Why East Africans Dominate Olympic Running Events

The Olympic games is undoubtedly a massive sporting event that brings all nations together. Athletes, sports enthusiasts, celebrities, and common people from different parts of the world seem to catch the Olympics fever every four years. And among the sports or disciplines in the Olympics list, running events have become a favorite to watch by many particularly because of East African athletes who bring inspiration and excitement to the games.

If you try to search for “East African running” online, you’ll most likely get thousands of results relating to the subject of how excellent these runners are. You need not explore more to discover that Kenyans and Ethiopians are usually dominating running events, especially the long distance ones. But what are East African athletes really made of that they are now ruling the world of Olympic running? Let’s look at the four possible reasons why this is so.


Biological Factors

Do “special genes” play a vital role in the performance of East African runners? Some studies show that East African genes are actually made for endurance events. The efficiency of an East African runner’s physical attributes could also be a significant factor, according to numerous researches.

Think of those long legs, short torsos, and slender limbs. Because of their light, small, and lean bodies, it’s easier for them to train and compete in high temperatures (most Olympic venues, including Sydney and Atlanta are very hot). Researches also suggest that these runners carry less weight on their feet and ankles so they need less energy to maintain a fast pace.


Diet and Nutrition

Good and proper nutrition is in fact essential in every athlete’s training and performance. With East Africa’s Kenya and Ethiopia being third world countries, elite runners are believed to be accustomed to a diet different from those from Western, more developed nations.

Most researches reveal that generally, they eat fresh, local, and unprocessed foods. Rice, potatoes, pasta and other starch-based foods typically consist their diet. They also eat meat and fish infrequently and usually have fruits for snacks or dessert.



The place where East African Olympic runners live and train is also considered a factor as to why they dominate competitive running. A lot of Kenya’s best runners are from the sunny highlands in the Great Rift Valley. Its mild weather is always inviting for regular outdoor running. The high, 7,000-feet elevation also helps develop the runners’ lung capacity.


Economic Incentives

The story of athletes competing to get out of poverty is quite common. It’s a cliché to talk about this topic, but there’s a reality to it somehow. Many elite athletes are from poor or least developed countries, where they experienced running long distances to get to school or to the market. This was their typical childhood, which can in fact, be a good foundation for solid training in the future.

These runners have that intense desire to join and win a race to get a scholarship or cash, which they could very well use to support their families. The financial incentives for the East African athletes at the Olympics, thus, are also considered an important factor for their running success.

East African athletes are some of the fastest in the world! They now dominate the world of Olympic running for several factors. Their biological or physical make-up, nutrition, geographical location, and passion for running for economical benefits all play a part in their success. But no matter what past, present, and future studies reveal about these factors, East African runners are likely to continue to run longer miles while proudly waving their countries’ flags.

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