How to end the Kenyan domination

When it comes to marathons, there are seemingly two classes of runners: (1) Kenyans and (2) everyoneMarathon
else. The Kenyans usually beat everyone else. Actually, "beat" is inaccurate. How about "trounce"?  Well, that’s not accurate either. How about "crush"?

How dominant have they been? The Boston Globe offers some clues, noting that Kenyans have won all but four Boston Marathons since Ibrahim Hussein’s victory in 1988. In recent years, they’ve owned all five World Marathon Majors.

Since 2000, Kenyans have claimed Boston, Berlin, and Chicago six times
apiece, London and New York four. "It’s one of the most impressive
streaks in sports we’ve ever seen," says New York race director Mary
Wittenberg. [Link]

They’ve been especially dominant at the Boston Marathon largely because the race’s organizers believe in inviting the best runners from around the world, no matter their country of origin. And invariably, many of them are Kenyan. In last year’s world rankings, 68 of the top 100 marathoners were Kenyan, and seven of them finished in the top ten at Boston.

If Boston’s elite field seems lopsided with Kenyans, that isn’t a
problem for the BAA. "I’ve heard comments over the years that it’d be
nice to have an American win again," says Morse. "But we’ve always
subscribed to the view that we should invite the best to be here,
wherever they’re from. I don’t think it’s a negative that the Kenyans
have continued to dominate." [Link]

No, it’s not a negative. But we really should give the non-Kenyans a fighting chance. I propose that we change the rules slightly:

1. All participants must run 26 miles. Kenyans must run all of them backwards.

2. All participants must wear running shoes. Kenyans must also wear ankle weights.

3. All participants must sign an injury waiver. Kenyans must also sign autographs along the route.

4. All participants may refresh themselves at the water stations. Kenyans must also stop at the Starbucks coffee station.

5. All participants must pass a drug test. Kenyans must also pass the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT).

I know what you’re thinking: The Kenyans would still win.

Photo by Stuart Atkins

If you enjoyed this piece, you'll love Melvin's novel Bala Takes the Plunge, available in North America through and You can also find it at major bookstores in India and Sri Lanka or online at FlipKart, IndiaPlaza, FriendsofBooks or other sites. A number of readers have written reviews of the novel. An excerpt of the novel can be read here.


  1. I did not get the joke on the MBE bar exam!

  2. Just trying to give them a test that would be harder to pass than the drug test. I’ll try changing it to “Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT).”

  3. Hilarious! But very close to reality. Kenyans do seem to rule the Marathon kingdom. I’d say along with ankle weights, they should also be made to wear Mughal Armour while running. Nah! That won’t make much of a difference either!

  4. My sister-in-law was a long distance runner. Came second at the Boston a few times. She was sponsored by Nike. I remember a classic ad she had for Nike. It showed a group of Kenyan runners – leading of course. And the caption? There are always more Kenyans.

  5. Your sister-in-law came second at Boston? That’s very impressive. She must have beaten a few Kenyans.

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