So, I’m about to head out to catch the bus for my 7:30 am Microbiology lab, but I HAD to write this up. I just HAD to!!
Get ready, cus this is gonna be a nerd/science loving post!
Yesterday, I was doing some reading for my Anthropology class and came across one of the best articles ever titled, “Can White Men Jump?”
Before reading it, I was one of the many people who thought Kenyans and Jamaicans have some kind of “super-power gene” that made them superior sprinters and marathon runners.
Boy, did this article open up a new perspective to me.
Alpha-actinin-3 is a protein that drives speedy muscle contractions in humans. ACTN3 is the “super” gene that produces this protein that’s present in almost 98% of Jamaicans. Biologists and geneticists also found ”endurance” genes in the Kenyans, as well.
But ya know something? Scientists discovered that 80% of Ameicans and 82% of Europeans share identical genes with the super-atheletes. Not only that, but just because they’re all black skinned doesn’t mean they’re created equal: they each have different body shapes and muscle fiber types to boot.
So what gives?
Forget if you’re black, white, tan, big, small, or predisposed for greatness–it’s so much more than that.
While some say their success due to high elevation training, adoration of the sport, preferences for individual over team sports, prospects of money, or good climate, there exists an entirely different aspect–a social/personal aspect.
Kenyan and Jamaican children run because they love it.
It’s just part of their national identity.
- Kids’ heroes are Olympians that have blown away world records for their country.
- Running is engrained in their every day routine. So much so, that their coaches can push them to entirely new levels of endurance–we’re talkin 150 miles a week!!
For example, Kipchoge Keino, one of the first major Kenyan Olympians, ran everywhere: school, the river, home etc. When he finally made it to the Olypmics in 1968, he was diagnosed with gallstones and advised not to race the 1500 meter. This was only the 4th time Kenya had ever even been in the Olympics, so he made a choice. He was stubborn and went against orders and hailed a cab to the race. Crazily, he got stuck in traffic, so he jumped out and ran a mile to the race; arriving moments before the gun went off. Even though he was sick, tired, and winded, he managed to shatter the world record at the time. Talk about determination!
(His expression at the end of the race is freakin amazing)
He quickly became a national hero in Kenya, admired by kids and adults alike. Honestly, I think people in Kenya or Jamaica have a drive to succeed that outshines the average American or European. It’s all about the power of the mind.
Science has shown that a person’s mentality can dramatically affect achievement in any aspect of life. In other words, if you think it’s gonna be bad, it’ll be bad, but if you go into a situation with a positive attitude, you’re more likely to come out with a positive result.
Keino could’ve complained and whined about his ailments and thrown away his Olympic dreams, but no! He broke down mental barriers and raced like a hero!
Pretty soon runners began to throw around this joke: ” How can the rest of the world defuse Kenyan running superiority? Answer: Buy them school buses.”
So, I guess my point is, it’s not that they’re genetically superior, I believe they just have a different frame of mind.
These people aren’t some kind of super genetic mutants from the dark lagoon–they have crazy competitiveness and desire. Ya, they have amazing legs, hearts, and circulation, and live in pretty rudiment environments, but the mind is by far their most athletic body part. It is the determiner of human limits.
Most of us want nothing to do with the extremeness they’re willing to aim for and in turn, set up walls preventing us from reaching our goals and potentials. (especially when it comes to belittling ourselves with new year’s resolution failures)
But like the article says, “They (kenyans and jamaicans) are participants in a culture of extreme, willing to devote more, to ache more, and to risk more in order to do better.”
Despite some of the hardest living conditions in the world, these people continue to set records and inspire their peers. It’s amazing what humans can do when they set their minds to a goal!
The power of positive thinking paired with a fiery determination sure can yield some amazing results.
(sorry for the wordy post–if you made it through, I salute you!)
I’d love to hear what y’all think!
Do you think the mind is influential enough to allow success or failure?
Have you ever been in a situation where positive thinking/mantras got you through?
Do you think more Americans could succeed in their fitness goals if they had a better mindset?
I’m off to go set my mind on course for positive island! WOO!