Why is Jamaica so Good at Running?

Archive 2008.

Somebodyisfromhere.com loves the U.S of fricken’ A. The only problem is that he has a guilt streak in him. It ain’t exactly white man’s guilt. It’s something more of an Imperialist guilt. He doesn’t exactly take joy in beating up the little guys on the sporting field. Hell, during the Olympics he really only feels good about beating the Russians or the Chinese because they actually have populations (those Commies!). The three nation’s have different priorities, though, and the only thing all three really compete in, off the top of his head, is gymnastics. Fricken’ gymnastics.

Somebodyisfromhere.com doesn’t take interest in the anomaly all that much, either. That once in a lifetime athlete from bumblefart who takes on all comers and beats them to smithereens. Nope. Boring. Their stories are all the same. Daddy didn’t love them. Daddy left. Daddy pushed them too hard. Daddy bought them whatever they needed. Whatever. Besides they probably train in California.

No, Somebodyisfromhere.com likes the big fricken’ underdog who doesn’t take anything from anybody. He likes the underdog with a chip on their shoulder and when one guy gets reckoned with there are three more people who have his back behind him.

That’s why Somebodyisfromhere.com likes Jamaica. Jamaica finished with 11 medals in the Olympics in Beijing. That was good for the 20th best country grouped with the likes of Kazakhstan and Poland. All of Jamaica’s were in Track & Field, however which makes them considerably more interesting than Kazakhstan’s weightlifting dominance and Poland’s mix of things including: rowing, fencing, artistic gymnastics, and mountain biking.

It may very well be arbitrary to say what sport is more interesting. Sure, Somebodyisfromhere.com likes track. He ran track as a kid. In his defense, though Somebodyisfromhere.com was a god awful runner. Somebodyisfromhere.com’s coach would actually say, “Sprinters go over there, long distance people over there, (Somebodyisfromhere.com), well, go wherever you want.”

Still Jamaica finishing 20th in anything at all is impressive in the mathematical sense. They are 139th in the world in population. Not to mention that Pam from The Office described Jamaica by saying, “It’s kind of an impoverished country.” True enough. The CIA World Factbook states it has the 120th best gross domestic product.

The fact remains. Those Jamaicans can run. The Olympics may be the grandest stage, but this week Usain Bolt set another world record in Germany.

So Somebodyisfromhere.com decided to ask Wellesley Gayle, creator of www.my-island-jamaica.com, what makes them so good. While creating his own site about his country, Gayle has obviously demonstrated his love for his homeland and when asked to answer some questions, he responded with the stereotypical politeness associated with the country in things like the Red Stripe commercials and the movie Cool Runnings.

He said, “Yes! I’d be elated to assist you. After all, I love doing that, sharing information about my country.”

So, I asked Mr. Gayle simply why Jamaicans are such good runners. He said, “Some say we are just a blessed country, and that is the only reason; others claim it has to be the food, still, others theorize that it is just the infrastructure, while others hold firm that it is our sporting culture and competitive Jamaican spirit.”

He continued, “What do I say? All of them! However, I would point out quickly to you that in terms of infrastructure, we really have nothing compared to many of the other countries that we compete with. It is perhaps the sheer joy and love of the sport that allows us to reap what we have, from the little that we have. We are passionate about athletics! We love to run!”

More than anything, it seems to Somebodyisfromhere.com to be a matter of mindset. The Jamaicans take so much pride in the sport. Take, for example, race day. Gayle said, ”A huge television is mounted at my workplace and everyone has a schedule of the races, none is missed. You should see the activity before and after the races.

“Big screens are also mounted in some public areas around the country, and the local TV stations cover that too – simultaneously showing the races in Berlin as well as the public locations. As you can imagine, those places go haywire when we win.”

This mindset translates into culture, as well. When asked to name the top sports of Jamaica he said, “Sprints, Football, Cricket, Netball, then Others.” Not only did Gayle give it the top spot, but where as Somebodyisfromhere.com would refer to their number one sport as track or running, Gayle implies it’s all about the short distance race.

While some American employers try to improve workplace morale with sports tickets to corporate seats to a big league club, Gayle recently had a ”sports day at work” in which they sprinted. Gayle proudly finished second in the 50m and the 100m.

Gayle was very gracious with his time and his love for his country is apparent. In the end it’s hard to argue with what he told Somebodyisfromehere.com when he concluded, “Sports is the heart of Jamaican culture.”

The famous Rick's Cafe in Negril.

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