Kenyans Win Lagos City Marathon: Why are They so Good at Distance Running?

Barmasai Tumo

The 2020 Lagos city marathon began around 6:30 am this morning at the National Stadium, Surulere, Lagos.

The 42km race had both male and female categories competing for the grand prize of $50,000 with second and third place winners to be awarded $40,000 and $30,000 respectively.

The Lagos State government had announced road closures of and diversions at different parts of the state for the safety of the athletes.

Breaking the marathon’s four-years record, Kenya’s David Barmasai Tumo emerged the winner of the male category in a time of two hours, 10 minutes and 22 seconds. Barmasai Tumo, who was the winner of the 2011 Dubai Marathon, put in an impressive display, pulling away from the rest of the runners early to maintain a dominant lead till the finish.

In the female category, Sharon Cherop, a Kenyan, won in two hours, thirty-one minutes and forty seconds.

It continues a tradition of East African nationals dominating marathons on the international stage. Two Ethiopians won the Lagos City marathon last year.

What makes people from those places so good at running?

The prevalent answer is that East Africans that go on to become champion runners are usually from three mountainous districts beside the Rift Valley: Nandi in Kenya, Arsi and Shewa in Ethiopia.

The theory is that by living in a high-altitude environment, combined with endurance training,  East Africans develop increased red blood cells that give them the edge in endurance events as they can utilize oxygen better.

Meanwhile others have claimed East Africans’ slender frames helps in expending lesser energy and to dissipate heat more easily than competitors from other parts of the world.

However, no definitive genetic basis has been found to explain East Africans dominance in distance running.

Whatever the biological advantage they may possess, the universal consensus is that East African runners push themselves hard to excel at the sport, and that may be all the secret to their success. Plain hard work.

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