When it comes to distance running, Africans and Europeans have different philosophies, according to world-renowned sports scientist Tim Noakes.

 

He told the AIMS Congress at Durban that Europeans race for time or distance, while Africans raced to win.

 

In a fascinating and wide-ranging address, Prof Noakes said physiology only partly explained why African runners were so dominant in marathons.

 

Africans tended to be smaller and lighter than Europeans, with considerable muscle strength, which allowed them to run faster.  The less time a runner’s foot is in contact with the ground and the more it is in the air, the faster a runner will move.

However, the brain was the crucial organ for running success, he said.  Sub-4-minute-miler Roger Bannister was the first to acknowledge this in 1954.

 

It is the brain’s control over the body - how it informs and manages both our physical responses and our mental desire and motivation which makes it crucial to performance.  

 

Every stride sends messages to the brain for analysis and response and no two strides are the same, Prof Noakes said.

 

Self-belief was also critical – another function of the brain.

 

“All you have to do is want it enough, then go and do it,” he told the Congress.

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