Tegla Take Two
by Bob Schwartz
Tegla Laroupe. That's Kenyan for "Not of this World" or "We Can't be Made From the Same Protoplasm." I just read that Tegla, who has run the fastest marathon time for a woman, is thinking of attempting a double at this year's Olympics. And the double she's talking about is not running the marathon and then three days later dragging her weary post-marathon body off to watch the scintillating basketball game between the United States and Angola.
She's actually contemplating racing the marathon on Sunday and then showing up for the women's 10,000 meters heats beginning three days later on Wednesday. Showing up, for me at that juncture, would consist of lying on the infield of the track, half-heartedly stretching the old hamstrings and munching on Three Musketeer bars. For Tegla, it seems she equates showing up with actually racing.
Three days post marathon, my list of attempted goals usually includes draining toe blisters, finding parking spots close to my destination and cutting down to three naps per afternoon. On my register of fun, racing a 10K at that point ranks somewhere between an afternoon of watching reruns of David Cassidy: Undercover and mowing the lawn with broken scissors.
Apparently Tegla doesn't adhere to the principle that one should rest one week for every mile raced. Oh, you say that's one day - - well, whatever works for you. My immediate post-marathon accomplishments include rolling out of bed and having my quadriceps hurt a little bit less than the day before as I engage in a fifteen-minute shuffle down the stairs toward the anti-inflammatories and coffee. The closest I get to anything resembling a "double" at that juncture is a double espresso.
Now I know that many years ago Emil Zatopeck actually went Tegla one better. He won the Olympic 5,000 and 10,000 and then, since there was nothing to watch a couple of mornings later other than Equestrian Dressage and preliminary rounds of team Badminton, he thought he'd kill some time by jumping into the men's marathon.
Not content to drive the official race vehicle he actually won the darn thing and later called it the "easiest race of my career." That statement clearly explains the difference between the immortals and me. I've yet to meet a race that would fall anywhere in the vicinity of "easy". And winning anything takes me nearly back to my second grade Field Day fifty-yard dash contest where all my competitors went in the wrong direction.
I did have one thing in common with Emil. It is said that his power of determination led one observer to describe his painful looking facial expressions while running as though he was "one who was just stabbed in the heart." This is a fairly good description of my general appearance for the first two weeks post marathon. And that's just while I'm sleeping.
Back to Tegla. I think I've got her figured out. This is simply a masterful psyche job at the other Olympic marathoners. She's saying "I'm going to be in such great shape come marathon day that I'm gonna be able to go for another gold medal a couple of days later. And not on the Kenya handball team, sister. I'm talking 25 speedy laps around the track. Lace em up."
Well you go girl! If I'm her competition, after first questioning her sanity, I'm spending time wondering about her superhuman stamina. I can't seem to generate the same concern when I show up at a local race and say to the one other competitor in my age bracket, "Hey, fella. I'm in such good condition I'm considering cleaning the garage after this race. Both sides." That's my Sunday double.
Well I wish Tegla all the best. But if come September 27th she's not lined up for the first heat of the women's 10,000 meters because she's still recovering from her 26.2 mile race of three days prior, then I'll be able to relate with her just a little more.
And if I find out she's channel surfing back in her Olympic dorm room while scarfing hoagies, washing them down with orange soda and contemplating what ice cream to have for dessert - - then I'll know we're really not that much different after all.
This story and more in Bob Schwartz's New book: I Run, Therefore I Am - NUTS!