The making of an athlete

about 2 years ago
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Take majority of the world athletic events, even marathons, it is almost a given that either a Kenyan will win the race or the top runners will be all the participating Kenyans.  Thus it came as no surprise to read that on Sunday, a world record was achieved in Berlin in the last 11 years as Dennis Kimetto of Kenya ran 2 hours 2 minutes 57 seconds. He is the first person on earth to run 26.2 miles faster than 2:03 and shattered the record by 26 seconds. It had been set only a year ago in Berlin by a fellow Kenyan, Wilson Kipsang. See, how the circle of victory by Kenyans is perpetuating?

So what really makes these Kenyans into such great runners?  This race of people form less than 0.6% of the total world’s population but lead the world when it comes to any long distance races. There has been a long held perception amongst the Western world that running distances everyday to school and back, right from their childhood makes them very good runners. And then there is another school of thought which says that Kenyans' history as herders means they get practice running as they chase their sheep across the countryside. All these are cultural factors.

But there seems to be genetic connection too.  A recently conducted survey found that Kenyans have a physical advantage that is common to their community, making it probably genetic. The studies found significant differences in body mass index and bone structure between the Western pros and the Kenyan amateurs who had bested them. The studied Kenyans had less mass for their height, longer legs, shorter torsos, and more slender limbs. One of the researchers described the Kenyan physical differences as "bird-like," noting that these traits would make them more efficient runners, especially over long distances.

Well, whatever be the reason, the fact remains that maybe thanks to a combination of physical traits and cultural factors, Kenyans are some of the greatest runners of this world. May their clan grow!


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