Paul Tergat’s Book: Running To The Limit

“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.

Cover Page of Paul Tergat's Book (Photo Courtesy of Google)

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.

Tergat's WR Time in Marathon (Photo From Google)
Epic Rivalry Between Haile & Paul in the 10,000-Meter of the 1996 & 2000 Summer Olympic Games (Photo From Google)

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.)


“He Who Trains Hardest Wins”

This is how the Kenyans see why they are winning in most of the Marathon and other long distance Races worldwide. This is the very same attitude I want to impart to the elite runners who are under the Team Bald Runner with the hope of improving their performance in long distance running.

I am presently reading the book, “More Fire: How To Run The Kenyan Way” by Toby Tanser which is a continuation of his first book, “Train Hard, Win Easy”, his first book on Kenyan running. In the concluding portion of the book, the author listed 15 ways to adopt a Kenyan Training Method. And here is the list as copied from the book.

1. Injury Prevention—They say the best way to avoid a spear is to stand out of range; this applies to running. Kenyans are excellent at resting up if a possible injury pain is noticed. Do not let that pain get too near you.

2. Simplicity—Kenyan running is very organic, which in itself is the very essence of the sport. Simple methods are executed with imposing intensity. They are focused and concentrated in their running and they could not afford any distractions. It simply means that they have no time for cellphones, Internet browsing, listening to Ipods, or watching the TV or even going to Malls or social parties. They just simply run and train!

3. Group Training—The power of the group never ceases to be underplayed in improving performance.

4. Diet—Try to eat three meals a day. Kenyans rarely eat between meals and seldom have desserts.

5. Don’t look for perfection—Kenyan athletes do not get down or disappointed after a bad performance  or session. Being out there and trying, means you are a winner and trains hard again and that is the Kenyan Way.

6. Don’t add up your weekly mileage—Most Kenyans only know their mileage as a need to satisfy Western journalists. The ethic of the focus is to concentrate on the given day.

7. Choose one coach, or training plan, and stick to it. If you chase one chicken, you stand a better chance of catching it than running after two. Kenyans are very good at getting one 12-week program.

8. Block training—The Kenyans use block work with non-active rest periods. Some call this “periodization”. The Kenyans train for a specific race or series of races. After a series of races, the Kenyans then stops running completely. It can be from 2-3 weeks, to one month or more, but the difference is that during this time the athlete does virtually no training; not even cross-training to keep in shape.

9. Don’t push the body when tired—There is always another day.

10. Run off-road—Running on hard surfaces kills the speed and the natural spring of the legs. 90% of their running workouts are done on off-road at an altitude of 2,000 meters.

11. Be optimistic—If you never kick the ball, you will not score a goal. Kenyans are extremely positive individuals.

12. The secret of Kenyan mechanics appears to be in the foot—Kenyans have very strong ankles, with spring-like qualities that allow the body to bound along with an almost jump-like momentum.

13. Kenyans tend to lean toward a lightweight, flexible shoe—If you break your arm, after a month in a cast the arm is weak; hence if the foot is put inside a rigid shoe that does not allow each and every muscle in the foot to work, these muscles become weak.

14. Run to improve running—There is no need to go to the gym or do some cross-training, Kenyans do their running workouts 2-3 times a day.

15. “Nothing comes easy” is another slogan of Kenyan running, but what is achieved by pushing your own limits is life’s richest reward. To collapse out on the roads with blood in your shoes knowing you gave it your best shot is reward beyond words…

I am not telling everybody to follow this list but knowing how these world-class elite athletes train, this list would answer the “why & how” the Kenyans are consistent Champions in long distance running events worldwide.

The Book Bought From Zombie Runner
The Book Bought From Zombie Runner
Picture of Kenyan Runners From the Book On Marathon By Bruce Fordyce
Picture of Kenyan Runners From the Book On Marathon By Bruce Fordyce