[Short answer: Yes. Everybody has preconceived notions of other groups. You are racist too, whether you’ll admit it or not. Now that we got the controversial title out of the way… let us proceed.]
Yesterday, the New York Marathon took place. And yet again, another person from Africa took the metal. Congratulations, Geoffrey Mutai of Kenya!! He actually broke the NYC marathon record with a time of 2 hours, 5 minutes, and 6 seconds. As for the women, Firehiwot Dado of Ethiopia finished in 2 hours, 23 minutes and 15 seconds.
As I was contemplating what I would write for this blog today, I realized that I have never heard of an American winning the race. I decided to conduct some online research to see when was the last time an American won the NYC marathon. It turns out, it hasn’t been that long ago, but (of course), there is a caveat… Yes, African runners have dominated the running sport since the 1980s. Only one American man has won the race since 1983, a gentleman named Meb Keflezighi in 2009. (And he immigrated from Eritrea when he was a child. Incidentally, Keflezighi finished sixth yesterday.) No American woman has won the 26.2-mile trek since Miki Gorman in 1977. Conclusion: those Africans got some really fast feet! I started to wonder if truly, Africans are faster runners. Why do they continuously win the NYC marathon… as well as other prestigious running races?
(Ed. Note: Seriously, I am the slowest runner you will ever come across. You will never see me running for fun… I only sprint when I’m in danger. I do not understand the concept of banging up your knees for fun… but hey, that’s my neuroses. Let us continue…)
The first thought (at least on the internet) is that maybe Africans are biologically superior to other races in their running ability. Well, geneticists have looked time and time again for genes specific to East Africans that could account for their ability to run long distances, according to John Hoberman, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin. They found nothing. Nada. He continues to spin the story: “…There is a difference between saying we don’t have a scientifically respectable conclusion and the very broad and perhaps mistaken claim that there is no physiological phenomenon here whatsoever.” When asked point blank if East Africans have a genetic advantage, Hoberman said, “We don’t know.” Umkay. Thanks, Mr. Professor. You were a great help.
Also, I know of no American kid who thinks to himself as he’s growing up, “man, I wanna run for a living!” Indeed, most sports-minded children grow up wanting to play more traditional sports like football, basketball or baseball. (They leave Track and Field for the nerds and geeks that can’t take combat sports and need some credit in PE… hey, like me!) In Africa through, kids start running (and training) when they are quite young, with the goal of running in prestigious marathon events (such as *ahem* the New York Marathon) and the Olympics. They take this s**t seriously. So the African runners already have a head start on us (pun intended.)
Would we be even having this discussion if Europeans dominated the running world? Certainly, scientists would not be splicing open French genes to ascertain if they are some genetic curiosity. Only the newspapers en francais would take some glee in printing this sport on the front page… the New York Times would have buried the marathon on page 12… and it was in their bloody hometown! And yes, I probably wouldn’t have given a second thought to a race 240 miles north of me… and would have blogged on some other topic.
Yeah, I feel somewhat racist and weird as I wrote this post. But hey, I’ve already admitted that I am one, so there’s my justification. On to my day now… bye, racists!