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Nicholas Thompson: Malcolm, hello! Welcome back from vacation. Sir Mo Farah is perhaps the greatest distance racer in history, and he opened the meet by winning the 10, in a blazing But he closed the meet on the track, in agony, and in second place after losing the 5, meters to Muktar Edris. What happened? What happened is that he ran a brutally fast 10,, then a 5, heat, and then a 5, final in the space of a week.
He ran out of gas. Do you have any doubt that he would have won the 5, if he had not run the 10K earlier in the week? My friend Henry Abbott , who writes about basketball, has got me thinking more and more about fatigue as the underrated variable in elite performance.
In other words, optimal performance in a typical NBA season comes shortly after it begins—months before the season ends. In every game after that, the players are fighting off growing fatigue. And a basketball game—even a season of 82 basketball games—is not a subminute 10, meters! NT: That raises a question that I think every serious runner has to think about: At what level of effort does a race, or workout, actually break you down?
You want to run intervals to the point of exhaustion, and even races, generally, make you stronger for the next one. But at some point you cross into the red, and at some other point, like after a hard marathon, you just have to shut down for a while. Damnit, Ed Caesar, will you please help me out here? Because something else strange happened at the end of the 5, race. If you watch the final , Yomif Kejelcha is right on the curve, in lane one. Yet, somehow, he ends up in lane two, meaning he ran an extra meter or two and opened a lane for Farah to zip by and win the silver.
MG: This is where you put even my unhealthy level of track obsession to shame. I dunno. Was Kejelcha tired? Again to my point about fatigue. A runner, in the final stages of a championship long distance race, is no longer necessarily a rational decision maker. A good parenthetical point here: If you read memoirs of the people involved in salvaging the US economy in the wake of the financial crisis, they all boast about staying up all night and hammering out deals after being awake for 36 hours.