Why Do Jamaicans Run So Fast

Jamaicans are the Fastest runners

"Why do Jamaicans run so fast?" is the question on a lot of people's minds because at the 2012 Olympic Games in London England Sprinters from Jamaica dominated the track and made it look quite easy. A single country dominating a particular sport is certainly not new. American have been the ones who have dominated Olympic track and field for the past 40 years or more. What is astonishing about the rise of Jamaican athletics is the fact Jamaica only has a population of approx. 3 million people to vet from while the population of the US is 300 million.

So, why are Jamaicans able to run so fast? There has been several untruths and misconceptions floating around, none of which has had any validity. Being a Jamaican myself I have good insight as to why our athletes have risen to prominence. It has to do with our diet, our Athletic Traditions, and just plain determination. Hopefully after reading this you will have a better understanding of Jamaica’s sporting culture.

As stated before there are several misconceptions about Jamaican athletics. Some of them involve drugs and doping but the percentage of actual proven cases of doping is minuscule compared to the very high profile cases of other countries. Perhaps the most controversial lie that has been floating around is that Jamaicans were genetically bread to be good athletes as a result of Slavery.

It is said that in the 1700s during the hay day of slavery slave owners bread strong slaves by picking the biggest and strongest among the slaves and used them to sire bigger and stronger slaves with as many women as possible, similar to the siring of Horses. First of all if that were true Jamaicans would be the most physically prominent and strongest Black people in the world today.

The truth is slavery in Jamaica was a very turbulent affair for the British. There were large groups of Africans who took over their slave ships before they docked. Once on land, these Africans known as the Maroons set up camps deep in the hills and forests of Jamaica and ran regular raids against the plantations, freeing other slaves to bolster their ranks. The descendants of the Maroons are still in Jamaica today while the Spirits of other brave Africans who died fighting slavery still live on in our hearts and minds to strengthen our will.

Reasons why Jamaicans run so fast

The real reasons why Jamaicans run so fast for one is our Diet. We traditionally eat natural unprocessed nutrient rich fruits and vegetables. These foods are fruits and vegetables such as; Yellow Yams, Green Bananas, Plantains, Dasheen, Cocoe, Watercress, Collaloo as well as naturally grown meats and fishes. We like to make our own high energy drinks from vegetables and other medicinal herbs. These drinks are designed to improve stamina and we give them appropriate names like; Strong Back, Baba Roots, Irish Moss, High Step 12, Magnum, Vigor, and Front End Lifter.

Jamaica has such a rich athletic tradition that even a baby is encouraged to run before he or she is able to walk. As a child, when you are sent to the store you run or you will get in trouble for taking too long. When you are going to school you run because if you are late you will get a detention. Our two main sports, Soccer and Cricket involve a lot of running so getting and staying in shape is a must. There are numerous school competitions as well the rise of amateur sport which has inspired more and more youth to get into sport to improve their lives as Jamaica has very little in the way of economic opportunity.

Finally, Jamaicans are a very determined people. We feel that we are the best at whatever we put our minds to. That determination translates into a very competitive spirit. When we are faced with hardship we co-opt different aspects of our culture such as strong religious beliefs or music that is rhythmic and rich with conscious reinforcements to help us accomplish our goals. If you observe Usian Bolt before his races you will see him bopping his head to a beat that he has playing in his head. That beat is no doubt a hard driving Dancehall tune such as “I’m So Special” by Movado that he will use to power himself to the finish line.

Yes, Jamaica is a very small country but we are feisty in spirit. Hopefully you have gained some insights into how and why we are able to run so fast. Jamaica to the world!

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Comments 13 comments

CyclingFitness profile image

CyclingFitness 4 years ago from Nottingham UK

I struggle to agree that diet is a pinciple reason for Jamaican success as a huge number of other nations have an un-processed diet.

Having read a number of scientific studies there is a strong foundation that the slaves on the ships that arrived in Jamaica were the strongest genetically and this does appear to be a defining factor and not a lie as you state. The slaves weren't bred to be athletes but were the strongest physically in being able to survive the arduous journeys across from West Africa.

mintinfo profile image

mintinfo 4 years ago Author

Scientific studies? So by your rational American slaves should be even more athletic and dominant in every sport. They were in slavery longer and were subject to more brutality. Or maybe there was too much slave master siring going on. When people bring too much scientific reasoning into things they end up confounded.

Jamaica is largely economically deprived and athletics is a way of getting ahead. These athletes are basically pushing their physical abilities to the limit out of sheer determination.

We are not lazy people who wake up one day and say "hey I'm going to run fast" and we break records a week later. We train hard and make many sacrifices.

Here is some scientific reasoning for you. African people possess good athletic ability because of the effects of melatonin on cell recuperation.

CyclingFitness profile image

CyclingFitness 4 years ago from Nottingham UK

Jamaica was one of the last stops on the boats for slaves being transported across from West Africa. There have been numerous anthropology studies which have concluded that the migration has led to certain physical characteristics which lead towards sporting performance in certain events. Coincidently it has also led to other negative health issues within the Jamaican genetic code such as increased risk of diabetes.

I'm not sure how it corresponds with regards to the black population of the USA that has been descendants of slaves however it's likely that long term inter-breeding between a diverse population may have actually watered down such a genetic characteristic but that question would have to be asked to a North American anthropology specialist however it has been quoted that a superior west african gene is present through some North American and Caribbean athletes- http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2167064/Lo...

Like it or not the right scientific studies give solid answers to the questions people ask. Scientific reasoning is very finite and reasoned. If you choose to make other inferences then that is your decision but in my mind science helps to provide facts.

There was a recent fascinating recent documentary by the legendary American runner Michael Johnson regarding why Jamaicans are fast runners which is definitely worth watching. It's called 'Survical of the fastest' and it interviews a large number of specialists on the subject and is a fascinating watch. Sadly it's no longer available to watch in the UK due to licensing of online programmes. It's on youtube- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lQnMr-IW_iw but is banned from UK viewing due to the license

mintinfo profile image

mintinfo 4 years ago Author

Many geneticists might argue that the time period of two to three generations is not sufficient for a genetic trend to alter the dna coding of Humans. Upon discovering gene manipulation in plants and animals since the 1700s Europeans have no doubt been engaging in selective breeding themselves.

I believe in science too but the problem with science is discoveries are not made unless you go looking for them. Theorize-experiment-discover. Einstein said "if the facts don't fit the theory, change the facts". At some point there will be another country that rises to prominence in athletics because Jamaicans will become complacent. We are not naïve to think otherwise.

randslam profile image

randslam 4 years ago from Kelowna, British Columbia

Okay, the first thing is that slavery has nothing to do with it...gawd...how primitive do we wish to be. That would be "Eugenics" and quite frankly the Africans caught and put into slavery were the slow ones...the quick ones got away...ergo, that theory is dead.

Secondly, the unprocessed diet makes for a very good argument. I, too, was raised on natural milk, honey, butter, etc., etc...good health, strong constitution...can lift a truck and hit like one too...I weigh in at 250...only look like 200. Good diet...strong bones...big muscles...run like the wind.

A better argument is that over the course of thousands of years Jamaicans have been forced to exercise the "fight or flight" rationale...and chose "flight"...to run like the wind and developed strong muscle and bone.

Thirdly, once a nation focuses on one particular sport...that would be to "run like the wind." Each succeeding generation times their progress and learns how to run faster.

Americans could give a shit about running...they are allllllll fat...except for those who have learned that being a professional athlete in America can make you rich.

It has little to do with a population of 3 million versus 340 million--it has to do with desire--more than anything. Jamaicans want it...Americans eat it...they hardly have time to shoot it these days...they can just go to the drive thru and order it on a plastic, toxic tray...processed foods? The Devil's diet...trust me...I puke every time I eat a Big Mac...that hasn't happened for over a decade...I'm 50...slow learner.

mintinfo profile image

mintinfo 4 years ago Author

Well said randslam. Its good to know that you are eating healthy. Ironically though, many fast food companies are expanding their operations in Jamaica. Soon no one will care for growing their own foods and will go to KFC and McDonalds to ruin their health. Our rise in athletic prowess could be short lived.

randslam profile image

randslam 4 years ago from Kelowna, British Columbia

Now that would be very sad on the evolutionary plane for Jamaicans...reverse evolution...reverse-olution...ugh. Run away, Jamaicans...run away...as you have been doing for thousands of years. A wise move...fighting only brings bruises and distrust...flight allows one to live another day.

McDonald's and KFC may not even give you one more minute...heart attacks can be instantaneous...with nowhere to run...only fall back to the plane where fat mortals can hardly walk.

mintinfo profile image

mintinfo 4 years ago Author

Very humorous, Thanks

nat turner 61 4 years ago

Yada Yada yada, Jamacians have been a little bit faster for maybe 10 years, Their speed problally translate to the same speed as a lot of other carib countries and usa blacks. and as far as that ,that africa gene people talk about seems to originate from a specefic area in africa only, niger delta region, lowland like ghana and nigeria and ivorycoast etc,Also, youth in usa gravitate toward other sports at which are very physical and might impede their best speed. Its might be true also that

as usa blacks mix more with other ethnics, that speed gene might be decreasing unlike jamacia which has basically same gene pool. Even still there are unawnsered questions, why don't nigeria and ghana do better. why are english nigerians doing better than nigerians, why don't english jamaicans equlal their kin folk. don't brazil have this ghana and nigerian gene or not, or do their best worry about the national love of futbol. I have a feeling that Jamacia lack of professional futbol and other major sport stars might be a factor

randslam profile image

randslam 4 years ago from Kelowna, British Columbia

Nice comment, Nat...not quite racist, but close enough.

mintinfo profile image

mintinfo 4 years ago Author

Yes most West Africans are similar in size and physique to Caribbeans. Professional training goes a long way in giving an edge to Jamaicans and American Blacks. Thanks for your input.

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DavidL 3 years ago

I never knew Jamaicans play soccer until I joined a league where the players are mostly Jamaican. And yeah, give me the same food or whatever they are eating. They are freakishly fast, strong and big. And I played with black players from Africa. They are not all like this physically.

Tom 2 years ago

Please face the impact of genetics.

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