2005 • $25.00 • 272 pp • paper
There has been speculation, but no definitive answer, as to why many of the world’s fastest middle and long distance runners are from Kenya. Most of the fastest runners in Kenya come from only a few of the 42 tribes, and, amazingly, several sub-tribes account for a sizeable portion of those. “The Kenyans,” as they are frequently called, are not homogenous, but have tremendous cultural diversity. Peak performance requires unique biological, cultural, and psychological factors.
Mayes argues that, at this juncture in history, Kenyans have the necessary components required to excel in professional running. He breaks down each of these components and analyzes them and their interrelationships with other disciplines. He also includes external factors such as Westernization, globalization, and modernization. Mayes’ methodology is unique, as he uses a cybernetic model called an ethnosystem.
With many misunderstandings about how Kenyans see and do things, there still remains a great need for education about Kenyan culture. A number of disciplines remain fertile areas for discussion in relation to Kenyan running. Among those are new science, psychological anthropology, belief and knowledge systems, African philosophy, sociobiology, and social Darwinism. Mayes also addresses hurdles to acquiring the necessary knowledge, including taboos, religious fundamentalism, scientific and institutional dogma, and ethnocentrisms.