Most of the Peruvian elite runners hail from two cities - Huancayo - located at 3,271m above sea level and Puno, on Lake Titicaca at even higher - 3,830m above sea level. It never gets hot in these areas, because of the altitude. The caveat is that sunlight tends to be intense, so eye protection is necessary. Premature degeneration of the cornea is common in these regions.
Former Mexican great - Rodolfo Gomez - has been doing a great job in Peru for the past two years, re vamping the system and instilling good training conditions in the Huancayo region. He has been well rewarded by the Peru Federation for Athletics.
In Rotterdam, last Sunday - Christian Mendoza, from Huancayo (a mestizo) finished 8th in 2:12:16, and his fellow Huancayo city teammate - R.Huaman, finished 10th in 2:13:26. Huaman is a native Quechua culture person and Quechua first language speaker, which bears absolutely no connection to the Spanish language - the language of their (Peruvian people) Conquistadores.
In the women's race in Rotterdam - Yucra - from the very high city of Puno, on the shores of Lake Tititcaca - finished an excellent 4th in 2;31:34. Yucra is a also an ethnic Quechua person, and uses Quechua as her first language. These are very simple, unassuming people - who will lift mountains for Gomez. Gomez tried training the athletes in Lima, the capital, but the Peruvians there have become too soft. The way to go is to recruit the High Andes natives, preferably Quechua culture people - who have a very good work ethic and morals.
These highland Peruvian runners are not blessed with great speed, but they have superb endurance, of course thanks to living at altitudes of 3500m or above all their lives. These altitudes are considerably higher than Iten (around 2300m) and Addis Abeba, not to mention the lower atlitudes of Ngong Hills, Nairobi, which is situated around 1600m. They tend to be around the same height as Japanese runners, but slightly more chunky, because of the more muscular aspect of their physiques. They typically range in height from 1.60 - 1.65m - men, and 1.50 - 1.60 - women, with weight - 10 - 15kg lower than their heights in centimeters, giving them BMIs in the 19 - 20 range. Gomez can bring a 29:30-30:30 male (10km) runner to the level of 2:10 - 2:12 in the marathon. For women, the base 10km speed of 34:00 can produce times in the 2:26 - 2:30 range.
There are pros and cons to the high altitudes. At the Peruvian elevations, top speed quality work on the track is compromised, by the high altitude, but at the same time, the continuous production of 'globules rouges' is a positive factor for the marathon.
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