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Archive for October 22nd, 2009

Kenyan flag

Kenyan flag

My wife recently completed the Baltimore half-marathon. I didn’t; I wanted to, but I’m a slacker. I did however get a chance to do a little spectating. As the runners began trickling in, I noticed a certain nationalistic theme: Russians and Kenyans. All of the top finishers hailed from these locales.

Here’s a headline from a Chicago news source:
“Kenyan man, Russian woman win Chicago Marathon titles”
Here’s another from a Boston paper:
“Kenyan, Russian Post Fastest Times at Boston Marathon”
And another:
“Kenyan wins White Rock Marathon; Russian runner wins women’s race”

Kyrgyzstani flag

Kyrgyzstani flag

The top male finisher in the Baltimore Marathon was a Kenyan; and yes the top finisher in the women’s race was from — you guessed it — Kyrgyzstan. OK, Kyrgyzstan is not technically Russia; but it was once a part of the mighty Soviet Union, and the official language is Russian… so I’m calling her Russian.

Soooo… Nature or nurture?

Here’s one blogger’s take:

Many believe this is because of the high altitude at which Kenyans and Ethiopians train, although these countries also have a robust running culture as well as highly trained regimes … Additionally, the fact that so many Kenyans and Ethiopians have witnessed their fellow citizens travel overseas and win thousands of dollars in marathon money has been a further encouragement to rigorously train in order to become the best at marathon running. This has led domestic competition to drastic levels in order to determine who is the best to compete internationally.

As for the Russian women. Your guess is as good as mine. Maybe the Soviet legacy of athleticism is alive and well, and distance running has replaced hockey and Greco-Roman wrestling. I’ll think on it and let you know.

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