Eliud Kipchoge
On 12 October 2019 in Vienna, Austria, Eliud Kipchoge made history cruising to the finish line of the INEOS 1:59 challenge finishing the 42 kilometre race at 1:59:40. Courtesy Photo

Globally, the elite sport of long distance races has become the privileged reserve of a few top Kenyan and Ethiopian athletes.

In October last year, fans of the men’s elite race were ready for a mouthwatering face-off between Kenya’s current marathon world record holder, Eliud Kipchoge, and Ethiopian road race legend Kenenisa Bekele.

Bekele, however, withdrew from the 40th edition of the London Marathon that was won by fellow countryman Shura Kitata.

In October 2019, Eliud Kipchoge became the first man in history of marathon to complete the 42 kilometre race in under two hours in what was tagged the INEOS 1:59 challenge, which had 41 pacemakers lined up to help him succeed in this attempt.

Overall, Kenyan and Ethiopian runners have dominated the middle and long-distance races since the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, exhibiting equally comparable dominance in every duel.

A number of women athletes form the two countries have also made a great show in the elite sport over the years.

In 2001, Kenya’s Catherine Ndereba broke the women’s marathon world record after clocking 2:18:47 at the Chicago Marathon.

Ndereba has twice won the marathon at the World Championships in Athletics and won silver medals at the 2004 and 2008 Olympic Games. She is also a four-time winner of the Boston Marathon.

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Kenya is also home to David Rudisha, 32, the world 800-meter record holder as well as the 2012 and 2016 Olympic Games champion in the two lap race.

According to the International Journal of Sports and Performance, a number of factors have been put forward trying to explain the science behind the extraordinary success of distance runners from the two East Africa nations.

Some of the reasons advanced are the sheer willpower to succeed in life; one’s genetic predisposition as well as the intense practice invested by the athletes from an early age.

Equally, some people have attributed the global success to diet even as others say it is because of relatively high hemoglobin levels inherent in their body systems because of living and training at high altitude zones.

Kipchoge, Ndereba and Rudisha offer just some of the most outstanding success stories in the history of running in East Africa.

With rich pool of talent, SuperSport is releasing the first of the highly anticipated three-part documentary sharing the story of star East African Athletes.

Dubbed ‘Rising champions’ the documentary will take viewers into the lives of the athletes, their success and the science behind the consistency in producing a long line of strong athletes from the region.

The docuseries has been divided into three parts starting with The Success of East African Athletes, which entails the rise of athletes from this part of the world and their dominance in long distance running over the last 60 years.

Further, The Secret Behind East African Athletes part delves into the cultural geographical influences and training methods employed by the athletes to produce global success.

Lastly, The Science Behind East African Athletes segment explores the genetics, diet and environmental factors that inform the legendary performance demonstrated by the world beaters.

The documentary features Kenyan greats including Hellen Obiri, Jackson Tuwei (President Kenya Athletics), Catherine Ndereba, Paul Tergat, Lornah Kiplagat, Julius Yego, David Rudisha, Jimmy Beauta (coach), and Eliud Kipchoge.

You can catch the three-part series gripping feature focusing on the success, the secret and the science behind a long line of strong athletes from the region on DStv Catch up on the DStv Explora and DStvApp.

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