Why are marathon runners so thin

marathon - Why Kenyans are running away from the world

Scientists have since put some of the most popular explanations aside, most notably the assumption that the height of the Kenyan Rift Valley is more than anything else responsible for its speed. Anyone who climbs even one flight of stairs in Eldoret, the place in western Kenya from which most world-class runners come, will be out of breath afterwards. Because of the altitude difference of 2,000 meters, the air here is so thin that runners have to breathe deeper than anywhere else in order to take in enough oxygen. This fact, it has long been believed, would later enable endurance athletes to run particularly efficiently under normal circumstances.

But the height alone does not explain the dominance of the runners. After all, Johannesburg is also over 1500 meters high - and has hardly produced any exceptional runners. According to the Swedish physiologist Bengt Saltin, it is far more important that Kenyans tire less quickly when they run. This is apparently due to the fact that the lactic acid produced by the tired muscle builds up very slowly in your blood. According to Saltin, this is primarily due to the higher concentration of an enzyme in the skeletal muscles, which processes lactic acid particularly well and slows down the production of new lactates. A genetic cause that has long been ignored in many attempts to explain it out of fear of accusations of racism. According to the Swedes, a comparison of the lactic acid content in the blood suggests that Kenya's runners get around ten percent more kilometers from the same amount of oxygen than Europeans.

This theory is confirmed by the renowned sports medicine specialist Tim Noakes from Cape Town. "East Africans have muscles that can contract at a much faster rate without becoming fatigued," says Noakes. This, along with the altitude at which Kenya's runners train, gives them a double advantage. West Africans have a muscle structure that tires much faster, but makes them the world's best sprinters. Several studies have shown that West Africans and the descendants of slaves in the United States have denser bones, less body fat, thicker thighs, and lighter calves. The Kenyans are built differently, but have similarly thin calves, a total of around 400 grams less meat in the lower leg. According to calculations by the Swedish scientists, oxygen consumption increases by around one percent for every 50 grams in the calf area. So Kenyans run more efficiently because they use less energy to move their limbs.

Kipchoge Keino, one of the first Kenyan gold medalists and a folk hero in the country, has another explanation for the phenomenal success of his compatriots: “In Kenya we never train alone. We always run in groups and cheer each other on. So you can copy a lot from the best - and imitate them. "At the same time, the competition is fierce because the best runners are waving a lot of money:" In Kenya, an incredible number of good runners take part in the marathons - which is enormously inspiring. "