg Meyer, won the Elite Boston Marathon for the final time. Five years later, a Kenyan by the name of Ibrahim Hussein, became the first Kenyan to win the event. This marked the beginning of Kenya's dynasty in distance running. It's often thought that Kenya's success was an overnight one, but that's far from the truth. The first Kenyans to run an international race got their butts kicked. In 1954, two Kenyans took part in a track meet in London. Nyandika Maiyoro finished a distant third in the 3 mile race and Lazara Chepkwony didn't even finish the 6 mile race. Two years later at the Sydney Olympics, Maiyoro finished 7th in the 5000 meters, Aere Anentia failed to qualify for the 1500 meter final, and Arap Sum Kanuti took 31st place in the marathon. Kanuti was considered the best athlete for Kenya to send to the Olympics in Rome four years later. He took 59th place in the marathon.
Then something happened. British Missionaries came to Kenya with a mission to spread Christianity and education. They built schools such as St. Patrick's High School in Iten in 1961. Many of these students couldn't afford motorized transportation, so they ran to and from school. Jogging to school wasn't enough to produce the amazing results Kenyans did. Kenyan college-age and adult runners began to use Lydiard's 80/20 training. Running coaches at American Universities began offering scholarships to young Kenyans in the 1970's. Henry Rono was one of the first generations of Kenyans to receive such scholarships, and attended Washington State University in 1976. After two years of low-intensity, high-volume training, Rono Broke four world records within eighty-one days.
Lydiard's method of training was introduced to Kenya at the same time. An Irish missionary by the name of Colm O'Connell took over the running program at St. Patrick's High School. He had no experience as a running coach whatsoever. He learned along the way, applying Lydiard's 80/20 method in the training of his Kenyan High School athletes. One of his first protégés was Ibrahim Hussein, who was the first Kenyan to win the Boston Marathon. He also trained and coached David Rushida, who took the gold medal in the 800m event at 2012 London Olympics.
The 80/20 applies to the recreational Runner too
Two exercise scientists, Stephen Seiler and Esteve-Lanao conducted a 5 month experiment regarding the 80/20 training method. They used 12 (25-29 yrs. old) runners from Lanao's running club in Spain, with 10k times ranging from 30-35 minutes. Six runners were put on a training schedule were they ran 80 percent of their runs at low intensity and 20 percent at mid-high intensities. The other 6 runners were scheduled to run 65 percent of their runs at low intensity and 35 percent at mid-high intensities.
In the first test, the 65/35 group achieved an average time of 37:51. Five months later, their average time for the same distance dropped down to 35:50, an improvement of 2:01 or 5.3 percent. The 80/20 group achieved an average time of 37:21 in their first test and achieved a time of 34:52 in the second test, an improvement of 2:37 or 7 percent. The difference between 2:01 and 2:37 is 30 percent, which is significant by the standards of competitive runners.
In part 3, we'll take a closer look as to exactly how the 80/20 improves running fitness.