about 5,000th on the all-time list. This suggests they possess some quality of specific relevance to middle-distance running. Entine notes the many social factors that have helped determine dominance in sports, at least in the past. Basketball in the 1930s was dominated by Jewish players, and the sportswriters who speculated about some Jewish genetic suitability for the game were way off base. But many sports, particularly track events, are now much more open to all comers, regardless of race or social background. Despite the hard training and other factors that make a great athlete, there is likely to be some genetic component behind the spectacular dominance of West African athletes in sprinting and East Africans in middle distance events, in Entine's view. John Manners, an author of books on Kenyan runners, also favors a genetic explanation for the prowess of the
Kalenjin athletes whose record, he asserts, "marks the greatest geographical concentration of achievement in the annals of sport."249 The Kalenjin, martial Nilotic pastoralists from Ethiopia, have lived for centuries at altitudes of 2,000 meters or more and marry mostly among themselves. They have a particular custom that could have acted as a genetic selection mechanism favoring strong runners, Manners writes. It has to do with cattle-raiding, of which the Kalenjin were for a long time the leading practitioners.
While some might call that theft, the Kalenjin regarded their actions as repossession of property that was theirs by divine right but had inadvertently fallen into others' hands. The repossession procedure often required journeys of more than 100 miles so that the livestock could be far away before their ex-custodians realized their loss. "The better a young man was at raiding—in large part, a function of his speed and endurance—the more cattle he accumulated," Manners writes. "And since cattle were what a prospective husband needed to pay for a bride, the more a young man had, the more wives he could buy, and the more children he was likely to father. It is not hard to imagine that such a reproductive advantage might cause a significant shift in a
Was this article helpful?