How Much Is Enough?

In 2003 and early 2004, in the months leading up to the Athens Olympic games, Kenya's Paul Tergat was obsessed with winning an Olympic marathon title. Tergat was one of the best runners in history and held the world marathon record, but his two Olympic medals were silver, and a marathon gold would have secured his legacy among the best ever. After all, at that point no Kenyan had ever won an Olympic marathon title, despite the country's dominance in non-championship races like the Boston Marathon. (Hard to believe, isn't it?)

Blogs_RyanHall_06222011Among other things, Tergat was a legendarily hard worker, and to prepare for the race he decided to out-train his competition. Through the spring and summer of 2004, he often trained three times a day, at times running as much as 190 miles per week (some news reports said 200). Most pro marathoners log between 120 and 140 miles per week, and, outside of Kenya, few marathoners run more than twice per day.

Somehow, the work did not pay off. In Athens, Tergat struggled home four minutes behind winner Stefano Baldini in tenth place. Of the nine men who beat Tergat, only three were legitimately world class, and only Baldini had ever finished ahead of him in a marathon before. The result wasn't exactly an upset—Olympic marathons are famous in their unpredictability—but neither did it entirely make sense. Tergat was the best runner in the race, and he had trained the hardest.

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