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Brown University

Publication Date

Fall 2009

Program Name

Kenya: Development, Health, and Society


Past years have proven Kenyans dominant in the sport of athletics. Today, runners from the Rift Valley win more major middle- and long-distance running events than those from any other nation in the world. Although athletics is not the most lucrative of sports, modern marketing has resulted in creating a sport with various financial incentives. These include prize money, sponsorships, and the opportunity for a new life. However, runners from rural agricultural backgrounds find it very difficult to translate their athletic talent into dollars at the finish line. This study examines the economic prospects for young male runners from Kapsabet and the surrounding areas. It asks the question: how effectively is Kenya’s athletic resource being extracted? In turn, how can this famous comparative advantage be directed in order to most effectively benefit a runner, his family, and his community? The entire paper constantly revisits the background of these runners that is centered in a subsistence-based socioeconomy, with a huge emphasis on communalism. In the section entitled “Discussion, Findings, and Analysis”, I make it clear that the economic forecast for the Kenyan running project looks bleak, both in the short-term and the long-term, even if some individual athletes see tremendous rewards. However, I offer some substantial, basic, and concrete solutions that might enhance the financial prospects for athletics in the Rift Valley, and specifically in Kapsabet. This paper stands as a resource both for people genuinely interested in finding out what is behind these runners featured on television AND for people traveling to Kenya who need a basic “road map” on runners or for places like Kapsabet. Finally, this long essay is a perfect starting point for more in-depth study into either athletics in Kenya OR rural agronomics in the Rift Valley. Hope you enjoy!


Sociology | Work, Economy and Organizations


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