By Gregory Amoshe, from KenyaIt’s pretty obvious Kenyans are the world’s finest long distance runners. Kenyans have long impressed the world with their fleet feet, from running in the Olympics to the world seniors or junior running athletics championships and beyond. There has been a lot of speculation on how Kenyans do it, with some people studying and saying different things about the matter. However, I was born and raised in rural Kenya, where the best runners come from, and have found some of the things that make Kenyan runners so great.
Running Is A Way of Life
For the Kalenjin community, which is the predominantly represented group in most marathons (their surnames start with a Kip-), running is a way of living. From going to schools that are located long distances from home to fetching water in hilly and slippery forests, running is inculcated in Kenyans from an early age.
Kenyan Runners’ Training
The Great Rift Valley passes through Kenya from Ethiopia in the north. There is an undeniably obvious relationship between high altitudes and running prowess if the Ethiopian runners, who apparently give Kenyans a run for their money, are to be included in this discussion.
This high altitude training obviously gives them an edge over all competitors, many who live in low altitude spots. In fact, Kenyans generally see people who live in the coastal tourist towns like Mombasa as the laziest. As such, the athletes already have good vibes at home and new places are just stops in their way.
Whereas shoes play a strong role in training for runners elsewhere, Kenyan runners never start that big. Shoes are often seen as a luxury they can’t afford, until they make it big-when they are already good at what they do, which is running and winning. They start running barefoot, and become local champions, until sponsors like Nike get them running gear and running shoes.
Kenya offers a challenging environment that improves running efficiency. Kenyans learn to run at high altitudes, improving their oxygen efficiency for racing. The undulating hills, vast valleys, low highland temperatures and occasional adrenaline rush that come with being chased by a wild animal give Kenyan runners an edge over everyone else they compete with. However, all these running conditions are not enough to get them to the top. It’s the Kenyan spirit, dedication, burning passion and commitment to breaking records that makes Kenyan runners who they are.
Gregory Amoshe is a writer from Kenya. When he is not working on his thesis, you can find him in the urban art circles in and around Nairobi, traveling, playing rugby or being creative at Kenya’s leading Ad Agency. Follow Gregory on Twitter to stay updated on his life and latest projects.