In 2007, 17-year-olds Jake and Zane Robertson left their New Zealand home for the mecca of running camps in Iten, Kenya, and never returned home. For the past nine years, the identical twins (although Zane dyes his hair black to distinguish from his brother) have been living and training among world-class Kenyan runners in the Rift Valley, hoping to both discover and capture the Kenyan’s secret to being the fastest group of distance runners in the world.
Viceland’s “Vice World of Sports,” a weekly docu-series that delves into different sport cultures around the world and the athletes who do them, will be featuring the Kiwis’ journey in their latest episode airing tonight at 11 p.m. EST. The trailer for the episode suggests a more current day-to-day look at Jake and Zane’s life in Iten, while also examining how they fit into the community’s prevailing running culture and history.
As the show’s host Selema Masekela, a former ESPN and NBC Sports correspondent, put it in the trailer, “You guys are crazy. Like on paper, you crazy.” To which Zane replied with a nonchalant and accepting, “Yeah.”
Jake and Zane made the decision to move to Iten after Jake met Kenyan athletes at the 2006 world cross-country championships in Fukuoka, Japan, and decided they wanted to train with the best runners in the world. “We stayed because we loved the atmosphere,” Jake says. “We are extremists and love to push our limits.” But Jake also informs that it wasn’t as simple as that. “We did struggle with some of the villagers because we were some of the first white guys to come out here, people really judged us and we had to earn our respect.”
The episode airs at an opportune time—just months before the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. It’s mentioned in the episode that Zane qualified for the Rio Olympics this summer after his performance in the 5,000m at the Commonwealth Games in 2015. “Right now, I’m starting my build-up, so I’m not in amazing shape,” Zane said in a separate interview. “However, I want to be in amazing shape in August when I step on the line at the Olympics. Timing to peak is essential.”
The twins aren’t sure how much longer they’ll continue to live in Kenya—the consensus seems to be for as long as they’re running professionally. But there’s no doubt that they’re dedicated to the sport and the training in Kenya they’ve committed themselves to.
“Two twins from New Zealand are living proof that Iten, Kenya, is the home of champions. Because this is the place where only one thing matters and it’s not the attitude, the genetics, or the color of your skin. In Kenya, it’s the struggle and it stops for nothing,” Masekela said at the episode’s conclusion.