Many theories have emerged since the 1970s to explain the rapid emergence and dominance of Kenya's Kalenjin ethnic group in the sport of professional distance running. This one group of people hailing from the Rift Valley has reigned supreme from every distance over 800 meters for close to 50 years. This study disassociates the group's success from genetic and geographical theories and describes how the Kalenjin society's cultural perception of the importance of "masculinity" in their men has fueled this distance running dominance. Using secondary sources on the culture, history and success of the Kalenjin as well as interviews with various members of the ethnic group residing in Iten, Kenya, this paper proves how engrained cultural elements fueled the Kalenjin men's move toward professional running and their success. The Kalenjin men who now serve as some of the top runners in the world all exhibit the same urge to prove their "masculinity" or "manliness." Beyond genetics or their high altitude training, this culturally embedded urge is what has primarily created what many call the "Kenyan Running Revolution." The use of oral histories and secondary sources provide depth to our understanding of this remarkable athletic talent. This project will contribute further to the study of Kalenjin running as well as to the general study of athletic talent.


Sene, Ibra


International Relations


African Languages and Societies | African Studies | Gender and Sexuality | International and Area Studies | Sociology


kalenjin running

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



© Copyright 2012 Casey Green