Below is an excellent video about Kenyan distance running. You can also find a series of related articles here. Both links were passed along to me by a reader of the site who is a highly competitive distance runner.
Personally, I do not have any interest in competitive distance running, but I do respect the dedication and amazing abilities of these runners. As stated within the article above, even most casual sporting fans are aware of the dominance often displayed by Kenyan runners.
Years ago, I remember waiting at mile 18 of a marathon that my brother was running. A group of Kenyans (who were leading the pack) ran by me at a pace that was faster than what most could hold for a single mile. Impressive is an understatement.
Unfortunately, distance running is often knocked by many (self-proclaimed) hardcore exercise enthusiasts. Many are under the false impression that anything non-interval based must not be challenging. I’ve even seen trainers who would struggle to run across the road take it upon themselves to diss anything and everything related to distance running. Oh, the irony…
Personally, I favor power based sports, but I also realize that personal preference does not make my activities somehow superior. Distance running requires extreme dedication. The Kenyans are known for it. Their work would bury most fitness fanatics.
And please do not misinterpret the purpose of this entry. As stated before, distance running is not for me (although it was at one time). I’m not suggesting that you head for the door to run 20 miles. Currently, I prefer training for different goals, but I also recognize that specificity is king when it comes to training. The Kenyans are dominant runners primarily because of their running. Practice is the mother of all skills. It isn’t possible to be great at everything. Dominance requires specificity.
In the words of Swiss psychologist Carl Jung,
“The shoe that fits one person pinches another; there is no recipe for living that suits all cases.”
Many in this world would be better off by listening to Jung’s simple, yet meaningful advice. Different rarely equals better or worse. More often than not, different simply equals different.
Hats off to the Kenyan runners. I am amazed at their abilities.