Three Pro Endurance Athletes’ Worst Moments

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Chris Legh – Triathlete

During the 1997 Hawaii Ironman Championships, Legh hit a wall made famous in a Gatorade commercial. The Australian was 50 yards from the finish line when he staggered left, then right, then fell over and began crawling. He was so dehydrated he required emergency surgery to remove part of his large intestine. Legh realized his in-race hydration routine was way off. 

The Fix: After recalculating his ratios of sodium to water, Legh competed in the Australian Long Course Championship and won by 14 minutes, then went on to become the top-ranked long-course triathlete in the world.

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Meb Keflezighi – Marathoner

Keflezighi, attempting his first-ever marathon in New York’s 2002 race, was in fourth at Mile 19 when he dumped some cold water on his head. “It shut my engine off. It was a devastating moment,” he says. “I thought I could win it, but as soon as I hit the wall, they started moving away from me.” He finished ninth. 

The Fix: When Keflezighi, who won the 2014 Boston Marathon, trains now, he runs upward of 27 or 28 miles at once in an effort to move the point where he hits the wall from 20 miles to 23 or 24. Keflezighi says he expects to be in pain at some point during a race, but “it’s easier to finish when you have one mile to go than when you have five or six.”

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Michael Arnstein – Ultramarathoner

After about 17 hours and almost 80 miles of the 2006 Ancient Oaks 100-miler, Arnstein was so exhausted it took focused effort to stay vertical on his feet. Right before he physically collapsed in a DNF, he thought he might actually die, as his feet had gone numb. “It felt like I was walking on just my ankle bones on hard granite,” he says. 

The Fix: Arnstein realized he hadn’t run enough high-mile training weeks and that he went out too fast and didn’t eat enough after he lost his appetite 10 hours into the race. He later worked to develop a tremendous tolerance for Clif Shot gels. In subsequent races, he ate 400-500 calories in gels an hour, and almost nothing else except water. In 2012, he ran the Desert Solstice 100 in 12:57, the seventh-fastest 100-mile time ever in North America.

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