• Question: Why do the kenyans run faster than the british in the london marathon?

    Asked by ellascientist to clairemarieroberts, Faye, Martin, Mus, Pete on 23 Apr 2012.
    • Photo: Pete Etchells

      Pete Etchells answered on 23 Apr 2012:


      Hi ellascientist! I’m not sure that there’s a definite answer to your question, but there are certainly lots of theories. One wacky theory is that lots of runners from Kenya come from an area of high altitude, and if you live in high-up places you have better lungs (because the air up there is much thinner, so you need to get more of it in and out!). But even if that’s true, it won’t be the only factor. It might be something as simple as Kenya having a better program for training their runners, or they might take more time and make more effort in finding and training runners from a younger age than the British do. It’s a complex question, and there won’t be a single correct answer to it!

    • Photo: Faye Didymus

      Faye Didymus answered on 23 Apr 2012:


      Hi ellascientist! That’s a great question and I wonder if your name suggests that you’re a budding young scientist? If so, keep up with the great inquisitive questions – they’ll get you far 🙂 As Pete says, there isn’t one correct answer to this question. I guess the most likely thing is that it’s a combination of different factors….they may train at higher altitude, which could make them fitter than those who train nearer sea level. I guess their genetics are likely to play a part as well because Kenya has a history of good distance runners. Also, body shape can help people to run fast so it may be that some Kenyan athletes have a particular body shape that allows them to run marathons quickly! I think work ethic and culture is likely to be influential as well – it may be that Kenyan athletes have a high work ethic (so work really hard all of the time) and therefore, put loads of miles in in training, which will help them to run fast. So as we say, it’s likely to be a whole host of different factors that make Kenyan athletes good at running marathons.

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