Is it true what they say about tall people being smarter? Do we live longer? Importantly, do we run faster than short folks? The answers aren’t as simple as yes or no!
The relationship between height and achievement has been explored for too many years to count and since I’m tall, I decided to put on my anthropology hat and unearth some facts, grabbing my tape measure, yardstick and measuring devices to forage amid the wilds of humanity.
Is biology destiny?
Leave it to the BBC to set me straight on a path of understanding when it comes to examining height differences among Brits. According to fact checking, tall political candidates are more likely to make it to No. 10 Downing Street than height-challenged opponents, and here’s good news if you’re tall like me: Supposedly, I’m going to make more money throughout my career than will my shorter running compatriots.
I’m not exactly in the league of Kenyan runners, but supposedly, my height predisposes me to be more dominant, healthy and smart. Gotta let my mum know this. Now.
I get serious about physicality
Pick a study of inquiry that asks respondents to rate tall over short men and women in the bedroom, and we beanpoles rule!
Supposedly, tall people are born with amazing prowess and while I’d touch upon the topic of the relationship between men’s feet and their penises, that popular myth has already been discounted. On the other hand, there’s no disputing this finding: long legs are an advantage simply because we cover more ground with each footfall.
But I was put in my place when I learned that being short is just as beneficial: with fewer nerve pulses in their bodies, the reaction times of nimble short folks are far superior to ours.
The downside of being tall
I’m a lifetime member of the Clumsy Club. It’s the bane of many tall people, but fact is, getting to the finish line with a world-shattering PB is likely to result in my tripping or colliding with someone or something, even when a medal is within my reach.
The reason is grounded in science: It’s harder to slow down and stop on a dime if you’re tall, which means our cuts and bruises tend to be more formidable than our shorter running partners who have less distance to fall!
It’s all about kinetic energy: tall people accumulate twice as much of it when tripping over our own feet.
Do tall runners live longer?
You didn’t expect all good news, right? Short people live longer than tall people as a general rule. The playing field is leveled somewhat by exercise, a healthy diet and an engaged social life, but even healthy tall runners tend to suffer more ailments and diseases than our short counterparts.
The reason for this is intriguing: tall people have more cells in their bodies and an increase in cells means more potential for them to go haywire. Since learning this, I’ve chatted up my cells and asked if some would vacate the premises, but they mocked me.
While recovering from this longevity blow, I learned that tall people are happier and enjoy life more. Yet another trade-off to consider.
No need to pout, runners of all heights!
There’s no ignoring statistics, but what’s not factored into the equation is that by taking up the sport we adore, a lot of that scientific evidence can be thrown out of a window.
Not only is running a pastime that allows us lots of control at any height (we can run when and where we like), but engaging in the sport make us more aware of our bodies, so we pay perpetual attention to what we eat, what we drink and we tend to be more parochial about the habits we know are bad for us. Further, tall people have a lower risk of coronary heart and respiratory diseases, so we already get off to a great biological start in life.
Win or lose, statistics matter
University of Florida psychologist Dr. Timothy A. Judge and his University of North Carolina contemporary Dr. Daniel M. Cable tackled a Herculean-size trial of Americans and Brits that followed 8,500 people over time tracking the maturation and development of short v. tall people over years.
There is no refuting data compiled during this longitudinal study because the universe of participants is so large and the time span so long: Tall people exhibit greater self-esteem and social confidence than short counterparts, two traits that serve runners well when we lose (graciously) and when we win (just as graciously).
We’ve got a club!
We’ve not only got a club, but we have conventions! Tall Club International was launched in the U.S. in 1938 to bring tall people together from across the globe and despite my thorough search, I can’t find a Short Club International that’s of equal stature.
I’m not a member of TCI, but if I got to America, I’d be happy to join, because this organization reminds me of the camaraderie and trust I share with my Singapore running colleagues.
We are the first to shake the hand of someone who beats us to the finish line. We volunteer to run the running club’s holiday party. And we generously share our time with new runners in need of guidance and help.
When it comes to the sport we all love, heart trumps height any day of the week.
What’s the biggest advantage you’ve found to being either a tall or a short runner? Can’t wait to read your responses!