AP English/ Block 2
February 8, 2011
Kenyans, the Runners of the World
Since 1986, when the people of Kenya began to take the world championship of running seriously, their men have won every team race from the eight hundred meter to the three thousand meter steeple chase. Five of the top ten spots on Runner’s World’s annual road race ranking for 2001 were held by Kenyan men (Hirschoff). Statistics show that compared to their Western counterparts, Kenyans are better long distance runners. With their almost perfect environment providing them with a natural, beneficial diet, Kenyan runners are born and raised to run fast. By contrast, while American runners are stuck in traffic, getting to and from work, people in Kenya are constantly in motion: “There’s a road, there’s a forest. You run to school, you run back home” (Eldoret). The environment that surrounds Kenya is picture-book perfect for developing a runner. Kenya sits at an elevation of six thousand feet or more. This elevation leads to a vigorous outdoor life; a life of activities preformed in thin air. Such altitudes as this one have been shown to help create a high aerobic capacity that is vital to distance running (Hirschoff). Not only does the strain of air density help to produce a world class runner, but combined with the elevation, Kenya is located on equatorial latitude. The combination between these two things equals very warm days, cool nights, and low humidity. This becomes the perfect atmosphere for aerobic activity (Hirschoff). When temperatures are below 75 degrees, heart rate increases two to four beats per minute, whereas when temperatures rise above 75 degrees, heart rate increases by ten beats per minute. The higher the heart rate, the more the athlete is getting out of his aerobic activity (Halleran). It is the basics of the land that help in creating Kenyan runners. The land around them is their training grounds, whereas American runners have readily available the training help of training facilities. Of course Western runners train outdoors, but they benefit from having such equipment as treadmills and trainers. Treadmills give the chance to train with little air resistance and on a flat, unchanging surface (Morris). This consistency in running can help benefit the outcome of certain races that mimic the flat, unchanging surface. “We would deliver better athletes if we had the best facilities” (Eldoret) says champion Kenyan runner Kip Keino. If Kenyan runners could get a hold of training facilities along with their beneficial environment, they would be unstoppable. Although American runners have the all the fancy equipment, they still strive to become more like the runners of Kenya. Every Marathon season, spectators marvel at the speed and agility of the amazing, barefoot, Kenyan runners; these barefoot runners are the leaders of the race. Western shoe companies have studied this amazing “feet” of running barefoot and have tried to mimic the movement by creating shoes that are closer to running barefoot than actually running without shoes (“Foot Locker”). Kenyan runners are so admired that recently a University alumnus developed a “Sports Exchange” program. This program taps into the successfulness of Kenyan runners and gives the opportunity for American athletes to train in an environment with the most elite runners in the world. Training in Kenya, with some of the best athletes, exposes intense training and a competitive level that Western runners would not have been exposed to otherwise (Roesler). Mike Solomon, a former track and field athlete and the creator of the Sports Exchange program, stated, “I always thought that with the Americans lagging behind in distance running, this was the only way to improve, to go there and train with their best guys and their national coaches”(Roesler). Somehow, “it seems the more the Americans study the Kenyans, the slower they go: American marathoners are running worse than...