Ethiopians as world record setting runners, genetic or nutrition?

By Mitiku s Berhane


When the name Ethiopia is mentioned, most countries associate the name with the drought, famine, war, etc. In the middle of such crisis there are stars are born in Arsi, a province in Ethiopia, which promises to restore dignity and pride for the country. In the small town called Bekoji running stars have risen to shine not only for Ethiopians but also to the world. Those athletes have brought some pride and happiness, to the country and to people all over the world. In the Beijing Olympics, the runners won all four gold’s in the long distance track events .See the video of local people watching daughters on TV as they triumph in the Beijing Olympic.

What is that makes the Bekoji runners, and many other Ethiopian runners so effective in dominating middle and long distance running? According to some of the runners, they think nutrition has important role in their life to play in their strength and focus to stay on the race. I even heard one of the all time great distance runner Haile Gebresellasie talking about Teff an Ethiopian traditional food which is believed to be the source of Iron, carbohydrate, and very important minerals and vitamins .

Teff is used to make engera, a traditional thin bread which resemble Mexican tortilla bread. Most of the runners eat engera daily as the source of their nutrition and energy supplies. Most of the country men, including the athletes say Teff is playing an important role in their athletic ability, but no experiment support the hypothesis. Maybe in the future science may discover the truth about Teff, but for now let me go the second myth, genetics which might be part of the contribution to their success.

Is it genetics? Even though I still think nutrition is playing the key role for these runners' success, it occurred to me that genetics is also one of the key factors to produce such world talent professionals who are brothers and sisters, from a very small town. It is true that geographical location and training also plays an important role to in their effectiveness. However, I believe without the genes they might have no chance to begin with, and without the nutrition, they might have no strength and energy to finish the line, to run every day, and to keep going.

Most of the great distance runners comimg from Bekoji can point out something that needs further investigation by researchers and scientists to come up with the right answer based on concrete scientific findings. My hypothesis is traditional, not experimental, but I strongly believe it is worth investigating, to see the possibilities of genetic factors and nutrition, and if they are playing major role to produce those very effective athletics. ,

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