All this contributes to the athleticism of the Burundians.
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4 years ago .
Bujumbura Peace Run held successfully
All this contributes to the athleticism of the Burundians.

I write this column from Burundi's mountainous province of Gitega, 102 kilometers from the country's capital Bujumbura.

This is close to Ruyiki province, home of Rio Olympics women's 800m silver medalist Francine Niyonsaba.

Climbing one of the hills here while on our way to the Gishora Cultural Center, I could see what made this stocky athlete a world class runner.

As I panted strugglng for breath, youngsters and even some of the elderly were light footed ascending hills. They were moving with very little difficulty.

This being their home ground they were of course better conditioned to what was to me a torturous terrain.

You could easily tell that these people's bodies were at ease in the steep hills. I could even see some elderly striding with ease while currying heavy loads of firewood.

It is all about living at high altitude. The body adjusts to the limited oxygen. With such abilities you become a star athlete at low altitude.

But before I go into details of what moulded Niyonsaba into a star athlete I think it is only proper for me to bring you up to abreast to what exactly I was doing in Burundi.

I was there for the Bujumbura Peace Run - an event aimed at fostering cohesion in the east African state.

Afrika Mashariki Feat, a youth group that uses art and sport to promote East African integration organised the run flagged off by President Pierre Nkurunziza.

After staging what was by all measures a very successful event  that drew close to 10000 people, we had a tour of various cultural sites in Gitega.

Gitega is found in the very middle of not only Burundi, but also Africa. It is home to the national museum and several other cultural sites.

It was while on one of the tours that I learnt that Niyonsaba hails from a nearby district. Up in the mountains the athleticism of the locals was clearly evident.

Even drumming, which is an international cultural event in Burundi is done with not only lots of skills and grace, but also power.

All this contributes to the athleticism of the Burundians.

Almost everywhere young boys and girls could be seen running uphill.

When it got the drumming, the children were as skilled as their parents whether young or elderly.

The drumming was punctuated by high jumps and somersaults- true marks of a very physically fit society.

What passes for elderly in some of these areas are people of 80 plus and even these are quite fit.

Apart from the physical fitness elders in some of these area can partly attribute their longevity to fresh food.

In many ways, this place reminded me of places like Kapchorwa, Kabale and Eldoret- hubs of long distance running talent.

A huge percentage of the stars that have won Kenya athletics medals are from Eldoret. It is the story for the Sebei region in Kampala.

But unlike Eldoret which has fully developed athletics facilities Burundi and Ugandan runners develop more by chance.