Breaking the Wall

August 13, 2020

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Orem,UT,United States

Member Since:

Jan 27, 1986



Goal Type:

Olympic Trials Qualifier

Running Accomplishments:

Best marathon: 2:23:57 (2007, St. George). Won the Top of Utah Marathon twice (2003,2004). Won the USATF LDR circuit in Utah in 2006.

Draper Days 5 K 15:37 (2004)

Did not know this until June 2012, but it turned out that I've been running with spina bifida occulta in L-4 vertebra my entire life, which explains the odd looking form, struggles with the top end speed, and the poor running economy (cannot break 16:00 in 5 K without pushing the VO2 max past 75).  


Short-Term Running Goals:

Qualify for the US Olympic Trials. With the standard of 2:19 on courses with the elevation drop not exceeding 450 feet this is impossible unless I find an uncanny way to compensate for the L-4 defect with my muscles. But I believe in miracles.

Long-Term Running Goals:

2:08 in the marathon. Become a world-class marathoner. This is impossible unless I find a way to fill the hole in L-4 and make it act healthy either by growing the bone or by inserting something artificial that is as good as the bone without breaking anything important around it. Science does not know how to do that yet, so it will take a miracle. But I believe in miracles.


I was born in 1973. Grew up in Moscow, Russia. Started running in 1984 and so far have never missed more than 3 consecutive days. Joined the LDS Church in 1992, and came to Provo, Utah in 1993 to attend BYU. Served an LDS mission from 1994-96 in Salt Lake City, Utah. Got married soon after I got back. My wife Sarah and I are parents of eleven children: Benjamin, Jenny, Julia, Joseph, Jacob, William, Stephen, Matthew,  Mary,  Bella.  and Leigha. We home school our children.

I am a software engineer/computer programmer/hacker whatever you want to call it, and I am currently working for RedX. Aside from the Fast Running Blog, I have another project to create a device that is a good friend for a fast runner. I called it Fast Running Friend.

Favorite Quote:

...if we are to have faith like Enoch and Elijah we must believe what they believed, know what they knew, and live as they lived.

Elder Bruce R. McConkie


Favorite Blogs:

Miles:This week: 0.00 Month: 88.07 Year: 2386.98
Saucony Type A Lifetime Miles: 627.15
Bare Feet Lifetime Miles: 446.12
Nike Double Stroller Lifetime Miles: 124.59
Neon Crocs 3 Lifetime Miles: 1257.89
Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance

Day of rest as usual. Went to church. The lesson in Sunday school was on developing talents. The manual talked about Shelly Mann. At the age of 5 she had polio and was put into the swimming class to help her recover. At first she was worse that all the girls in her class who were also recovering from polio. Then she was able to lift up her arms. Then she swam the width of the pool. Then the length. Eventually she won the Olympic gold in butterfly.  The lesson also made me think of Wilma Rudolph and I read about her as well. She came from a family of 22 children, and was number 20. She was born prematurely, survived through a miracle, had severe developmental problems, and could not walk on her own until she was 12. But she overcame all of that and won three Olympic gold medals in 100 meters, 200 meters, and 4x400 relay in 1960.

As I read I pondered and wondered where the Shelly Manns and Wilma Rudolphs are today.  It's been a while since we've seen anything like this. A handicapped child growing up to be an Olympic champion. I think there are several reasons why. One is that there is more competition. 11.18 100 meters does not earn you the Olympic gold anymore today. You will be lucky to make the final.  So a handicapped child with a hidden talent is racing numerous others with equal or greater talent who are not handicapped. Even if he accomplished something equivalent to what Wilma Rudolph did it will not get the same publicity.

Another reason, perhaps more significant, is that back in the 40s, 50s, and 60s we were a nation that aimed for the stars, both figuratively and literally. Since then we have become more cynical and instant-gratification minded.  Families have been eroded. The children are being raised by the public school system more than by their parents and teachers in that system are forbidden to teach spiritual values. Children are not valued, and abortions and birth control have increased. Perhaps the Wilma Rudolph of today has been aborted when some doctor said she would be born with a defect. Or possibly never conceived in the first place. And if she does manage to make it past birth, good luck finding a set of parents that will do what it takes to inculcate the faith it requires to accomplish such a feat.

 There is a lot of talk on the news about the economy. Some people blame Obama, others blame Bush, yet others move the numbers around and blame it on the real estate bubble, stock market bubble, risky loans, immigration, etc. I think they miss the root of the problem. It is the generation X mentality of indolence, instant gratification, and aversion to meaningful challenges. In other words, the problem is that it is highly unlikely that we will see another Shelly Mann or Wilma Rudolph today. Until it is fixed, it does not matter who the president is or what the government does.

Night Sleep Time: 8.00Nap Time: 0.00Total Sleep Time: 8.00
From Rob on Wed, Sep 14, 2011 at 18:30:23 from

From Steve on Wed, Sep 14, 2011 at 20:58:00 from

Rob, that's awesome. Sasha, I agree with the problem and the general trend. It's really prevalent. But I also believe there are some far stronger than at any other time in the past. Maybe the ratio is just changing..

From Sasha Pachev on Thu, Sep 15, 2011 at 14:04:21 from

Steve, yes, according to what I get out of the scriptures, we should expect greater polarization in all aspects, both physical and spiritual in the last days.

Rob - the links you posted prove my point to some extent. Athletes like Fritz and Walter who have overcome some adversity are lucky to get noticed by a sympathetic local newspaper reporter at most. This is because the standard of performance has been raised. In 1952 Emil Zatopek won the Olympic marathon in 2:23. Fritz in his current shape would have been competitive in that race. Today 2:23 does not take you even to the US trials. Kenyans with 2:08 performances in the Olympic year are left off the team.

While it is good that the standard of performance is higher, this has had a negative impact in some ways. A guy that has some talent, but not enough to medal in the Olympics often works just as hard, or possibly harder because the carrot is further away, than those who actually win. Yet he is essentially nobody. He is not a role model because he does not win anything cool. Very often he realizes that the carrot is further than he can reach and moves on to other things of less inspired nature that nevertheless pay the bills. Thus people that could have potentially learned the principles of faith and hard from him miss that chance, and this makes another contribution to "the nation that does not shoot for the stars" syndrome.

In light of that I believe we could greatly benefit from some well-organized program to encourage athletes that are performing within 10-15% or so of the world record to keep performing. Companies spend lots of money on motivational speakers. They could probably achieve the same effect for a fraction of the cost by sending their employees to ride a bike along with their local 2:20 marathoner during his training run and then talk to him afterwards about what it takes to perform at his level.

From Rob on Thu, Sep 15, 2011 at 15:08:52 from

Wow! interesting perspective to say the least. I'm afraid to even ask what your thoughts on Lance Armstrong are?

Back in the 40's and 50's we were in the middle of World War II/ Korea, As a result there was a bit of natural selection going on. Most of the strongest, healthiest people were out dieing in a war leaving only the 4F people to participate in athletics. This may have something to do with it as well.

From fiddy on Thu, Sep 15, 2011 at 15:28:16 from

I've not read the book, but Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers addresses this problem a little bit. He basically shows how, due to the setup of our society, small initial advantages become greatly magnified.

I remember when I started running competitively there were people my age that had been training for a long time and seemed unbeatable to me. I remember feeling at the time that it was foolish for me to make goals to try to beat them because they were clearly so much better. In most sports nowadays, it "feels" like unless you are the very best at each 9 or 10, why bother? In reality, there is plenty of time and opportunity to overcome differences in "natural ability".

I think a striking example is the distribution of white players in the NBA. There are very few white american players, but there are plenty from other countries. Some of the white players from other countries are considered to be very very good. I suspect that most young white american basketball players lack confidence and this leads them to not work as hard or just to pursue other things.

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