Why Nepal Should Develop Long-Distance Runners?

Why Nepal Should Develop Long-Distance Runners?

March 19, 2018, 12:03 p.m.

It would not be wholly inaccurate to suggest that Nepal has a large void to fill in the discipline of sports. Despite gaining limited success in cricket, we have yet to have a team or an individual who is at an elite level in a sport. Mira Rai is an exception to this as the ultra-runner has numerous victories at the international stage against elite competition and her success can be replicated. There are several established conditions that would allow Nepalese people to be very successful in long distance running events.

Firstly, Nepalese people possess the physique that would allow them to be more successful in long-distance running. The average Nepalese male stands at around 163cm (5’4) whilst the average female around 151cm (5’). These figures are both lower than the global average. And being shorter is an advantage when it comes to long-distance running. Having a smaller frame means that you weigh less therefore less energy is expended in carrying a heavier frame. This would allow a shorter runner to run more efficiently and allow the energy to be used during the latter parts of the race. Great runners also possess short stature as Haile Gebrselassie (164cm,5’5) and Kenenisa Bekele (167cm, 5’6) both have accomplished a great amount in the sport.

Diet also plays a major role in the development of an elite athlete. Professional athletes hire nutritionists to ensure they have the optimal diet to help them become successful. Carbohydrates is the primary source of energy and long-distance runners often consume as much carbohydrate rich food as possible in the build up to a race (carbo-loading). Kenya has been very successful in developing long distance runners such as the likes of Asbel Kiprop, David Rudisha and Lornah Kiplagat and this can be partly contributed to their diet. The staple food of Kenya is named “ugali” which is made from boiling maize flour until it is thick and then served with vegetables and meat. This is almost identical to our traditional food of "Dhindo" which is also made from flour and cooked in boiling water. Furthermore, another staple food of Nepal, rice, is also an excellent source of carbohydrates which is essential for a long-distance runner.

Nepal has a premier advantage over the rest of the world when it comes to developing long-distance runners. Nepal is second only to Bhutan in terms of average elevation above sea-level and this is highly beneficial towards the development of an endurance athlete. Higher levels of elevation lead to a reduced partial pressure of oxygen meaning that there are less oxygen molecules present. To combat this human body adapts and slowly increases the amount of red blood cells. This is beneficial to a long-distance runner as the increase in red blood cells leads to more oxygen molecules being transported to respiring tissues during a strenuous race. The population of Nepal has acclimatised to conditions with less oxygen and training at these altitudes will only improve this. Kenyan and Ethiopian athletes also share this advantage as they too have regions in their countries which are at high altitude such as Iten (2400m) and Addis Ababa (2355m).  Nepal has an average elevation of around 3200m which will be very beneficial to develop endurance athletes.

Producing successful long-distance runners will also result in other long-term benefits for Nepal. If athletes compete at high levels such as the Olympics or the World Championships, this would raise the morale of the country as it would give the people someone to cheer for. Furthermore, the success of our long-distance runners would also be very attractive to athletes abroad. Almost all elite runners travel to Kenya or Ethiopia to train at high altitude on an annual basis and Nepal could be another destination on their list. Elite athletes have big name sponsors such as Nike, Adidas and Puma and if they decide to train in Nepal it would do wonders for the local community.



Raunak Mainali final.jpg

Raunak Mainali

Raunak Is an undergraduate student at the University of Kent and also the vice president of Kent Athletics and cross country.

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