“Paul Tergat: Running To The Limit” by Jurg Wirz
This book was published in 2005 by Meyer & Meyer Sport (UK) Ltd. Obviously, the book is about the life, training “secrets” of Paul Tergat and his tips for runners for them to excel and adhere to running as a way of life.
He was not yet a runner when he entered the military service in 1990. With his assignment in Nairobi’s Air Force Base, he started to run with a big group around the Air Force Base with a distance of 15 kilometers in the morning and sometimes running also in the evening on a daily basis. In one of their inter-unit running events, although he finished far behind the leaders, a coach was impressed on his running form. The coach invited him to the training camp where the “top guns” are preparing for three months for the Armed Forces Cross Country Championships. He managed to finish third in the said event. After two months, he won the National Cross Country Championships and he was on the top of the Kenyan running scene at the age of 22 years old. And the rest is history.
He set the World Record in 10,000 meters in 1997 with a time of 26:27.85 minutes; World Record in Half-Marathon in 1998 with a time of 59:17 minutes; and a World record in Marathon in 2003 with a time of 2:04:55 hours. Epic rivalry in the 10,000-meter run between Haile Gabrselassie and Paul Tergat had been displayed during the 1996 & 2000 Summer Olympics and in the 1995, 1997, & 1999 World Championship where he won the Silver Medals on these events.
It is unfortunate that he was not able to win any Gold Medal in the Olympic Games within the span of his running career. He tried his best to train for the 2004 Athens Olympics’ Marathon but things did not turn out within his expectations as he finished #10.
Paul Tergat mentioned his roots and the poverty prevailing in his country which he considers as the number one “motivator” for them to excel in long distance running. There are other reasons why the Kenyans excel in long distance running but on how he refined his competitiveness and being on top among the elites in the world were mentioned in detail in his book through his training and tips.
What is most significant in this book is how the international corporate shoe brands helped to finance and support the establishment of “training camps” for runners in Kenya aside from the traditional Armed Forces “training camps” for the military elite runners. With the support and guidance of their Italian Coach Gabriele Rosa, the Kenyan runners were able to train for the best in long distance running.
Obviously, Paul Tergat is already rich and famous even without winning a Gold Medal in the Olympic Games. He is now an athletics promoter for running events in the eastern part of Kenya which is considered as the driest and poorest part of the country. With the support of a corporate food brand, he is bringing the awareness of running to the “grassroot” level to develop more competitive runners. He is a philanthropist and a member of the IAAF Athlete’s Commission.
There are two things that we could learn from this book. In order for the country to excel in long distance running, there is a need for a dedicated corporate support for the athletes and the establishment of “training camps” to continously develop athletes to elite status and at the same time, discover potentials from the grassroot level. It happened already in the past and it had been proven to be successful. It easy to say it. We know the supposedly “secrets” of the Kenyans and the Ethiopians but nobody is doing about it in an organized manner. When will our sports officials ever learn and put the sports “money” where it is supposed to be? I am still wondering what is happening to our elite sports program and sustainable “grassroots” program.
This book is a nice reference if you want to train like the Kenyans in long distance running.
(Note: This is a part of this blog’s program/project to feature at least one book about running every week which started with the book, “Once A Runner”. Due to the “back-to-back” BDM Races for the past weeks, I was not able to publish this post as scheduled.)