The Rift Valley is a land of farms and ranches. It’s about the size of North Dakota. About 12 million people live there. That’s 0.16 percent of the world’s 7.7 billion people. So how do they make up nearly half the world’s best distance runners?
First of all, the Rift Valley isn’t your typical valley. It sits high in the mountains. Runners train at an altitude of 8,000 feet above sea level. At that height, the air contains less oxygen. Training with less oxygen can help a runner perform better at lower altitudes.
Kenyans from the Rift Valley may also start with an advantage. Many kids are active from a young age. They work on family farms or ranches, and they walk or run long distances to school. This regular exercise helps them build endurance.
Research also indicates that people from the region tend to have long legs and thin calves, both of which help a runner burn less energy.