Cornell Anthropology alumnus Andrew J. Arnold III was awarded a National Geographic Young Explorers grant in support of his proposed project “The Enculturated Champion - A Holistic Analysis of the Kenyan Distance Running Phenomenon.” This project seeks to explore Kenyan distance running, which over the past 50 years has become a global athletic phenomenon. Kenyan athletes have bested the world’s top runners and records with such frequency that it begs the question as to how these performances are even possible. At this project’s core is the notion that training is the key to understanding Kenyan distance running and its global success. Using ethnographic techniques and a holistic analysis, the project will unpack the questions surrounding Kenyan running by actively engaging in its training and its culture. The project will demonstrate how training is itself a form of ritual, one that magnifies the effects of culture on the athlete; a relationship that can potentially enhance an individual’s inherent physical abilities. From this anchor point, the project will expand to analyze and observe the various kinship and social structures that foster this training culture, perpetuate it, and ultimately ensure that this Kenyan athletic phenomenon endures.
Arnold is currently in Kenya and he reports that "Everything is going great." He has been able to build a wonderful network of athletes and coaches, including Asbel Kiprop (2008 Olympic Gold Medalist), David Rudisha (2012 Olympic Gold Medalist and World Record Holder), and Florence Kiplagat (Half-Marathon World Record Holder). "These elite athletes, as well as countless amateurs, coaches and agents, have provided me with a great foundation to build a fitting ethnography for understanding the world’s greatest athletic culture," said Arnold.
National Geographic Young Explorers Grants offer opportunities to individuals ages 18 to 25 to pursue research, conservation, and exploration-related projects consistent with National Geographic's existing grant programs.
While at Cornell, Arnold studied Cultural Anthropology and was the Captain of the Cornell Track and Field team. Visit Andy Arnold's website to learn more www.TheEnculturatedChampion.org.