By Samuel Ouma
Kenyan runners have consistently demonstrated their worth in athletics, particularly in the middle and long-distance races, by winning medals and breaking or setting records. The East African country, which boasts a population of more than 50 million people, has continuously produced some of the world’s best track athletes. For example, Eliud Kipchoge is currently widely regarded as one of the best marathon runners in the world.
At the Tokyo Olympics, the world record holder became only the third man in history to win back-to-back gold medals in the men’s marathon. He finished in 2:08:38. At the showcase, Kenya won 10 medals (4 gold, four silver, and two bronze), placing first in Africa and 19th overall.
In 2019, he also made history by becoming the first man to complete a marathon in under two hours in Vienna, Austria. When he ran 1:59:40 on October 12 as part of the INEOS 1:59 challenge, Kipchoge proved that no person is limited. Even though the IAAF did not ratify the record, he garnered worldwide acclaim.
He had set a new record of 2:01:39 in the 2018 Berlin Marathon, becoming the first man to go sub 2:02 in a marathon before the INEOS 1:59 challenge. He shattered his compatriot Dennis Kimetto’s previous record of 2:02:57, which he had held since 2014.
When it comes to breaking or creating new records, Kenya is well-known around the world. Beatrice Chepkoech, Brigid Kosgei, and David Rudisha are just a few of the Kenyans who have wowed the world with outstanding performances that will live on in people’s minds.
Beatrice Chepkoech won the tenth IAAF Diamond League meeting of the 2018 season, cutting more than eight seconds off the women’s world record with a time of 8:44.32. Ruth Jebet, a Kenyan-born Bahraini, established a world record of 8:52.78 in winning the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Paris in 2016, and Chepkoech’s compatriot Celliphine Chespol set a world record of 8:58.78 in Eugene in 2017.
Brigid Kosgei also astonished the globe when she shattered Britain’s Paula Radcliffe’s 16-year record by an incredible 81 seconds. In the Chicago Marathon, Kosgei ran 2:14:04. Rudisha, on the other hand, smashed his own world mark to win Olympic gold in the 800m at the 2012 London Olympics in 1:40:91. He was the first person to run the distance in under 1:41.
Why Kenya dominates?
There are several theories as to why this is the case and why Kenyan athletes dominate track and field worldwide. Kenya’s greatest runners are from the Great Rift Valley’s sunny highlands. The topography is flat, and the weather is moderate all year, which encourages regular outdoor running. The 7,000-foot elevation may aid runners in developing lungs capable of working in thinner air. The heavier atmosphere would provide these runners a prolonged oxygen boost as they descended to the comparatively low-elevation courses.
Kenyan athletes are also treated as role models by the government, who subsequently use them to inspire new athletes. This not only motivates young athletes to keep working toward higher goals, but it also benefits the athletes by providing an institutional structure and background support. This kind of treatment offers them an advantage over athletes who their governments have ignored.
Kenyan athletes, according to experts, run to and from school as children. Farming, herding animals, and fetching fuel and water were all daily physical chores for some of them. They believe this resulted in the development of high aerobic capacity, which means their bodies can take in more oxygen and use it more effectively to generate energy.
Their exceptional performance has been related to their diet, which is often heavy in carbs and low in fat, according to Vincent O. Onywera, Professor of Exercise and Sports Science at Kenyatta University. Their protein consumption is comparable to that of other elite athletes. Ugali (stiff porridge made from maize or millet flour), green leafy vegetables, milk, kidney beans, and eggs are staples of Kenyan runners’ diets.
Finally, Kenyans are professionally driven because they are managed by people who have excelled in athletics. For example, Athletics Kenya (AK), the governing body for athletics in the country, is headed by former international athletes. Additionally, as you travel across the country, you will undoubtedly see numerous people practicing along the highways and on hills. This backs up Mo Farah’s claim that they eat, sleep, and train together.