ArticlePDF Available

Abstract and Figures

Purpose: To investigate the ethnicity of Kenya's most successful international runners, tracking their evolution over the period of their international emergence and current dominance. Methods: The authors analyzed male track distance events from 800m upwards from all the major global athletics championships from 1964 to 2013, and the annual Top-25 world marathon performances since 1990. Results: The percentage of top-25 marathon performances and medals won by Kenyan and Kalenjin runners have increased over time with Nandi subtribe outperforming the rest of the world outside Africa (r > .70, large effect). However, Europe, North America, Oceania, Asia, and South America decreased over time in top marathon performances and track medals won (r > .70, large effect). The tribe and subtribe distribution was different in the marathon than in the track: Maasais were more likely to feature in medals won in shorter track events than in the top 25 of the world marathon rankings (risk ratio [RR] = 9.67, very large effect). This was also the case for Marakwets (RR = 6.44, very large effect) and Pokots (RR = 4.83, large effect). On the other hand, Keiyos, Kikuyus, Kipsigis, Sabaots, and Tugens were more likely to succeed in the marathon than in shorter track events (RR > 2.0, moderate effect). Conclusion: These data emphasize that the previously documented emergence of African distance runners is primarily a Kenyan phenomenon, driven by the Kalenjin tribe and in particular the Nandi subtribe. This supports the complex interaction between genotype, phenotype, and socioeconomic factors driving the remarkable dominance of Kenyan distance runners.
Content may be subject to copyright.
285
www.IJSPP-Journal.com
ORIGINAL INVESTIGATION
International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, 2015, 10, 285-291
http://dx.doi.org/10.1123/ijspp.2014-0247
© 2015 Human Kinetics, Inc.
Tucker and Santos-Concejero are with the Dept of Human Biology, Uni-
versity of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa. Onywera is with the Dept
of Recreation Management and Exercise Science, Kenyatta University,
Nairobi, Kenya. Address author correspondence to Ross Tucker at Ross.
Tucker@mweb.co.za.
Analysis of the Kenyan Distance-Running Phenomenon
Ross Tucker, Vincent O. Onywera, and Jordan Santos-Concejero
Purpose: To investigate the ethnicity of Kenya’s most successful international runners, tracking their evolution over the period
of their international emergence and current dominance. Methods: The authors analyzed male track distance events from
800m upwards from all the major global athletics championships from 1964 to 2013, and the annual Top-25 world marathon
performances since 1990. Results: The percentage of top-25 marathon performances and medals won by Kenyan and Kalenjin
runners have increased over time with Nandi subtribe outperforming the rest of the world outside Africa (r > .70, large effect).
However, Europe, North America, Oceania, Asia, and South America decreased over time in top marathon performances and track
medals won (r > .70, large effect). The tribe and subtribe distribution was different in the marathon than in the track: Maasais
were more likely to feature in medals won in shorter track events than in the top 25 of the world marathon rankings (risk ratio
[RR] = 9.67, very large effect). This was also the case for Marakwets (RR = 6.44, very large effect) and Pokots (RR = 4.83,
large effect). On the other hand, Keiyos, Kikuyus, Kipsigis, Sabaots, and Tugens were more likely to succeed in the marathon
than in shorter track events (RR > 2.0, moderate effect). Conclusion: These data emphasize that the previously documented
emergence of African distance runners is primarily a Kenyan phenomenon, driven by the Kalenjin tribe and in particular the
Nandi subtribe. This supports the complex interaction between genotype, phenotype, and socioeconomic factors driving the
remarkable dominance of Kenyan distance runners.
Keywords: evolution of performance, Olympic Games, marathon, Kalenjin, Kenya
The dominance of African nations, particularly Kenya, in
distance-running events is one of the most fascinating topics in exer-
cise performance physiology. Recently described in a demographic
audit of marathon running,1 Kenyan’s emergence and dominance are
illustrated by an increase in the contribution of Kenyan men in the
top-20 all-time performances in the track distance events (800-m
and upward) from 13.3% in 1986 to 55.8% in 2003.2 Kenyan (by
birth) men have won 43 out of a possible 108 medals (41%) in dis-
tance events at the Olympic Games since 1990 and have won the
team title at 24 of the last 27 world cross-country championships
dating back to 1986.
The physiological, psychological, and cultural basis for the rise
and dominance of Kenyan runners has been the subject of research
and opinion in both the scientic literature3,4 and the lay media.5
The complex physiology that underpins running performance is
multifactorial, so the rise and subsequent disproportionate success
of a relatively small population is unlikely to be explained by any
single factor. Simplied or extreme positions that attribute success
to either environment and lifestyle or genes and physiology are thus
futile and incomplete.3,6
Of particular interest to the understanding and investigation of
the Kenyan distance-running phenomenon is a specic description
of the demographics of the Kenyan running population. Some previ-
ous analyses have grouped African runners together and compared
them with the rest of the world, detailing their emergence and
dominance from the 1990s onward.1 Other research has investigated
the ethnic and environmental backgrounds of Kenya’s successful
athletes compared with the general population at a specic moment
in time.2,7
The specic composition of all of Kenya’s most successful
international distance athletes, as well as the evolution of the demo-
graphics of Kenyan runners over the period of their international
emergence, has, however, never been described. Therefore, the aim
of the current study was to characterize, in detail, the ethnicity of
Kenya’s most successful international male runners and to track the
relative success of various ethnic groups or subtribes over time and in
distance-running events (marathons compared with track). This may
inform discussion and future research into both genetic and environ-
mental factors that may contribute to observed performance trends.
Methods
Design
The design of the study was that of observational research.
Subjects
The human research ethics committee of the University of Cape
Town granted permission for this study. We collected medal-winning
data from all major global athletics championships in which Kenya
participated, from their rst medal in the 1964 Olympics to the Inter-
national Association of Athletic Federations (IAAF) World Athletics
Championships in 2013. We limited comparisons to championships
in which Kenya had participating athletes and therefore omitted the
1976 and 1980 Olympic Games, as these were boycotted by Kenya.
We analyzed the men’s distance events, comprising the 800-m,
1500-m, and 3000-m steeplechase and the 5000-m, 10000-m, and
marathon. There were a total of 18 medals available per champion-
ship, for a total of 450 medals in 25 championships (11 Olympic
Games and 14 world championships). The names, events, and medal
286 Tucker, Onywera, and Santos-Concejero
type won by Kenyan athletes over this period were collected using the
IAAF’s open-access Web site (http://www.iaaf.org/, accessed March
14, 2014) and used for subsequent assignment to tribe analysis.
We dened an elite marathon performance as one that was
ranked in the top 25 of the annual world marathon rankings based
on time. The annual world rankings were obtained from the open-
access ofcial record lists, as maintained by the Association of
Road Racing Statisticians Web site (http://aimsworldrunning.org/
statistics/CurrentYearStatistics.htm, accessed March 6, 2014).
Marathon performances were analyzed for the period from
1990 to 2013. This period was chosen because before 1990, Kenyan
athletes rarely featured in the top 25 of the world marathon rankings.
This was discovered by preliminary analysis that found that in the
decade from 1980 to 1989, only 11 Kenyan men ranked in the top
25 of the annual world rankings, compared with 53 in the decade
from 1990 to 1999. Since we aimed to track the rise of Kenya’s
relative running dominance, we thus omitted the period before their
emergence from 1990 onward.
Global Comparisons
To compare Kenya with the rest of the world, we determined the
country and continent of birth of the medal winners and ranked
marathon performances from athletes other than Kenyans. This
included Europe, North America, South America, Asia, and Oceania.
We also analyzed medals won and top-25 marathon performances
from athletes born in Africa but excluding Kenya.
The assignment of athletes was based on place of birth, not
nationality at the time of competition, which means that many
athletes who were born in Africa but competed for nations on other
continents were analyzed as African. In 2 instances, athletes won
medals competing for their country of birth but belong to the same
tribes as Kenyan runners. These 2 instances involved Ugandan
medalists identied as Kalenjin. We included these athletes in their
tribal group for the tribal analysis but as Ugandan for the comparison
of continents and territories.
Kenyan Tribe and Subtribe Allocation
The names of Kenyan medal winners, marathon performers, and
their corresponding ranking were collected and classied according
to their ethnic tribes and subtribes. Ethnic assignment in Kenya is
based primarily on linguistic and geographical factors.8 The majority
of the Kenyan population belongs to various Bantu subgroups, with
a signicant number of Nilotes and a minority of Cushitic people
making up about 2% of the population.8 In the current analysis,
all medalists and top-ranked marathoners belonged to either the
Nilotic or Bantu groups.
Bantus are the largest population group in Kenya and include
among others the Kikuyu, Kamba, Luhya, and Kisii tribes.7 Nilotes
are the second-largest group and include, among others, the Maasai,
Luo, Rendile, Borana, Turkana, and Kalenjin.7 The Kalenjin tribe,
which mainly inhabits the altitudinous Rift Valley Province, can
be further divided into subtribes that include, for the purposes of
this analysis, the Nandi, Marakwet, Kipsigis, Pokot, Tugen, Keiyo,
and Sabaot. In the case of marriages across different subtribes, the
father’s tribe took prevalence over the mother’s tribe.8
Statistical Analysis
Statistical analyses of data were performed using the Statistical
Package for the Social Sciences 21.0 (StatSoft, Tulsa, OK, USA).
Linear logistic regression was used to assess the rise or decrease in
total track medals and top-ranked marathoners from different parts
of the world across time. A slope of the curve different from zero was
interpreted as a rise or decrease, and the 95% condence intervals
were also calculated. The magnitude of the effect was interpreted
as trivial (<0.1), small (0.1 and <0.3), moderate (0.3 and <0.5),
large (0.5 and <0.7), or very large (0.7) according to the r correla-
tion value. Ethnic frequency differences between track medals and
top-ranked marathon runners were calculated by logistic regression
and the proportion (“risk”) ratio (RR). The magnitude of the effect
was interpreted as trivial (<1.2), small (1.2 and <1.9), moderate
(1.9 and <3.0), large (3.0 and <5.7), or very large (5.8). Tribes
and subtribes that accounted for fewer than 5% in both total track
medals and top-25 marathon-ranked athletes were excluded from
the analyses (Kamba and Turkana).
Results
Historical Medal and Marathon Performances
The percentages of track distance-event medals won since 1964
and the percentage of top-25 marathon performances since 1990
for Kenyan, Kalenjin, and other Kenyan subtribes are presented in
Figures 1(A) and 1(B), respectively. Table 1 provides a complete
summary of medals won in Olympic Games and world athletics
championships, as well as top-25-ranked marathon performances
for Kenya, its various tribes and subtribes, and all other continents
and territories.
The percentage of medals won by Kenyan and Kalenjin run-
ners has increased since the rst medal, won in 1964 (r = .60 and
r = .65, large effect). Similarly, the percentage of top-25 marathon
performances by Kenyan and Kalenjin runners has increased since
1990 (r = .88 and r = .80, very large effect) (Table 2).
Kenyan men have won 64 Olympic (32%) and 88 world-
championship medals (35% of total medals, Table 1). The Kalenjin
tribe have won 84% of Kenya’s Olympic and world-championship
medals (Table 1) and provide 79% of Kenya’s top-25 marathon
performances, contributing 34% of the total performances over the
analyzed period (Table 1). In more recent years, Kalenjin men have
sustainably produced over 40% of the best marathon performances
per year, peaking above 60% in 2009, 2011, and 2013 (Figure 1[B]).
Continent-of-Birthplace Comparisons
Athletes born in Kenya have won 152 medals in all distance events,
compared with 145 for other African countries (of which 61–42%
have been won by Ethiopia) and 153 for the rest of the world
combined. Time-series analysis revealed decreases over time in
track medals won and marathon performances for Europe (r = .50
and r = .88, large effect), North America (r = .59 and r = .65, large
effect), Oceania (r = .64 and r = .56, large effect), Asia (r = .72 in
the marathon, very large effect), and South America (r = .54 in the
marathon, large effect).
Kenyan-Subtribe Global Comparison
The Nandi subtribe have won 72 medals in Olympic and world cham-
pionships, 47% of the Kenyan total (Table 2). The contribution of the
Nandi to the top-25 marathon performances rose over time (r = .87,
very large effect). The percentage of runners born in Africa excluding
Kenya also increased in the top-25 marathon performances and total
medals won over time (r = .46, moderate effect, and r = .64, large
effect, respectively). In contrast, the rest of the world decreased over
287
Figure 1 — (A) Percentage of track medals won and (B) percentage of top-25 marathon performances achieved by Kenya, Kalenjin, and other Kenyan tribes.
Table 1 Total Medals in 800-m, 1500-m, 3000-m Steeplechase, 5000-m, 10000-m,
and Marathon in the Olympic Games Since 1964, World Championships Since 1983,
and Marathon Performances in the Top 25 Since 1990 in Kenyan Runners From
Each Tribe and Subtribe and the Rest of the World
Olympic Games World Championships
Top-25
Marathon Performances
Runner origin Medals % total Medals % total Total % total
Kenya 64 32.3 88 34.9 262 43.7
Kalenjin 54 27.2 77 30.6 206 34.3
Nandi 33 16.7 39 15.5 86 15.5
Keiyo 5 2.5 10 4.0 38 4.0
Kipsigis 7 3.5 6 2.4 45 7.5
Marakwet 5 2.5 15 6.0 5 0.8
Pokot 1 0.5 3 1.2 2 0.3
Sabaot 0 0.0 1 0.4 8 1.3
Tugen 3 1.5 3 1.2 22 3.7
Kikuyu 6 3.0 3 1.2 28 4.7
Maasai 1 0.5 7 2.8 2 0.3
Kisii 3 1.5 2 0.8 16 2.7
Kamba 1 0.5 0 0.0 10 1.7
Turkana 0 0.0 1 0.4 0 0.0
Other Africa 57 28.8 88 34.9 128 21.3
Europe 46 23.2 54 21.4 102 17.0
North America 14 7.1 10 4.0 25 4.2
Oceania 8 4.0 3 1.2 8 1.3
Asia 6 3.0 4 1.6 60 10.0
South America 3 1.5 5 2.0 15 2.5
288
Table 2 Slopes of the Evolution of Total Medals in the Olympic Games Since 1964, World Championships Since 1983, and the Top-25 Marathon
Performances Since 1990 in Kenya, Kalenjin Tribe, and Other Parts of the World
Kenya Kalenjin Africa Rest of the world Europe North America South America Oceania Asia
Total medals
r .60 .65 .64 .76 .50 .59 .22 .64 .26
effect Large Large Large Very large Moderate Large Small Large Small
slope .12 .13 .12 –.24 –.13 –.05 –.01 –.04 –.01
95% CI .05–.19 .06–.19 .06–.18 –.33 to –.15 –.23 to –.03 –.07 to –.02 –.02 to –.01 –.06 to –.02 –.03 to .00
P .002 .000 .004 .000 .009 .002 .298 .001 .213
Top-25 marathon performances
r .88 .80 .46 .88 .88 .65 .54 .56 .72
effect Very large Very large Moderate Very large Very large Large Large Large Large
slope .78 .73 .17 –.78 –.43 –.16 –.07 –.06 –.22
95% CI .61–.96 .60–.85 .03–.31 –.96 to –.61 –.52 to –.34 –.25 to –.08 –.11 to –.02 –.10 to –.02 –.31 to –.13
P .000 .000 .02 .000 .000 .001 .005 .004 .000
Abbreviation: CI, condence interval.
Note: Signicant P values are shown in boldface type.
Kenyan Running Phenomenon 289
time in both track distance-event medals won and top-25 marathon
performances (r = .76 and r = .88, very large effect) (Table 2).
Figure 2 compares the RR of percentage of track medalists
with the percentage of top-25-ranked marathoners from the various
Kenyan tribes and Kalenjin subtribes. Where a tribe or subtribe had
relatively more track medalists than marathon-ranking performers,
the ratio was calculated as track:marathon. When the tribe achieved
a relatively higher percentage of top-25-ranked marathon perform-
ers, the ratio was calculated as marathon:track. We excluded medals
won in marathon events at major championships and performed
this analysis on individual performers rather than total medals or
performances, which removes multiple medalists and thus the pos-
sibility of 1 athlete biasing a tribe’s performance.
The tribe and subtribe distribution was different in the marathon
and in track, indicating that some ethnic groups are more prevalent
in one event category or the other (Figure 2). Maasais were meaning-
fully more likely to feature in medals won in shorter track events
than in the top 25 of the world marathon rankings (RR = –9.67, very
large effect). This was also the case for Marakwets (RR = –6.44,
very large effect) and Pokots (RR = –4.83, large effect). On the
other hand, Keiyos, Kikuyus, Kipsigis, Sabaots, and Tugens were
more likely to succeed in the marathon than in shorter track events
(RR > 2.0, moderate effect).
Discussion
The current study analyzed the relative contribution of different
ethnic groups and subtribes to the Kenyan distance-running phe-
nomenon. Our novel contribution is to extend previous analyses of
marathon demographics into a specic analysis of Kenyan ethnic
groups over time. This may offer insights to advance understanding
of the unparalleled dominance of Kenyan runners.
First, we extend previous demographic audits of marathon
running by showing that the African dominance documented previ-
ously1 is largely Kenyan and Kalenjin in nature (Figure 1 and Table
1). This reveals that the Kalenjin tribe, which consists of 5 million
people, approximately 12% of the Kenyan population (Kenyan
census data, 2009), account for 29% and 34% of all global track
medals and elite marathon performances, respectively.
Further analysis of ethnic groups reveals that while medals and
elite performances originate from 6 distinct tribes and 7 Kalenjin
subtribes, the Nandis, consisting of 950,000 people (Kenyan census
data, 2009), have won 72 medals (47% of Kenya’s total), a number
higher than the combined total of North America, South America,
Asia, and Oceania (Table 1). Indeed, since 1990 the Nandi subtribe
have outperformed every continent with the exception of Africa
in terms of distance track medals won and elite marathon perfor-
mances. Explanations for this highly concentrated endurance-run-
ning success have included physiological, environmental, cultural,
and genetic factors and have been reviewed extensively elsehwere.2–4
The disproportionate representation of a specic tribe and subtribe
among a population’s successful runners, as we document here, can
be interpreted to support all these factors.
In support of genetic and physiological factors, genotypical
and phenotypical characteristics that may predispose a person or
group of people to running success would be expected to be highly
preserved within given subtribes. For instance, it has been reported
that there is a strong relationship between performance-mediated
attractiveness and reproductive success, which suggests that human
endurance capacity has been subject to sexual selection in our
evolutionary past.9
Similarly, although attributing Kenyan running success to a
genetic explanation seems premature,2 it is noteworthy that Kenyans
present high frequencies of desirable genotypes of certain perfor-
mance-linked genes. A typical example is ACTN3, which encodes
the protein alpha-actinin-3 and is almost exclusively expressed in
sarcomeres of fast glycolytic type II bers responsible for the gen-
eration of rapid forceful contractions.10 Two variants in this gene,
R and X, have been identied, with the RR variant polymorphism
strongly associated with sprint-running performance.10 In this
regard, Yang et al11 have found that the XX genotype, which is
nondesirable for elite sprint-running performance, is almost nonex-
istent in Kenyans. While single gene associations with performance
are oversimplied for numerous reasons,2 we nevertheless cannot
exclude a role for genetics in our ndings.
In contrast, social, environmental, lifestyle, and cultural factors
would be expected to exert effects on tribes that are, by denition,
tightly geographically and linguistically bound. Research has yet
to reveal a gene or even a combination of genes that is conclu-
sively linked to performance, though given complex physiology,
the extremely small sample of elite athletes, the limited scope of
single-gene-association studies, and the difculty of nding appro-
priate controls,3 this is unsurprising. The complex, multifactorial
interaction of physiology and environmental factors remains the
most accurate current explanation for the observed success.
A further novel contribution of this study is the insight regarding
the performance of ethnic groups other than the Nandi, who have
been described previously.7 This novel analysis shows that certain
groups are more likely to win medals in the shorter track distance
events than in the marathon (Figure 2). The Maasai tribe and the
Marakwet and Pokot subtribes provided meaningfully more track
medalists than elite marathon runners (Table 2), whereas the Kikuyu
tribe and the Kipsigis, Sabaot, Tugen, and Keiyo subtribes provided
more marathon runners (moderate effect) (Table 1 and Table 2).
Figure 2 — Ratio of contributions to medals won in track and perfor-
mances in the top-25 marathon rankings for each Kenyan tribe and subtribe.
290 Tucker, Onywera, and Santos-Concejero
Specic explanations for the relative overrepresentation of a
tribe or subtribe in marathon events compared with shorter track
distance events are unclear. Indeed, given the complexity and previ-
ously discussed multifactorial nature of the East African running
phenomenon,2,3 the nuances that contribute to the success of ethnic
groups in specic categories are perhaps conservatively attributable
to similar factors. These include genetic factors12; environmental
factors such as altitude, lifestyle, training characteristics, and early-
life factors4,13–15; and socioeconomic factors.7
For example, Onywera et al7 compared elite athletes with the
general Kenyan population and found that international Kenyan
athletes have a distinct environmental and ethnic background, which
included origins in the altitudinous Rift Valley and running longer
distances to get to school. Our data support the ethnic nding, which
we extend to include not only the Kalenjin and the Nandi but also
other tribes such as the Maasai and Kikuyu and subtribes including
the Marakwet, Kipsigis, and Keiyo. While our method and analysis
does not allow discussion of possible factors contributing to success
in certain groups, we speculate that environment and lifestyle factors
similar to those discussed previously2,7 may contribute to greater
relative success of ethnic groups in either track or marathon events.
The importance of social and cultural factors has also been
proposed as a key driver of the disproportionate Kalenjin success,
where the achievements of Kipchoge Keino, a Nandi, is said to
have driven interest, participation, and dedicated recruitment of
runners.7,16 The subsequent success of Nandi runners may have
inspired further success, driven by economic incentives described
previously. Indeed, Onywera et al7 found that one-third of Kenyan
international runners became athletes for economic empowerment.
It is not inconceivable that similar success in subtribes docu-
mented in the current study may have inspired a form of imitation
leading to subsequent success and the observed increased likeli-
hood of certain groups’ success in shorter track distance events
(Figure 2).
With respect to the time-series analysis of medals and elite
marathon performances, it is clear the current dominance of Kenyan
athletes began at distinct time periods, with marathon dominance
delayed by 2 decades compared with Olympic and world-cham-
pionship distance success (Figure 1). Also notable in track and
eld athletics is the successful Olympic performance at altitude in
Mexico City 1968, where Kenya won 7 medals. This was followed
by a decline and a period of relatively modest success in the early
1980s, before Kenya won 7 medals in the 1988 Olympic Games
and have since won 40% of the available distance medals, peaking
at over 60% (Figure 1[A]).
A possible catalyst for this shift in the latter half of the 1980s
may have been the appointment of Mike Boit to the role of Kenya’s
sports commissioner. Boit, a Kenyan Olympic medalist in 1972 and
now professor of sports science at Kenyatta University, gave the
athletes their passports and invited agents into the country. These
changes facilitated increased exposure to competition and the
resultant dominance of Kenya in international events.17 In the case
of the marathon, commercial factors associated with runner agency,
including sponsorship, prize money, and bonus payments, would
have created a large economic incentive to succeed, particularly
considering the documented economic incentive reported by the
very best Kenyan athletes.7
This supports the contribution of cultural factors to success
within a relatively small population, where early generations of
successful athletes inspire subsequent generations to adopt distance
running for economic rewards.7,18 Increased opportunity, improved
coaching, and economic incentives have been hypothesized to
increase the likelihood of success. This may partly explain the
observed lag between the early success and the sustained domi-
nance from the 1990s onwards. Indeed, Kenya’s women have not
yet achieved the same success as the men, but this may be partly
attributable to sociocultural factors that historically hindered their
participation in distance running. The rst female Kenyan Olympic
medal was won as recently as 1996, and future championships may
reveal dominance similar to that of the men, although the data set
is too small to draw meaningful insights at present.
The assignment of athletes to tribes and subtribes is an impor-
tant consideration. As described, this was performed according
to the Kenyan tradition of ethnic inheritance, which is primarily
based on the place of birth and the spoken or related language.7
The assignment is paternal, meaning that in the case of a mixed
marriage across tribal lines, a child inherits the tribe belonging to
his or her father. An example of this is the Olympic champion and
world-record holder David Rudisha, who is classied in this study
as Maasai (his father’s tribe) despite his mother’s being Kalenjin.
This, along with other examples, has implications for a discus-
sion of the heritability of athletic predispositions, since it has previ-
ously been reported that the Kenyan athletic status is closely related
to the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) haplogroup distribution.12
According to Scott et al,12 Kenyan international athletes display an
excess of L0 haplogroups and a lower frequency of L3 haplogroups
relative to Kenyan controls. Notably, despite the increased likeli-
hood of elite athletes’ displaying distinct geographical and linguistic
heritage relative to the general Kenyan population (a nding con-
rmed in the current study), this did not appear to be the source
of the differences between athletes and controls according to the
mtDNA.12 This has implications for the link between tribe afliation
and genotypical predisposition for endurance performance, since
mtDNA comes from matrilineal inheritance.
Given that the method of tribe assignment is based on the
ethnicity of the father, possible inuences of the mother’s genetic
background can be overlooked, as may be the case for athletes
from mixed tribe origins, such as David Rudisha. Therefore, results
shown in this study have to be interpreted cautiously, as matrilineal
inheritance is excluded from the ethnic classication despite its
previously reported inuence in Kenyan athletic ability.
Practical Applications
The specic investigation of time-course changes and event-specic
dominance of certain tribes and subtribes reveals interesting insights
on the Kenyan distance-running phenomenon. It may also guide
future research, since the current hypothesis involves multifactorial
contributions from genetic, physiological, and environmental fac-
tors. The fact that certain tribes are more represented in shorter track
events, and others in the marathon, allows for targeted investigations
into these the cultural, environmental, and physiological drivers
of success. Finally, this detailed analysis may reveal previously
underrealized pools of talent that may yet to be tapped to expand
the Kenyan running phenomenon further.
Conclusion
We have provided novel data on the specic ethnic groups that have
contributed to the emergence and dominance of Kenyan distance
runners. We show that the Kalenjin tribe and the Nandi subtribe
contribute a disproportionate number of medals and elite marathon
performances, often outperforming the rest of the world combined.
Kenyan Running Phenomenon 291
We also show that certain subtribes are more represented in track
distance events, while others are more likely to succeed in mara-
thon. These data support the complex and intriguing multifactorial
nature of Kenya’s unique dominance in distance running, suggesting
the interaction between genotype, phenotype, environment, and
socioeconomic factors.
Acknowledgments
The results of the current study do not constitute endorsement of the product
by the authors or the journal.
References
1. Marc A, Sedeaud A, Guillaume M, et al. Marathon progress: demog-
raphy, morphology and environment. J Sports Sci. 2014;32:524–532.
PubMed doi:10.1080/02640414.2013.835436
2. Tucker R, Santos-Concejero J, Collins M. The genetic basis for elite
running performance. Br J Sports Med. 2013;47:545–549. PubMed
doi:10.1136/bjsports-2013-092408
3. Larsen HB. Kenyan dominance in distance running. Comp Bio-
chem Physiol A Mol Integr Physiol. 2003;136:161–170. PubMed
doi:10.1016/S1095-6433(03)00227-7
4. Wilber RL, Pitsiladis YP. Kenyan and Ethiopian distance runners: what
makes them so good? Int J Sports Physiol Perform. 2012;7(2):92–102.
PubMed
5. Epstein D. The Sports Gene. London: Current Hardcover; 2013.
6. Tucker R, Collins M. What makes champions?: a review of the rela-
tive contribution of genes and training to sporting success. Br J Sports
Med. 2012;46:555–561. PubMed doi:10.1136/bjsports-2011-090548
7. Onywera VO, Scott RA, Boit MK, Pitsiladis YP. Demographic
characteristics of elite Kenyan endurance runners. J Sports Sci.
2006;24:415–422. PubMed doi:10.1080/02640410500189033
8. Okoth A, Ndaloh A. PTE Revision Social Studies. East African Pub-
lishers; 2008.
9. Postma E. A relationship between attractiveness and performance
in professional cyclists. Biol Lett. 2014;10:20130966. PubMed
doi:10.1098/rsbl.2013.0966
10. Eynon N, Hanson ED, Lucia A, et al. Genes for elite power and sprint
performance: ACTN3 leads the way. Sports Med. 2013;43:803–817.
PubMed doi:10.1007/s40279-013-0059-4
11. Yang N, MacArthur DG, Wolde B, et al. The ACTN3 R577X poly-
morphism in East and West African athletes. Med Sci Sports Exerc.
2007;39:1985–1988. PubMed doi:10.1249/mss.0b013e31814844c9
12. Scott RA, Fuku N, Onywera VO, et al. Mitochondrial haplogroups
associated with elite Kenyan athlete status. Med Sci Sports Exerc.
2009;41:123–128. PubMed doi:10.1249/MSS.0b013e31818313a2
13. Onywera VO. East African runners: their genetics, lifestyle and
athletic prowess. Med Sport Sci. 2009;54:102–109. PubMed
doi:10.1159/000235699
14. Carrillo AE, Koutedakis Y, Flouris AD. Early life mammalian biology
and later life physical performance: maximising physiological adap-
tation. Br J Sports Med. 2011;45:1000–1001. PubMed doi:10.1136/
bjsports-2011-090198
15. Billat V, Lepretre PM, Heugas AM, Laurence MH, Salim D, Koral-
sztein JP. Training and bioenergetic characteristics in elite male and
female Kenyan runners. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2003;35:297–304.
PubMed doi:10.1249/01.MSS.0000053556.59992.A9
16. Saltin B, Larsen H, Terrados N, et al. Aerobic exercise capacity at
sea level and at altitude in Kenyan boys, junior and senior runners
compared with Scandinavian runners. Scand J Med Sci Sports.
1995;5:209–221. PubMed doi:10.1111/j.1600-0838.1995.tb00037.x
17. Boit MK. Kenyan Runners. In Search of Olympic glory. Nairobi,
Kenya: Jomo Kenyatta Foundation; 2004.
18. Manners J. Kenya’s running tribe. Sports Hist. 1997;17:14–27.
doi:10.1080/17460269709445785
... min -1 ), indicated that the elite athletes had better RE than recreational athletes (Franzen et al., 2013;Taipale, Mikkola, Vesterinen, Nummela & Häkkinen, 2013 (2010) argued that the O2 demand of endurance athletes could increase with body weight and the consensus view seemed to be that lean body mass athletes seemed to be more efficient than their heavier counterparts. As a matter of fact, the endurance sports varying from 1 500 m to the half marathon, it was not unusual to see athletes vary by as much as 25 kg and 30 cm in the same competition with the same experience (Tucker, Onywera & Santos-Concejero, 2015). Macdermid et al. (2014) reported that lean body mass athletes with no extra mass or a smaller amount were more efficient than their heavier athletes. ...
... Endurance threshold, as shown by either VT1 or VT2, increases with cross-country running training and when assessed in the correct workout mode, has been associated with triathletes, cycling and running performance in cross-country running (Tucker et al., 2015). ...
Thesis
Full-text available
In recent years, there has been an increasing interest in the morphological and physiological characteristics for many sporting codes. Morphological and physiological testing is an important tool for cross-country athletes and coaches and assists in the training intensity prescription, monitoring of training adaptation and profiling athletes for specific competitions. So far, however, there has been few reports on senior male cross-country athletes. The aim of this research was to determine the relationship between morphological and physiological characteristics of senior male cross-country athletes in Gauteng province, South Africa. Forty males (age: 20-35 years; height: 173.09 cm; weight: 63.05 kg) who competed in the Central Gauteng Senior Cross-Country Championships competition were invited to participate in this study. Parameters tested included stature, body weight, seven skinfolds, body fat percentage, lean body mass, somatotype and 10km time measured. The maximal oxygen consumption, running economy and two ventilatory thresholds (VT1 and VT2) were calculated using online assessments of each participant as explained in the methods of this study. Data were analysed using descriptive statistics (SPSS, v.21) and Pearson coefficient of correlation procedures. A significant difference was observed between athletes who trained for <45 minutes and those who trained for >45 minutes per day by an independent t-test. An independent t-test was used to determine significant differences between the two groups. The data were collected experimentally by using a self-administered questionnaire for the medical and sporting status of the runners. The results of this study indicated mean values of body weight (63.05 kg), body fat percentage (8.04 %), sum of seven skinfolds (34.12 mm), lean body mass (59.24 kg) and somatotype (i.e., endomorph, mesomorph, and ectomorph ratios) (1.80, 1.40. and 2.80) respectively. The mean values for maximum oxygen consumption (V̇ O2max) (63.50 mlO2 . kg˗1.min-1 ), running economy (at 12 km·hr -1 32.8 L/min, 14.5 km·hr -1 41.70 L/min, 16 km·hr -1 56 L/min, 19.2 km·hr -1 30.60 L/min), ventilatory threshold (2.95 L/min-1 ), maximum heart rate (191.00 bpm), respiratory exchange ratio (1.23) and average 10 km running speed (16.24 km·hr -1 ) were also determined. The VT1 and VT2 were calculated and at the intensities corresponding to the last point before a first non-linear increase in both VT1 and VT2. The senior male cross-country athletes showed higher values for O2 expressed relative to morphological and physiological factor. The above measurements were captured in Johannesburg at the following altitude (1753 m), barometric pressure (82.54 kPa), air density (0.98 kg/m2 at 20 ºC/ (293 k). These characteristics are generally associated with cross-country iii runners, suggesting that senior male cross-country athletes in Gauteng province, South Africa, are professional athletes. There were no significant V̇ O2max, RE and personal best 10 km time differences between participants who trained <45 minutes and those who trained >45 minutes per day during training sessions (p > 0.05). However, there were significant body weight (p = 0.028) and BF% (p = 0.030) differences between the two groups. It can thus suggest that the duration of the daily training session has a direct effect on some morphological characteristics of athletes, but no effect on others. The analysis showed that athletes of various endurance events statistically differ in morphological measures, especially in dimensions of BW and BF%. Further, highlight the importance of morphological and physiological factors in cross�country running. This research will serve as a basis for future studies and will provide information on senior male cross-country athletes, which can be referred to by coaches and sports scientists who train athletes during the competition preparation phase. KEY WORDS: anthropometry, V̇ O2max, running economy, ventilatory threshold
... Different hematological, physiological, anthropometrical, diet, genetic, motivation, and training characteristics influence endurance running performances, depending on the length and duration of the performance training [27][28][29][30][31][32][33][34]. Factors that have been proposed to explain the dominance of East African athletes, particularly the success of the Kenyan and Ethiopian distance runners, include genetic predisposition, favorable skeletal-muscle-fiber composition, oxidative enzyme profile, development of high maximal oxygen uptake, relatively high Hct and Hgb, good metabolic "economy", traditional Kenyan/ Ethiopian diet, living and training at altitude, and motivation to achieve economic success [29,30,33,[35][36][37][38][39]. ...
... Different hematological, physiological, anthropometrical, diet, genetic, motivation, and training characteristics influence endurance running performances, depending on the length and duration of the performance training [27][28][29][30][31][32][33][34]. Factors that have been proposed to explain the dominance of East African athletes, particularly the success of the Kenyan and Ethiopian distance runners, include genetic predisposition, favorable skeletal-muscle-fiber composition, oxidative enzyme profile, development of high maximal oxygen uptake, relatively high Hct and Hgb, good metabolic "economy", traditional Kenyan/ Ethiopian diet, living and training at altitude, and motivation to achieve economic success [29,30,33,[35][36][37][38][39]. ...
Article
Full-text available
BACKGROUND: Globally, 358,000 women die each year as a result of causes related to pregnancy and childbirth. Abortion is one of the top five causes of maternal death in Ethiopia. Therefore, this study was conducted to assess the magnitude and associated factors of induced abortion among college students in Debre Tabor town. METHODS: An institution based cross-sectional study was conducted from February 3 to May 28, 2021. A total of 236 female students were recruited from Debre Tabor Health Science College, Begiemidir Educational College and Fekede Egzi College using simple random sampling technique. The data were collected using self-administered questionnaire, and data analysis was done by SPSS version 25.0.RESULT: The prevalence of induced abortion was 18.6%. Department, year of study and condom use were significantly associated with the occurrence of induced abortion. Compared to non-health science students, medical laboratory students and HIT students were 4.9 (1.535-15.39) and 13.9 (3.965- 49.045) times practiced induced abortion respectively. After controlling other variables, second year students were 10.8 (1.205- 96.782) times more likely to encounter induced abortion than third year students. Those who did not use condoms were 3.25(1.319-7.9940) times more likely to engage in practicing induced abortion. CONCLUSION: The prevalence of induced abortion was generally high in the study area. Department, year of study and condom use were strongly associated with induced abortion.
... Different hematological, physiological, anthropometrical, diet, genetic, motivation, and training characteristics influence endurance running performances, depending on the length and duration of the performance training [27][28][29][30][31][32][33][34]. Factors that have been proposed to explain the dominance of East African athletes, particularly the success of the Kenyan and Ethiopian distance runners, include genetic predisposition, favorable skeletal-muscle-fiber composition, oxidative enzyme profile, development of high maximal oxygen uptake, relatively high Hct and Hgb, good metabolic "economy", traditional Kenyan/ Ethiopian diet, living and training at altitude, and motivation to achieve economic success [29,30,33,[35][36][37][38][39]. ...
... Different hematological, physiological, anthropometrical, diet, genetic, motivation, and training characteristics influence endurance running performances, depending on the length and duration of the performance training [27][28][29][30][31][32][33][34]. Factors that have been proposed to explain the dominance of East African athletes, particularly the success of the Kenyan and Ethiopian distance runners, include genetic predisposition, favorable skeletal-muscle-fiber composition, oxidative enzyme profile, development of high maximal oxygen uptake, relatively high Hct and Hgb, good metabolic "economy", traditional Kenyan/ Ethiopian diet, living and training at altitude, and motivation to achieve economic success [29,30,33,[35][36][37][38][39]. ...
Article
Full-text available
Introduction. Endurance running performance is dependent upon hematological, physiological, anthropometrical, diet, genetic, and training characteristics. Increased oxygen transport and efficiency of tissue in extracting oxygen are the major determinants to competitions that require endurance. Thus, altitude training is often employed to increase blood oxygen-carrying capacity to improve sea-level endurance performance. This study aimed to compare hematological parameters of endurance runners’ training at different clubs with different altitudes (Guna Athletics Sport Club at Guna (3100 meter above sea level) and Ethiopian Youth Sport Academy at Addis Ababa (2400 meter above sea level)). Methods. A comparative cross-sectional study was conducted at GASC and EYSA. Data were collected from a total of 102 eligible study subjects (26 runners and 25 controls at Guna and 26 runners and 25 controls at Addis Ababa) from May to October 2019. About 3 ml of the venous blood was drawn from the antecubital vein by aseptic procedure and analyzed using a hematology analyzer (DIRUI BCC-3000B, China). One-way ANOVA and independent-sample t-tests were used to compare means. Result. Male runners in Guna had significantly higher hemoglobin (Hgb), mean corpuscular hemoglobin (MCH), mean corpuscular hemoglobin concentration (MCHC), and white blood cell (WBC) count than male runners in Addis Ababa. Besides, female runners in Guna had significantly higher MCH and MCHC than female runners in Addis Ababa. However, there were no significant differences between Guna and Addis Ababa runners in red blood cell (RBC) count, Hct, MCV, and platelet count in both sexes, while Hgb and WBC count in females. Conclusion. Decisively, Guna Athletics Sport Club endurance runners had significantly higher hematological parameters than Ethiopian Youth Sport Academy endurance runners. This provides invaluable information for coaches and sport physicians to monitor the hematological profile and the health status of an athlete living and training at different altitudes. 1. Introduction Running is one of the most popular sporting events worldwide, and running events range from sprints of 60 meters (m) to ultramarathons covering greater than 42.195 kilometers [1]. The International Association of Athletics Federation classified running as short distance (below 800 m), middle distance (800–3000 m), and long distance (3000-ultramarathon (>marathon)). Endurance running is highly dependent on the aerobic capacity and running economy [1]. Altitude can be classified as near sea level (<500 m), low altitude (500–2,000 m), moderate altitude (2,000–3,000 m), high altitude (3,000–5,500 m), and extreme altitude (>5,500 m) above sea level [2]. As altitude increases, atmospheric pressure decreases, and the partial pressure of oxygen also decreases, thus the amount of oxygen available for delivery to exercising tissues will reduce [3, 4]. Altitude training is aimed at increasing the oxygen-carrying capacity of blood to improve sea-level endurance performance in athletes. Increasing erythropoietin production in hypoxia, a hormone-stimulating erythropoiesis, is a key factor in the achievement of enhanced oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood. Rates of erythropoietin production and erythropoiesis depend on the duration and degree of exposure to hypoxia. Furthermore, many other factors may affect the hematological response to altitude training [5]. Currently, altitude training has become part of the standard training protocol in many aerobic sports to increase endurance performance in athletes or to acclimatize before competitions at altitude or before ascending to altitude [3, 6, 7]. Acute or chronic exposure of the human body to a hypoxic environment induces several adaptations that can lead to improved athletes’ performance at sea level. The mechanisms to improve exercise performance including hematological [8–10], cardiovascular, or ventilatory changes were induced by altitude training. However, altitude training can also lead to improved muscle buffering capacity, enhanced capillary density, and muscle mitochondrial volume [11–14]. Previous studies have shown that after altitude training of LH-TH or LH-TL there were increased red cell mass, total hemoglobin mass, reticulocytes, red blood cell (RBC) count, hemoglobin (Hgb), and hematocrit (Hct) from pre-altitude value [11, 15–20]. However, other studies did not show an increase in red cell mass, total hemoglobin mass, reticulocytes, RBC count, Hgb, and Hct after altitude training [21, 22]. Individual variation in response to altitude exposure is an important factor that needs to be accounted for when planning altitude training [5, 10, 15, 23]. There are different models of altitude training: live high-train high (LH-TH), live high-train low, live low-train high, and live high-train low and high [4, 6]. Among them, the LH-TH method is the traditional concept of altitude training, practiced by athletes in East Africa. In this model, athletes live and train at moderate altitudes 2,000–3,000 m above sea level that is thought to stimulate hematological and nonhematological responses [6, 7, 24]. This method is still in use today in particular in countries with natural altitude environments, including Kenya and Ethiopia [7, 17]. Athletes employing LH-TH are not able to train at an equivalent or near-equivalent intensity as at sea level [7, 16, 17, 25]. Altitudes that are too low are associated with the inadequate erythropoietic response [7, 16, 25]. Generally, in living high-training high approach, the optimal altitude to improve exercise performance is between 2,000 and 2,500 m above sea level [4, 26]. Different hematological, physiological, anthropometrical, diet, genetic, motivation, and training characteristics influence endurance running performances, depending on the length and duration of the performance training [27–34]. Factors that have been proposed to explain the dominance of East African athletes, particularly the success of the Kenyan and Ethiopian distance runners, include genetic predisposition, favorable skeletal-muscle-fiber composition, oxidative enzyme profile, development of high maximal oxygen uptake, relatively high Hct and Hgb, good metabolic “economy”, traditional Kenyan/Ethiopian diet, living and training at altitude, and motivation to achieve economic success [29, 30, 33, 35–39]. There is increasing support for the role of hematological variables like RBC count, Hgb, Hct, total hemoglobin mass, and blood volume in determining endurance performance [29, 31, 40, 41]. Since the availability of oxygen in skeletal muscle impacts endurance performance, it is essential to monitor hematological parameters to detect the oxygen transport capacity of endurance athletes [42, 43]. Ethiopia has many altitudinous areas ranging from 1500 m to 4550 m above sea level; however, athletes are emerging from a specific area and population particularly from Arsi and Shewa [29, 30, 39]. There are no published data to support or refute that Hgb and total blood volume in Ethiopian athletes are uniquely different from other elite running populations [29]. Unique hematological fluctuations observed in an athlete population provide invaluable information to the sports physician monitoring the health status of an athlete [10]. To the best of our knowledge, no study compared hematological parameters of Ethiopian endurance runners training at various clubs that are located at different altitudes. Therefore, this study compared hematological parameters in endurance runners of Guna Athletics Sport Club, which is located in Northern Ethiopia at 3100 m above sea level, and Ethiopian Youth Sport Academy, which is located in the central part of Ethiopia (Addis Ababa, the capital city of Ethiopia) at 2400 m above sea level. The two clubs use a live high-train high model, yet the altitude varies (3100 m vs 2400 m above sea level). Our hypothesis was there is no significant difference in hematological parameters between Guna Athletics Sport Club and Ethiopian Youth Sport Academy endurance runners. 2. Methods 2.1. Study Area, Period, and Design A comparative institutional-based cross-sectional study design was employed to conduct the study from May to October 2019 in two training camps in Ethiopia, Guna Athletics Sport Club and Ethiopian Youth Sport Academy. Guna Athletics Sport Club is located in the Amhara region, South Gondar zone, near Guna Mountain (nearly 4200 m above sea level), which is 695 km far from Addis Ababa. This training camp is particularly situated at an altitude of 3045 m above sea level, and routine training takes place at 3100 m above sea level. The second study area was Ethiopian Youth Sport Academy, which is located in Addis Ababa, at approximately an altitude of 2400 m above sea level. 2.2. Study Population All endurance runners in GASC and EYSA fulfilling the eligibility criteria were taken as the study population. 2.3. Sampling Procedures A total of 102 study subjects participated in this study. A total of 26 endurance runners from each training camp and 25 matched nonathletes were recruited outside each training camp. Based on sex, 18 male and 8 female endurance runners were involved from each camp, and 18 male and 7 matched female nonathletes were involved from each camp. A convenient nonprobability sampling technique was used to select eligible study subjects. 2.4. Eligibility Criteria Both male and female athletes who were middle- and long-distance runners ranging from 800 m to marathon, as well as those in the age range of 15 to 35 years were included in the study. However, athletes in Addis Ababa whose root is from northern training camps (Amhara region); athletes in Guna whose root is from Addis Ababa (Oromia region); athletes who were reported to have known cancer, kidney disease, liver disease, HIV/AIDS, cardiac diseases, anemia, and respiratory diseases (like asthma); smokers; athletes trained less than 5 days; athletes on vacation; and pregnant during the data collection period were excluded from the study. 2.5. Study Variables In the present study, running performance or the International Association of Athletics Federation score (IAAF score) was taken as the dependent variable, while sociodemographic variables such as age, sex, marital status, and religion, anthropometric parameters, including weight, height, and body mass index, and hematological parameters such as RBC count, Hct, Hgb, MCV, MCH, MCHC, WBC count, and platelet count were considered independent variables. 2.6. Operational Definitions Elite athlete: professional runner who is competing at the national or international level. Endurance runners: runners who run from 800 m to ultramarathon. Middle-distance running: running covering the distance from 800 m to 3000 m. Long-distance running: running covering the distance from 3000 m to ultramarathon. International Association of Athletics Federation score (IAAF score): it is the measure of an athlete’s performance, and this score can be used to determine the result score of performance for the world rankings, to evaluate competitions, and to establish the best athlete award in a specific competition [44]. Total hemoglobin mass: it is the absolute mass of circulating hemoglobin in the body. 2.7. Data Collection Procedures After informed consent, sociodemographic data were collected by using structured questionnaires from the selected participants through face-to-face interviews. Then, the height of the study participants was measured without shoes using a stadiometer and rounded to the nearest one cm, whereas the weight of subjects was measured using a weighing scale to the nearest 0.1 kg with light clothing, without phones and shoes or any encumbrance that could alter their appropriate weight. Body mass index (BMI) was calculated by dividing weight (in kg) by height (in meters) squared. By following the aseptic procedure, about 3 ml of the venous blood sample was drawn from the antecubital vein of each participant by a trained and qualified laboratory technologist after overnight fasting. The blood sample in the Guna training camp was collected using EDTA-coated vacutainer tubes, and it was then transported in sealed boxes to Bahir Dar within an hour of blood collection and at room temperature. The laboratory analysis was done at Afilas Primary Hospital in Bahir Dar using (DIRUI BCC-3000B; China) a hematology analyzer within 5 hours of the blood sample collection. Similarly, samples at the Addis Ababa training camp were collected using EDTA-coated vacutainer tubes, and then the laboratory analysis was done within an hour of sample collection at the clinic in the center using a similar automated blood analyzer. Performance of runners was measured using the IAAF score, which was taken from the IAAF score table (2017) by using personal best time. It was also checked by the online IAAF scoring calculator. Tables are normally valid for performances worth between 0 and 1400 points [44]. 2.8. Data Processing and Statistical Analysis The data collected were coded, cleaned, entered, and analyzed using Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS), version 25.0. Categorical variables were presented using frequency and percent, whereas continuous variables were summarized using mean (x̅) and standard deviation (SD). The analysis of the differences in means of study variables was evaluated using an independent-sample t-test and one-way ANOVA. We used Levene’s test to assess the homogeneity of variance, and the Tukey and Games–Howell post hoc tests were used if Levene’s test was nonsignificant and significant, respectively. Those variables with a -value of <0.05, at a 95% confidence interval (CI), were considered statistically significant. The result of males and females were summarized separately. 3. Results 3.1. Sociodemographic Data The total study participants were 102 (51 from Guna Athletics Sport Club (Guna) and 51 from Ethiopian Youth Sport Academy (Addis Ababa), among them 72 (70.6%) were males and 30 (29.4%) were females. There were 52 athletes (26 from each camp) and 50 nonathletes (25 from each camp). Out of 26 athletes in Guna (AG), 18 (69.2%) were males and 8 (30.8%) were females. Also from 25 nonathletes in Guna (NAG), 18 (72%) and 7 (28%) were males and females, respectively. Athletes in Addis Ababa (AAA) were 26, of these 18 (69.2%) were males and 8 (30.8%) were females. Nonathletes in Addis Ababa (NAAA) were 25, among them 18 (72%) and 7 (28%) were males and females, respectively. Among 102 participants, 51 (50%) were from Oromia, and 51 (50%) were from the Amhara region. The mean ages of study groups for both sexes are presented in Table 1. The majority of male and female subjects in both groups belonged to the age bracket of 15–19 and 20–24 years, respectively. One-way ANOVA showed there were no significant differences in mean ages between AG vs AAA, AG vs NAG, and AAA vs NAAA for both sexes (Table 1). Moreover, there were no significant differences in height, weight, and BMI between AG and AAA in both sexes. Regarding marital status, the majority of AG 25 (96.2%), AAA 23 (88.5%), NAG 23 (92%), and NAAA (84%) were single. The majority of AG 20 (76.9%), AAA 12 (46.2%), NAG 13 (52%), and NAAA 12 (48%) attended secondary and preparatory school. The majority of AG (96.2%), NAG (100%), and NAAA (64%) were orthodox Christians; however, most of the athletes in Addis Ababa (46.2%) were protestant Christians. Variables AG AAA NAG NAAA Male Age (yrs) 23.3 ± 3.7 24.2 ± 3.9 21.2 ± 3.7 26.3 ± 3.3 Height (cm) 169.9 ± 4.1 b 172 ± 8.9 162.6 ± 6.4 b 169.8 ± 6.5 Weight (kg) 56.3 ± 6.3 58.8 ± 6.1 53.5 ± 7 64.6 ± 7.9 BMI (kg/m²) 19.4 ± 1.6 19.9 ± 1.6 c 20.2 ± 1.6 22.4 ± 2.7 c Female Age 19.9 ± 1.5 20.4 ± 3.4 21.9 ± 3.4 23.4 ± 2.1 Height 159.9 ± 5 164 ± 5 159.3 ± 10 165.6 ± 5.8 Weight 46.8 ± 3 51.4 ± 6.7 52.3 ± 4.6 60 ± 9.7 BMI 18.3 ± 1.3 19.2 ± 1.7 20.7 ± 1.6 21.9 ± 3.4 Abbreviations: AG, athletes in Guna; NAG, nonathletes in Guna; AAA, athletes in Addis Ababa; NAAA, nonathletes in Addis Ababa; b, AG vs NAG; c, AAA vs NAAA; ; .
... Kenya is known globally as the powerhouse in distance running. Over the years, researchers have attempted to elucidate various factors that contribute to Kenya's extraordinary performances in distance running, including but not limited to associations between genetic predisposition (Scott & Pitsiladis, 2007); physiological and socio-cultural factors (Wilber & Pitsiladis, 2012); ethnicity (Tucker et al., 2015) and somatotypical characteristics (Eksterowicz et al., 2016). However, these extraordinary performances by Kenyan runners stand threatened with reports in the recent past revealing that Kenyan runners have been placed on the WADA compliance watch list after more than 40 athletes tested positive for PES use between the year 2011 and 2016 (Henning & Dimeo, 2018). ...
Article
Full-text available
Doping is a worldwide problem that harms athletes' health and undermines the spirit of sport. Studies have shown that male athletes are more prone to doping than female athletes. Athletes with mastery climate have been associated with anti-doping attitudes, while those with performance climate have pro-doping attitudes. However, it is unclear whether motivational climate is equally important to attitude towards doping for males and females. Data were collected from 323 runners in Elgeyo-Marakwet County, Kenya, using cross-sectional survey design. Runners self-reported their motivational climate using Perceived Motivational Climate in Sport Questionnaire and attitudes towards doping using Performance Enhancement Attitude Scale. Correlational analysis indicated significant inverse relationship between mastery climate and doping attitude (rho = -.242; p < .001) and significant positive correlation between performance climate and doping attitude, (rho = .362; p < .001). Hierarchical regression analysis revealed performance and mastery climate were significant predictors of attitudes towards doping (F (3, 319) = 28.24, p = .001), and gender did not moderate the relations between motivational climate and doping attitudes (β = -.028, p = .621). MANOVA results showed male athletes were significantly lower in performance climate scores (p = .045) and non-significantly low in mastery climate scores (p =.075) and doping attitude scores (p = .595) than females. In conclusion, performance climate was associated with doping attitudes in females- but not in males. Therefore, policy frameworks that buttresses the aspects of mastery climate as opposed to performance climate in females is likely to promote anti-doping attitudes.
... Their dominance has been attributed to a combination of factors such as genetic inheritance, training, environment, lifestyle, and social factors. [1][2][3][4] In particular, the question arises as to the relative share of athlete selection and training versus the influence of their genetic endowment. ...
Article
Full-text available
Aim: The specificity of muscle-tendon and foot architecture of elite Kenyan middle- and long-distance runners has been found to contribute to their superior running performance. To investigate the respective influence of genetic endowment and training on these characteristics, we compared leg and foot segmental lengths as well as muscle-tendon architecture of Kenyans and Japanese males (i) from infancy to adulthood and (ii) non-athletes vs. elite runners. Methods: The 676 participants were divided according to their nationality (Kenyans and Japanese), age (nine different age groups for non-athletes) and performance level in middle- and long-distance races (non-athlete, non-elite and elite adult runners). Shank and Achilles tendon (AT) lengths, medial gastrocnemius (MG) fascicle length, pennation angle and muscle thickness, AT moment arm (MAAT ) and foot lever ratio were measured. Results: Above 8 years old, Kenyans had a longer shank and AT, shorter fascicle, greater pennation angle, thinner MG muscle as well as longer MAAT , with lower foot lever ratio than age-matched Japanese. Among adults of different performance levels and independently of the performance level, Kenyans had longer shank, AT and MAAT , thinner MG muscle thickness and lower foot lever ratio than Japanese. The decrease in MG fascicle length and increase pennation angle observed for the adult Japanese with the increase in performance level resulted in a lack of difference between elite Kenyans and Japanese. Conclusion: The specificity of muscle-tendon and foot architecture of elite Kenyan runners could result from genetic endowment and contribute to the dominance of Kenyans in middle- and long-distance races.
... It is recommended that there should be more emphasis on coach and athlete education that promote the aspects of mastery climate and task orientation as opposed to performance climate and ego orientation as this may aid in anti-doping efforts. (Larsen, 2003); motivation to achieve economic success (Onywera et al., 2006); genetic predisposition (Scott & Pitsiladis, 2007); physiological and socio-cultural factors (Wilber & Pitsiladis, 2012); ethnicity of Kenya's most successful runners (Tucker et al., 2015) and somatotypical characteristics (Eksterowicz et al., 2016) ( Boit et al., 2012;Kamenju 2011;Kamenju et al., 2016 Similarly, studies have opined that to prevent doping in sports, identification of athletes who use or are prone to using PES as well as understanding their situational factors may function as risk or protective factors towards doping Petróczi et al., 2015). One way of understanding athletes' risk and protective factors towards doping is by considering athletes' motivation towards sports and, eventually, their propensity for doping and the use of PES. ...
Thesis
Full-text available
Doping is a global problem that is increasing at an alarming rate and most recently among Kenyan athletes. Athletes who have ego orientation (as opposed to task) orientation and have performance climate (as opposed to mastery) climate have been linked to doping and the use of PES in sports. However, there is paucity of data on the status of these associations among Kenyan athletes where increasing doping cases are threatening the country's international reputation in distance running performance. The purpose of this study was to determine the influence of motivational climate and goal orientation on attitudes towards doping among athletes in Elgeyo-Marakwet County (EMC), Kenya. The study also established the influence of selected demographic variables of age, gender, and length of experience on attitudes towards doping. Cross-sectional survey design was used and data was collected from athletes (N=323) across EMC through stratified random sampling. An adapted version of the Perceived Motivational Climate in Sport Questionnaire (PMCSQ-2) was used to assess the athletes' motivational climate, while athlete's goal orientation was assessed using the Task and Ego Orientation in Sport Questionnaire (TEOSQ).A modified version of the Performance Enhancement Attitude Scale (PEAS) was used to assess athletes' attitudes toward doping. Descriptive values of means, standard deviations, percentages and frequencies were calculated and used to organize and summarize the data. Spearman’s rank correlation was calculated to determine the relationship between motivational climate and goal orientation on attitudes towards doping and binary logistical regression analysis were computed to find out the significant influence of motivational climate, goal orientation and demographic variables (age, gender, and length of experience) on attitudes towards doping. Results of descriptive analyses showed the following: mastery climate; 4.17±.62, performance climate; 2.88±.62, task-orientation; 4.14±.65, ego-orientation; 3.07±.79 and doping attitude scale; 2.32±.70 (Mean± Standard Deviation). Correlational analysis indicated significant inverse relationship between mastery climate and doping attitude (rho = -.242; p < .001) and a significant positive correlation/relationship between performance climate and doping attitude (rho = .362; p < .001) in motivational climate. In goal orientation, results indicated significant inverse relationship between task orientation and doping attitude (rho = -.158; p = .004) and a significant positive correlation between ego orientation and doping attitude (rho = .362; p < .001). The study showed that majority of the athletes, 65.6% (212), were the least likely to dope, whereas 34.4% (111) were highly likely to dope. Binary logistical regression analysis revealed that performance climate (p = .002) and ego orientation (p < .001) made significant contributions/influence to attitudes towards doping.On the other hand, mastery climate (p = .14), task orientation (p = .16), age (p = .062), gender (p = .555) and length of experience (p = .951) made no significant influence/ contributions on athletes attitudes towards doping. In conclusion, the study found task orientation and mastery climate associated with anti-doping attitudes, while ego orientation and performance climate were associated with pro-doping attitudes. The study, therefore, recommended more emphasis on coach and athlete education that promote the aspects of mastery climate and task orientation as opposed to performance climate and ego orientation as this may aid in anti-doping efforts.
... An appealing group in which to explore whether similarity or deviations from simple elastic systems (i.e., spring-mass behavior) differs between distinct populations or performance capacities is that of the Kenyan distance runners. Their dominance in the sport has been unmatched (Tucker, Onywera, & Santos-Concejero, 2015). Biomechanical investigations of this population have identified shorter ground contact times (Kong & de Heer, 2008;Santos-Concejero et al., 2017) and longer Achilles tendon moment-arms (Kunimasa et al., 2014) as unique characteristics, but spring-mass behavior has not been explored. ...
Thesis
Running is fundamentally a simple activity, but the physical realization of it is complex. The gait patterns of a runner are the product of ever-changing systems and interactions of biomechanical components, and as such, the study of these mechanical characteristics is challenging. Traditional methods have focused on discrete components of gait and thus struggle to contextualize observations. Systemic analyses have been limited to simple descriptive models, often with exclusive or restrictive assumptions. This dissertation sought to develop novel methods for the systemic analyses using an established canonical model of the running gait – the spring-mass model – as a template. It further sought to conduct a series of biomechanical studies using this template-based approach as a framework to interpret the observations. Specifically, a method is first presented to estimate the system-level spring-mass characteristics of a runner using nonlinear regression with only the vertical ground reaction force time series of the runner. To facilitate this method, a novel parameterized form of the sinusoidal vGRF approximation was derived and validated. This NLR-based analyses yielded leg stiffness estimates that were consistent with traditional methods and further suggested that additional systemic parameters do not behave as traditional methods assume. Next, two investigations are presented that explore this method along with new methods for spring-mass dynamics comparisons and with established methods for spring-mass parameter analysis. These investigations included a cohort comparison of elite Kenyan distance runners against a cohort of non-elite recreational runners and a paired comparison of subjects before and after an ultramarathon. It was shown that the Kenyan runners behaved more like the simple elastic system than the recreational runners and that the ultra-marathon runners demonstrated consistent systemic patterns but greater overall template dissimilarity following the race. Finally, traditional methods of spring-mass analyses were applied with a more comprehensive mixed-model experimental design to fully characterize the system-level behavior of elite middle distance runners across a spectrum of speeds. The mixed-model template-based analysis revealed that the elite runners ran as stiffer systems than their sub-elite counterparts and that their mechanical behavior was more persistent across speeds. Together, this series of investigations established and validated new methods and improved upon the implementation of existing methods with which to assess running gait holistically and analyze it as a system. It is hoped that this work will provide useful tools, new frameworks, and fresh inspiration for scientists, coaches, and athletes to assess and interpret the movements of runners.
... It is an interesting phenomenon that athletes originating from a specific region or country are dominating certain sports disciplines [1]. In running, for example, athletes originating from Jamaica have historically dominated in sprint events (100 m, 200 m and 400 m) [2], whereas athletes from East Africa (i.e., Ethiopia and Kenya) are some of the fastest runners over middle distance [3] and the marathon distance [4,5]. Interestingly, runners from Russia have been recently shown to consistently outperform ultra-runners from other regions in 100 km ultra-marathons [6] and the Comrades Marathon [7]. ...
Article
Full-text available
Background: It is well known that athletes originating from a specific region or country can master specific sports disciplines (e.g., East-African runners in long-distance running). In addition, physical and athletic performance are the result of an interaction between genetic, environmental and epigenetic factors. However, little is known about on what determines sports success and performance for long-distance master swimmers such as origin. The aim of the study was to investigate the participation and performance trends of elite master open-water swimmers competing in the World Championships (WC) in 3000 m open-water swimming between 1986 and 2019. Methods: A total of 9247 valid participants were analyzed using generalized linear models (GLMs) with a gamma probability distribution and log link function. Resultsː Most of the starters were from Italy (1646 participations), followed by the United States of America (USA) (1128 participations) and Germany (959 participations). Swimmers from Italy were significantly faster than swimmers from Canada, Germany, USA, Great Britain and also from all other countries grouped (p < 0.005). The age group from 35-39 years old was significantly faster than athletes from age groups of 25-29 years old, 30-34 years old, 40-44 years old, 45-49 years old and 50-54 years old (p < 0.005). The percentage of local athletes in WC was 36% and varied from 36% (Italy, 2004) to 43 % (Germany), 53% (Italy, 2012) and up to 68 % (USA, 1992). Conclusions: Swimmers from Italy were the faster and the most numerous starters during this period of 27 years and 15 editions all over the world in 3000 m master open-water swimming.
Article
Full-text available
Physical activity, mobility or patterned mobility (i.e., exercise) is intrinsic to the functioning of Homo sapiens , and required for maintenance of health. Thus, systems such as the musculoskeletal and cardiovascular systems appear to require constant reinforcement or conditioning to maintain integrity. Loss of conditioning or development of chronic deconditioning can have multiple consequences. The study of different types of deconditioning and their prevention or reversal can offer a number of clues to the regulation of these systems and point to how deconditioning poses risk for disease development and progression. From the study of deconditioning associated with spaceflight, a condition not predicted by evolution, prolonged bedrest, protracted sedentary behavior, as well as menopause and obesity and their consequences, provide a background to better understand human heterogeneity and how physical fitness may impact the risks for chronic conditions subsequent to the deconditioning. The effectiveness of optimized physical activity and exercise protocols likely depend on the nature of the deconditioning, the sex and genetics of the individual, whether one is addressing prevention of deconditioning-associated disease or disease-associated progression, and whether it is focused on acute or chronic deconditioning associated with different forms of deconditioning. While considerable research effort has gone into preventing deconditioning, the study of the process of deconditioning and its endpoints can provide clues to the regulation of the affected systems and their contributions to human heterogeneity that have been framed by the boundary conditions of Earth during evolution and the “use it or lose it” principle of regulation. Such information regarding heterogeneity that is elaborated by the study of deconditioning environments could enhance the effectiveness of individualized interventions to prevent deconditions or rescue those who have become deconditioned.
Article
Hypoxic conditions in the body have been reported to occur in aging and exercising muscles. It has been suggested that a reduction in ATP, due to hypoxia, may contribute to related declines in muscle performance. In this study, we established hypoxic assay systems and evaluated the effects of 65 phytochemicals on intracellular ATP content in C2C12 myotubes, to more accurately determine their physiological activities. We found intracellular ATP content in C2C12 myotubes to be reduced, under hypoxic conditions. However, kaempferol markedly increased it in this assay systems, by activating oxidative metabolism. The level of kaempferol in crops cultivated in highland areas or an artificial hypoxic environment, was significantly increased, while that of quercetin was either unchanged or significantly decreased. These results suggest crops may biosynthesize kaempferol to adapt to hypoxic environments, and that highland residents may benefit from eating such crops, with adaptive consequences.
Article
Full-text available
Females often prefer to mate with high quality males, and one aspect of quality is physical performance. Although a preference for physically fitter males is therefore predicted, the relationship between attractiveness and performance has rarely been quantified. Here, I test for such a relationship in humans and ask whether variation in (endurance) performance is associated with variation in facial attractiveness within elite professional cyclists that finished the 2012 Tour de France. I show that riders that performed better were more attractive, and that this preference was strongest in women not using a hormonal contraceptive. Thereby, I show that, within this reselected but relatively homogeneous sample of the male population, facial attractiveness signals endurance performance. Provided that there is a relationship between performance-mediated attractiveness and reproductive success, this suggests that human endurance capacity has been subject to sexual selection in our evolutionary past.
Article
Full-text available
Abstract As opposed to many other track-and-field events, marathon performances still improve. We choose to better describe the reasons for such a progression. The 100 best marathon runners archived from January 1990 to December 2011 for men and from January 1996 to December 2011 for women were analysed. We determined the impact of historical, demographic, physiological, seasonal and environmental factors. Performances in marathons improve at every level of performance (deciles). In 2011, 94% of the 100 best men athletes were African runners; among women athletes they were 52%. Morphological indicators (stature, body mass and Body Mass Index (BMI)) have decreased. We show a parabolic function between BMI and running speed. The seasonal distribution has two peaks, in spring (weeks 14 to 17) and autumn (weeks 41 to 44). During both periods, the average temperature of the host cities varies close to optimal value for long distance race. African men and women runners are increasingly dominating the marathon and pushing its record, through optimal eco-physiological conditions.
Article
Full-text available
The ability of skeletal muscles to produce force at a high velocity, which is crucial for success in power and sprint performance, is strongly influenced by genetics and without the appropriate genetic make-up, an individual reduces his/her chances of becoming an exceptional power or sprinter athlete. Several genetic variants (i.e. polymorphisms) have been associated with elite power and sprint performance in the last few years and the current paradigm is that elite performance is a polygenic trait, with minor contributions of each variant to the unique athletic phenotype. The purpose of this review is to summarize the specific knowledge in the field of genetics and elite power performance, and to provide some future directions for research in this field. Of the polymorphisms associated with elite power and sprint performance, the α-actinin-3 R577X polymorphism provides the most consistent results. ACTN3 is the only gene that shows a genotype and performance association across multiple cohorts of elite power athletes, and this association is strongly supported by mechanistic data from an Actn3 knockout mouse model. The angiotensin-1 converting enzyme insertion/deletion polymorphism (ACE I/D, registered single nucleotide polymorphism [rs]4646994), angiotensinogen (AGT Met235Thr rs699), skeletal adenosine monophosphate deaminase (AMPD1) Gln(Q)12Ter(X) [also termed C34T, rs17602729], interleukin-6 (IL-6 -174 G/C, rs1800795), endothelial nitric oxide synthase 3 (NOS3 -786 T/C, rs2070744; and Glu298Asp, rs1799983), peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-α (PPARA Intron 7 G/C, rs4253778), and mitochondrial uncoupling protein 2 (UCP2 Ala55Val, rs660339) polymorphisms have also been associated with elite power performance, but the findings are less consistent. In general, research into the genetics of athletic performance is limited by a small sample size in individual studies and the heterogeneity of study samples, often including athletes from multiple-difference sporting disciplines. In the future, large, homogeneous, strictly defined elite power athlete cohorts need to be established though multinational collaboration, so that meaningful genome-wide association studies can be performed. Such an approach would provide unbiased identification of potential genes that influence elite athletic performance.
Article
Full-text available
The dominance of East African distance runners and sprinters of West African origin invites discussion around the contribution of genetic and lifestyle factors to performance. In this review, we focus on the genetic basis for performance. Previous research associating candidate genes such as ACE and ACTN3 to endurance and sprint performance in Caucasian populations has not been replicated in African populations. This may be influenced by numerous factors, including small sample sizes, comparisons across different ethnic populations and problems identifying appropriate control groups. Conceptually, these failures reveal the complex polygenic nature of physiology and performance, and the erroneous application of a candidate gene approach to more genetically diverse African populations. We argue that research has in fact established a role for genes in performance, and that the frequency, rather than the prevalence, of favourable genetic variants within certain populations may account for the performance dominance in these populations.
Article
Full-text available
Since the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, Kenyan and Ethiopian runners have dominated the middle- and long-distance events in athletics and have exhibited comparable dominance in international cross-country and road-racing competition. Several factors have been proposed to explain the extraordinary success of the Kenyan and Ethiopian distance runners, including (1) genetic predisposition, (2) development of a high maximal oxygen uptake as a result of extensive walking and running at an early age, (3) relatively high hemoglobin and hematocrit, (4) development of good metabolic "economy/efficiency" based on somatotype and lower limb characteristics, (5) favorable skeletal-muscle-fiber composition and oxidative enzyme profile, (6) traditional Kenyan/Ethiopian diet, (7) living and training at altitude, and (8) motivation to achieve economic success. Some of these factors have been examined objectively in the laboratory and field, whereas others have been evaluated from an observational perspective. The purpose of this article is to present the current data relative to factors that potentially contribute to the unprecedented success of Kenyan and Ethiopian distance runners, including recent studies that examined potential links between Kenyan and Ethiopian genotype characteristics and elite running performance. In general, it appears that Kenyan and Ethiopian distance-running success is not based on a unique genetic or physiological characteristic. Rather, it appears to be the result of favorable somatotypical characteristics lending to exceptional biomechanical and metabolic economy/efficiency; chronic exposure to altitude in combination with moderate-volume, high-intensity training (live high + train high), and a strong psychological motivation to succeed athletically for the purpose of economic and social advancement.
Article
Full-text available
Elite sporting performance results from the combination of innumerable factors, which interact with one another in a poorly understood but complex manner to mould a talented athlete into a champion. Within the field of sports science, elite performance is understood to be the result of both training and genetic factors. However, the extent to which champions are born or made is a question that remains one of considerable interest, since it has implications for talent identification and management, as well as for how sporting federations allocate scarce resources towards the optimisation of high-performance programmes. The present review describes the contributions made by deliberate practice and genetic factors to the attainment of a high level of sporting performance. The authors conclude that although deliberate training and other environmental factors are critical for elite performance, they cannot by themselves produce an elite athlete. Rather, individual performance thresholds are determined by our genetic make-up, and training can be defined as the process by which genetic potential is realised. Although the specific details are currently unknown, the current scientific literature clearly indicates that both nurture and nature are involved in determining elite athletic performance. In conclusion, elite sporting performance is the result of the interaction between genetic and training factors, with the result that both talent identification and management systems to facilitate optimal training are crucial to sporting success.
Article
An abstract is unavailable. This article is available as HTML full text and PDF.
Article
The malleability of mammalian biology during early life, which carries considerable weight throughout the course of the lifespan, may contribute to the creation of a human phenotype ideal for prime physical performance. In this article, the authors consider the East African cohort of exceptional athletes that dominate marathon performance. Since entering international marathon competition in 1960, East Africans have competed at the front of the pack and now hold the top 10 men's marathon times. The authors present lines of evidence supporting that exposure to factors such as altitude and early metabolic adjustments that are inherent in East African early life exert a strong influence in later life physical performance and may collide with a genetic advantage to induce biological changes that allow for a more robust biological response to training in later life.
Article
East African runners have dominated distance running events for over 5 decades. Some explanations have been advanced to explain why such a small population has dominated distance running events over time. Suggested reasons include, among others, a genetic predisposition, diet, living at high altitude as well as sociocultural background. This chapter gives possible insight into the past, present and hopefully future success of East African runners; it mainly explores the foundations of running excellence, talent identification, diet and injury management methods used by East African runners. The chapter also explores means and ways by which East African runners can sustain their running excellence by using their past experiences, to perfect the present and predict the future.