Saturday, July 14, 2012

Why the Kenyan Distance Running Dominance?

I probably could have entitled this "Why the African Distance Running Dominance?" but it's the Kenyan male runners who've had the greatest success in distance running in recent years.For instance,20 of the 25 first-place men in the Boston Marathon since 1988 have been Kenyan.Naturally, there has been speculation for ages as to why this is so. I'm sure we've all heard the stories about Kenyan children running miles to and from school everyday. The inference is that this conditions their young bodies aerobically so when they get older they are just about ready to become champions.This story however has been discounted in recent years due to the fact that research doesn't validate it.When 20 Kenyan race winners were questioned,14 said they'd walked or had ridden the bus to school.Personally, I always assumed that people being born and raised at 8,000 feet above sea level were going to be aerobically fitter.This belief was also dismissed by researchers because they cited other places of high elevation in the world where no world class runners have emerged.So, what is the reason for the Kenyans ongoing phenomenal success in distance running? Researchers have come to find that it may be due to genetics.However,in these politically correct times, many westerners have complained loudly that such assertions are racist.I suppose they'd rather continue believing the quaint tales of children running many miles to school each day while subsisting on a unique diet and enjoying superior health throughout their lives.Once again,the facts refute Kenyans having a better diet or superior health.
Here's what research from two European led studies have found and I quote the following from an article written in The Atlantic magazine: "Studies have found significant differences in body mass index and bone structure between Western pros and Kenyan amateurs. The studied Kenyans had less mass for their height,longer legs,shorter torsos and more slender limbs.They wrote that these traits would make them more efficient runners,especially over long distances.Also, running would be less energy intensive."
On a related note consider this,studies have found that because of their bone structure,females are more prone to ACL injuries than males.This is a fact based on study and research. Following the logic of those who say that people who attribute Kenyan running success to genetic differences as being racist,would they then accuse others of being sexist who report on women and ACL injuries?
As one looks around this world you cannot help but notice that there are significant differences in the appearance and structure of the people who inhabit it.Isn't that one of the things that make this such a unique and interesting world? As the bumper sticker says: Appreciate and Celebrate Our Differences.


  1. Here's an article on the same subject you might enjoy ...

  2. Thanks for the article---one thing that struck me about it,and this has been brought up on occasion before,is the group training.There is little if any of that among elite distance runners in the US, and if there is,it's not to the degree you see among the Kenyans.
    It's really depressing to see that we are so far removed from being competitive on the world distance scene. The decline has been going on for the last 15 to 20 years.