‘Tall order’ for Nyahururu athletes

Thursday, September 29th, 2022 05:40 | By
Nyahururu athletes
One of the shortest athletes Naomi Njiiri (right) training with a colleague at the Nyahururu stadium last week. PD/ DAVID MACHARIA

A keen observer noted that a certain group of athletes kept trailing the queue during speed work training at the Nyahururu stadium yesterday.

The observer also commented that this group had one thing in common – they were all short.

Could their height be a factor on why they keep trailing their colleagues during training?

Do their short strides make them feel disadvantaged during races?

PD Sport talked to some of the concerned athletes and coaches for an insight on this silent issue, considering that physical stature is what most coaches look for before deciding which distance is suitable for a new comer athlete.

Quick pace

“We don’t feel disadvantaged at all because we have developed our own quick pace to keep up with our long legged colleagues. When a taller athlete uses a lot of energy to make one big stride, I make two quick ones to keep up with her but I use less energy in the process,” Susan Wanjiru, one of the short athletes with small body size, proudly argues.

“I can run for longer period without getting tired compared to a tall athlete,” Wanjiru added. Naomi Njiiri concurs with Wanjiru saying their short steps ensure they don’t use a lot of energy lifting their legs when racing. Wanjiru and Naomi said their tall colleagues use a lot of energy lifting they legs in a circular form.

The two say dvantage of height is clearly visible when going up an inclined section of competition.

“I am better when going up an inclined route than my tall colleagues because I will remain upright when my tall colleague is bending forward,” Wanjiru said.

Experienced athletics coach, Joseph Ngure said short athletes are better suited for long distance races “because their contact with the ground is quick and fast” which gives them advantage over their tall colleagues.

Ngure, who together with a Catholic Missionary Colm O’Connell started holiday camps training for junior athletes at St Patrick High School in Iten; a move that saw the area turned into an athletics powerhouse, gave examples of athletes like Vivian “Pocket Rocket” Cheruiyot who took advantage of their short height go far in athletics.

Coach Jacob Lang’at of Nyahururu Athletics Club said short athletes have strong lower back which makes them hardy for long distance running and particularly road races.

Francis Kamau who coaches athletes at the Nyahururu based Esmi Club said they don’t give special coaching to these short athletes but train them together with the tall colleagues so “that they develop and maintain their own pace.”

The coaches agreed that, just like in the old days, middle distance events still favour tall athletes.

They said the short athletes trail during speed work training because the laps are short, thus favouring tall athletes.

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