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Height and thickness matter somewhat in running. No one disputes that the races have different average heights and thicknesses. How can the genetic argument ever really be put to rest with that. Also, no one on the genetic side of the aisle denies there's a cultural component. It's only you guys that deny the genetic one.


Tell ya what, everybody take a break, go read "Taboo" by John Entine, and then come back and talk to me about how genetics has little or nothing with certain groups dominating certain sports.


I don't know about this....doesn't this kind of running increase muscle acidity and damage the heart? It seems kind of sick to have kids practice this kind of excessive training, for any reason. Don't get me wrong - I jog around our local reservoir every day and it's the best thing I've ever done for my health. Of course some American kids don't get enough exercise at all. But how much is too much? Do any of these Kenyan children develop medical problems?

Steve Sailer

Malcolm, cross-country running is a big sport in American high schools.

I recently calculated the demographics of the top 185 high school runners in the country in 2006. They were 82% non-Hispanic white, 5% Hispanic, 2% African-American, 1% East Asian, 1% South Asian ... and 9% East African! Even though East Africans must make up just a fraction of 1% of the American population.



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From Steve Sailer's "calculation" of demographics:

I looked up pictures or biographies of anybody whose first or last name sounded less white than, say, "Cameron Quackenbush."

So basically, you made a bunch of dumb, wild guesses. How Sailerian of you.

And later:

"That's rather interesting for what it might say about willingness to put in enormous amounts of effort."

It might say something more about the demography and geography of cross-country coaching, doncha think?

You're continually embarrassed in public by your ignorance and hateful bile, and yet you keep coming back for more punishment. That certainly does say something about willingness to put in enormous amounts of useless effort.


i have been training for the last four year, by the way i am an Ethiopian runner, the thing is i could not be successful sofar so if there is any advise you could give me please send me through my email
thanks inadavance

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Eric Johnson

I've done quite a bit of reading on this topic.

From what I understand, Africans are not significantly more well endowed physically.

Their edge comes in running economy, which means they put out less effort for a given pace.

Some scientists and coaches believe it has to do with the introduction of shoes too early into the American culture.

Interesting stuff.


Link to the Sports Illustrated article:



I think I've agreed with you, Malcolm, on almost all of your theories, but not with this one.



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A very interesting argument concerning the survivorship bias.

David Adewumi

When I visited Kenya, running was not seen as a national sport. People were more excited about Rugby, Soccer, and Basketball than Running.

It was seen as something specific to the Kalenjin -- in fact 42/49 of the country's top runners are Kalenjin, so I seriously doubt that 1 million number.


I looked up pictures or biographies of anybody whose first or last name sounded less white than, say, "Cameron Quackenbush.





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Tomno Dominic

It's interesting to note than the US comes as a third world when it comes to long distance races viz a viz kenya. It's no pleasure running in kenya, it's an economic activity.Perhaps,it's almost a reality that income from sport (athletics) will in the near future surpass that of other major income earners such as tea, coffee and tourism.
The argument behind this may not be close to an end. it is more interesting to learn that, outside there we talk of Kenyans running but here at home (kenya) we talk of a compettition almost monopolised by one community. The origins of this community may help shade more light. Rift Valley is the home, the hub of distance runners. My opinions are: the terrain,as argued by many is one but culture too is a major factor. Wild hunting, (not sport) is is both a cultural and subsistence activity. Some of the animals here are fast running such as gazelles, antelopes and the like. To bring one antelope down, you need a speed almost of that animal(escape velocity?). other factors such as long distance to schools, water streams, trading centres, hospitals etc also contribute a great deal.
Lastly, there is an argument peddled around that people from that community have some morphological enhancement which can be seen on the legs, exceptionally designed for running. Interestingly, am one but am yet to notice this.



kenny b

Why are 98% of top sprinters of West African descent? Why are 90% of top middle distance runners of East and North African descent?

It's in the genes.

And the myth of Kenyan school boys running to and from school is just that... a myth. I lived there for four years and did not see a single kid running to school.

And it turns out that 80% of the top long distance runners in Kenya come from just one district... the Nadi tribe - population 400,000.

Scientific analysis of the population show them to have a very high preponderance of slow-twitch muscle fibres, a very low heart rate, and a very efficient ability to transport oxygen to the muscles.

Many of the top runners from this tribe do moderate training and never ran to school in their life. In fact, one of the Olympic gold medallists lived right next door to his school.

Several years ago, a top five British runner went to Kenya to train for an upcoming meet. While there, he joined a local cross country race. He found himself struggling to stay in the top 100!!!

At the elite level of sports, if you do not posses the right genes, you're not in the game no matter how hard you work.

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Wondering William

My question deals with muscle "twitch" ... It is generally assumed that Western Africans have an advantate in fast twitch while Eastern Africans have a similar edge in slow twitch ... what about in the middle of the continent? What's the twitch reading in central Africa, and do athletes in that area tend to be more sprint or distance inclined?


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Toby Tanser

Certainly it is a gross exaggeration to say a million kids run to school in Kenya. However the area of Kenyan running dominance is extremely small in relation to the size of the country. Virtually all the runners, typically over 85% of each year’s national cross country team, come from one particular area of Kenya; the rift valley highlands, and are members of the Kalenjin tribe.

Due to many Kenyans being pastoralists’ and others wondering what is the point, it is hard to guess what the population of Kenya actually is (the latest consensus is causing huge headaches as they send planes out with photographers and telling a nation not to move for a day) but one could guess 40-million, with the Kalenjin being 10%, with just over 50% of the pop. being under the age of 18, and the largest percentage is pre-school 0-5. Bearing in mind not all kids go to school, the numbers keep whittling down.

Regardless in this area most children walk to school, they run if they are late, and the best ‘running’ school per se is St. Patrick’s High School (A high school that once had four sub 4-minute milers schooling in the same year). To throw a spanner in the works St. Patrick’s is a boarding school. The runners stroll meters to school. Quite like Kenya’s most coveted name in athletics, Paul Tergat, who lived 400-meters from his school.

However for these anti-examples there are plenty of runners who did clock thousands of miles as a young child; like three time Boston winner Ibrahim Hussein who ran as he wanted to be the first to school, or Lornah Kiplagat who covered 20-km per day.

One unifying factor is ‘that million’ (to bracket them) do so barefoot. Walking, strolling, or running to school. Man was made to run barefoot before the invention of tarmac roads, and worse yet, concrete. The arch of the foot on a barefoot child is like a spring, and running is basically a series of springs and bounds. When you put that foot inside a rigid shoe less of the foot’s many muscles function as they should. (Think of putting your arm for six weeks in a cast). This, over years, dampens the foot’s ‘spring’ ability. And after the age of twelve the now dead foot has only Lever properties. To prove this theory lie on the golf course ground when a group of African runners pass and listen to a taut drum beat as they run by, as opposed to the thuds of shoe weakened runners. This sound will stay true whether the runners are now barefoot or not.

Hence the point that one of the major ‘African Advantages’ of running barefoot is the boat that has already sailed, unless your parents made you run barefoot as a child. Yes you can buy a web to put on your foot, you can pick up marbles with your toes, or go to the gym and do foot lifts, but you will never regain that arch-spring. Like an African runner… it is gone.

Air Jordan

I agree with you.

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