Fittest Real Athletes – Alan Horton

Alan Horton     Photo: photograph by Jake Chessum

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Work, kids, 99-cent value meals we know how the fitness excuses can pile up. That's why we've assembled our second annual class of Outside's Fittest (Real) Athletes: five wickedly overscheduled Americans who haven't let hectic careers or a lack of sponsorship keep them off the podium. And their secrets are simpler than you think.

Alan Horton

Most top runners are sponsored or have flexible schedules students, waiters, coaches that can be tailored to running. Not Horton. He's a 40-to-50-hour-a-week accountant for a trucking company. A former mid-pack collegiate runner, he got serious about marathon training in 2006 by studying other runners and cramming 100 miles per week into his limited free time. (He was also putting in 15 hours a week after work as a tuition adviser at a nonprofit.) In the 2006 Chicago Marathon, Horton's first, he ran a 2:21:58 fast enough to qualify for the Olympic Trials. In April 2008, he ran Boston in 2:25:14, finishing eighth among all Americans and 25th overall.

"Running has to be everything and nothing at the same time. You've got to have balance. You can't just wake up, stretch, run, take a nap, and run again. You've got to go to work and do your regular routine, and running is at the back of your mind. But it's there. Once you've satisfied your duties, the day is yours. You need to be a stickler for planning, having a calendar, setting small goals. I'd plan my season in Excel, and if I had a conflict I'd know in advance. I'm not talented, but I work hard. I had some potential in college, but I never reached it. It left me hungry. It's about turning something that looks like failure into something that motivates you." KEY TIP: "Stubbornness is not a bad thing. Sometimes you have to miss that social event or activity. But that's why there's downtime. Make the most of it."

Pennsylvania Kid T-shirt ($50) from Glad Rags by Give and Take; Mini Stripe Buttonfront Shirt ($145) from Converse by John Varvatos; 501 Original Jeans ($60) by Levi's; Chuck Taylor All-Star Slip ($95) by Converse

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