I'm a day late on this post. Blame work or writer laziness.
I heard about Enda Shoes just before I left Kenya. My friend, Justin Lagat, was contacted by them to do some writing for the new company. For a sample, you can head for the Enda blog. The latest article is about Justin's diet as he trains as an elite runner, prepping for the Ottawa Marathon. As a matter of fact, he should be on the plane headed this way so that he can toe the line with the world's best on Sunday.
The concept behind Enda is as simple as training the Kenyan way - work hard to be the best. They're designing shoes that will have a very modest 4mm heel-to-toe drop and lightweight performance characteristics that should make training in them a quick, responsive experience. Like the Asics I've favored for years, these shoes work really well for mid-foot strikers.
To answer what might seem to be the obvious question, nope, I'm not getting paid for this post. Nor will I get paid for the post I'll write when I get a chance to try out my first pair of Itens - that the model name for the first shoes they're producing. Nope, no pay, and in fact, I'm paying them.
I bought a pair of shoes by contributing to their Kickstarter program. Enda is a start-up that is attracting some early interest, both in the quality of the shoe they're building, but also because they are bring the shoe manufacturing home to Kenya. For years, the elite Kenyans have run in American or Japanese shoes made in China.
Navalayo Osembo-Ombati and Weldon Kennedy decided to turn that on its head. Kenya, like almost every developing nation, desperately needs good jobs. The two co-founders have launched Enda to bring the rewards of Kenyan runners home to the larger masses. In doing so, the two relay on the Kenya and East African tradition of harambee.
Loosely translated, it means 'all pull together'. In the fledgling days of the new country, when the economic outlook was terribly bleak, individuals and micro-businesses would pool resources, doing together what they couldn't alone. Wells got dug, houses built, businesses started, by pulling together.
The athletes are no different. Most of the major camps have an elite sponsor to help bring along the next generation. Wilson Kipsang has his. Lornah Kiplagat started the HATC in Iten. Asbel Kiprop's is in Iten. The athletes give back, generously.
Instead of sending all the manufacturing jobs to China, Enda is locating them in Kenya, providing jobs, income, food for the families there. For now, it's just the assembly, but Enda plans to 100 percent source the shoes from Kenya in the future. Enda represents that same spirit of harambee that grew the Kenyan nation, that supports its businesses and athletes today.
So, knowing all this about Enda, can I ask you a favor?
If you run, take a look at the shoes. You're going to be buying new shoes sometime soon anyway - consider contributing to something bigger than Nike's wallet. You'll know where the profits are going.
Please, think about it.
A thousand Kenyan children will thank you.
PS. If you are up at 7AM EDT on Sunday like I will be, give a quiet cheer for Justin Lagat. He's a good man in a tough field and could use all the moral support we have to offer.
Good luck, Justin!