Monday's Boston Marathon Prediction: A Kenyan Will Win
The Wall Street Journal's Allen St. John brings us a great stat about Kenyans and the major marathons. Kenyan men have won 14 out of the last 16 Boston Marathons. A Kenyan woman has won six out of the past seven years.
St. John, who I'm usually a fan of, does a nice job of providing us with one of the reasons why Kenyans win - their small nation (population: 34 million) had 58 people who ran a marathon in under two hours and 11 minutes in 2006 compared to the United States, which only saw three of its citizens run under that time last year.
While St. John offers up another reason -- Kenyans can train against each other versus other runners who are forced to train against the clock -- he doesn't offer up the most obvious reason why, at least in my opinion, Kenyans win these races. WHY, specifically, there are so many more Kenyans than people from other countries who excel in this sport.
It has nothing to do with race, with the air in Nairobi, with a specific diet. No, the Kenyans win because they care the most. They care because the Boston Marathon's $100,000 winner's prize is a king's ransom in their native land. It's retirement for life. It's fame and glory and permanent legend.
I've heard all the racist stories -- "they run far distances to get from place to place" and that they are "perfectly built for marathon distances." That's complete bunk.
Other Kenyans have seen the success their countrymen have had and they want it. So they work harder. Its why Nigeria has more than four times the population of Kenya and they don't populate the top ranks in the same number.
The money is a big factor. What's an American to do with $100,000? Buy 1/20th of a New York City apartment?
I truly believe that the Kenyans have their best athletes running. We don't. I'd love for Nike or Reebok or Asics or Brooks to come out and offer $2 million to the next American that wins Boston or New York. And see what happens. (Trust me, given the recent record, an insurance premium wouldn't cost that much). Let me take a guess -- there would be at least five more sub 2:11 marathons put up by Americans.
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