The African domination of marathons in India continues. Ethiopia’s Girma Assefa and Koren Jelila Yal posted record timings (2: 9: 54 and 2: 26: 56) for the men’s and women’s crowns, respectively, at the Mumbai Marathon. The 2010 Delhi half-marathon last November was won by Kenya’s Geoffrey Mutai and Ethiopia’s Aselefech Mergia.
What do Africans eat that makes them such gods of distance running? Not animal blood, as some suggest. In most cases, they consume a local version of carbohydrates. Ethiopians eat injera, a staple bread made from the cereal teff. Injera is spongy, a bit like utappam, and is had with fish or meat stew.
Runners from Kenya, who ruled the men’s fray in Mumbai for six years before Assefa’s surge, depend on ugali. Made from maize flour, it is the most consumed food in Kenya. “Ugali is an important part of my diet,” says John Kelai, twice winner of the Mumbai Marathon. The Moroccans have couscous.
When regional varieties are not available, they fall back on carb staples like pasta and rice. Ethiopian star Deriba Merga, a winner of the Boston Marathon, is known to have rice and plain pasta together.
What about animal blood? Kenyan Simson Imareng laughs, “When you go to a big ceremony, there might be animal blood. You take a taste.”
How does it taste? “Funny.”