Mark your calendars: You only have 363 days to train for Bloomsday 2011! But, how would you feel if you knew that no matter how hard you trained, you probably couldn't get much faster? That's what we found out when we asked, "Why are some people just faster than others?"They make it look so easy; once again, the Kenyan runners dominated the Bloomsday race, never breaking stride even when heading up the dreaded Doomsday Hill. All this, while the rest of us struggled just to keep the pace with last year's time. If you trained and hoped for a personal best this year only to be disappointed, we understand.
"The elite runners are some of best in the world," says Dr. P.Z. Pearce. "Then, you have the other 49,000 people out there who are just out to have fun."Dr. Pearce trains and studies world-class athletes and weekend warriors. We asked: why are some people just faster than others? It all comes down to muscle fiber."You have two muscle fiber types. There's type one, red slow-twitch fiber. There's type two, white fast-twitch fiber," says Dr. Pearce. "Everyone is a combination of those types."Here's what that means: If you have more type one, red fiber, you are generally slower. But, you can run longer distances because you burn fat. If you have more type two, white fiber, you can run faster, but not for quite as long because you burn sugar instead of fat. You're born with it - and, there's really nothing you can do to change it."Your potential is really genetic," explains Dr. Pearce. "I've always said, great athletes are born, they're not made."And, some are made better than others. The top nine men Sunday were all Kenyans."A lot of people say the Kenyans are fast because they run everywhere," says Dr. Pearce. "That's not true. They run everywhere because they can. They're genetic mutants. They have type-two fiber because they're very fast. Their type-two fiber can actually burn fat. And, most of us can't."That means they can run entire marathons at Bloomsday speeds without the painful buildup of lactic acid. But, the dominance may soon be over."What's really interesting is their children won't be as fast as they are. Because they are traveling the world and inter-marrying with people who don't have the same genetic gift," says Dr. Pearce.Does that mean my son, who finished his first Bloomsday in two hours and twenty minutes, will one day be able to be the Kenyans? Probably not. But, maybe his great-grandkids will have a shot.