What are the Malays best known for globally? Aside from being the inspiration for the English word ‘malaise’, I really can’t think of anything much. Well, I think I might have the answer as to why this is so. And it is closely related to a certain tribe in Kenya known as the Kalenjin.
I was listening to one of my favourite radio programmes called Radio Lab and it’s latest episode talked about why the Kalenjin are so good at long distance running. They have dominated the sport like no other superhuman group of people has ever done before, coming in the top three in almost every major marathon in the world.
For example, this year’s Berlin marathon saw Kenyans winning first place right through to fifth. And in the Chicago marathon, they placed first till fourth.
According to David Epstein, “There are 17 American men in history who have run under 2:10 in the marathon. There were 32 Kalenjins who did it in October 2011”. Epstein is a sports journalist and writer who wrote the book ‘The Sports Gene’, and was interviewed on the Radio Lab episode.
Now many unproven reasons, or should I say urban myths, have been thrown about as to why the Kalenjins are such good long distance runners. One of the most popular reasons for this is that in the past, the tribe did not have any other mode of transportation other than their legs. So they ran everywhere.
But the actual truth may be due to the Kalenjins having to go through cultural circumcision when they reach puberty. [Click to read the full article at The Malaysian Insider]