War Tradition That Made Kenyan Runners

Sports experts have written many theories to explain why Kenyans have dominated long distance running. The common theory is their experience from jogging back and forth to school, others are the unique kenyan diet theory, and the altitude training theory. One amusing theory I have read is that a tradition of wars has helped make kenya long distance runners. It was from a blog by John Manners who has written an informative article on the running tribe of Kenya.

Running Tribe of Kenya

75% of kenya’s long distance runners come from the Kalenjin community. The Kalenjin people population is 3 million and they live in the Rift valley province of Kenya. The Kalenjin are divided into 9 tribes. The tribes have a long history of inter tribal warfare, even today we read media reports of ugly incidences of war like activity between two Kalenjin tribes, the Marakwet and Pokot.

Long time ago before the white man arrived in Africa, the Kalenjin believed that all cattle belonged to them. The Kalenjins engaged in Cattle theft, locally known as cattle raiding. Of course they didn’t regard it as theft; they were merely repossessing cattle that were theirs by divine right and happened to have fallen into other hands.

Kalenjin raids often called for treks of more than 100 miles to capture livestock and drive them home before their former owners could catch up. The better a young man was at raiding — in large part, a function of his speed and endurance — the more cattle he accumulated.

And since cattle were what a prospective husband needed to pay for a bride, the more a young man had, the more wives he could buy, and the more children he was likely to father. It is assumed many of todays Kenyan runners descend from this men of speed and endurance who were succesfull raiders.

As I said at the start of this post, this is an amusing story, only to be valued for its entertainment value.

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