about me - form

15 years running (1991-2006)

In my family when we think of sports the first thing that comes to our minds is running. This is due in part to a history of running in my family, my uncle SZANTHO Tamas was a world class 1500 and 800 meter runner in the 1970’s, and I feel that my mentality lends itself best to running. I am convinced that running is the most "sportsmanlike" of any sport.

As it began...

On a fall day in 1991 at the age of twelve I entered a local road race in the city of Szekszard. It was at this race that the outstanding middle and long distance track coach, NEMETH Gyula, noticed me. It was Gyula who played such an integral role in kindling my interest which soon blossomed into a passion for the sport of running. Gyula, without having previously met me, came up to me after that first road race and asked me if I would be interested in running with his group of athletes. On the spot we agreed that I would go to one of his workouts the next Monday. He told me that I should only go to workout if felt like it. I soon began to enjoy the light and fun atmosphere and began to attend the workouts on a regular basis.

That was 15 years ago and since that time I have only missed a practice because of injury or illness.

It’s important for young kids to see that the work they are doing has results. Fortunately for me I was able to experience success shortly after my first year. In the beginning of 1992 I placed second in the cross country national championships, and third in the 2000 meters.

In 1993 I placed second in my age division in the 3000. In 1994 I won my first age group national title in the 1500 meter steeplechase. In the flat 1500 meters I placed second.

In 1995 I won two age group national titles, one in the 3000 meters and the other in the 2000 meter steeplechase. It was also this year that I was selected for the first time to be part of the age group national team, which took part in a duel meet against Romania in the city of Kolozsvar.

In 1996 I again won two age group national titles, this time in the 2000 meter steeplechase and the 800 meters. At this point at the age of 17, I was able to hold my own with the adult runners and in a tactical race I won the Budapest Championships.

In 1997 at the age of 18 I was able to make significant strides in my running. In the 1500m I managed to dip below 3:50, running a personal best 3:49,2 and qualifying to the junior European championships held in Slovenia. In this year I also won two age group national titles, and placed third in the 1500m adult national championships. At the end of the year I took part in another international event, the junior European Cross Country Championships in Lisbon. Unfortunately I did not have my best performance at this event. I feel that cross country does not suit my style of running very well.

After high school...

1998 was a year of change. When I graduated High School in 1997 I knew that the following year or two would be critical in my development as a runner and would determine whether or not I would continue to pursue a serious running career. Many people who pursue sports in their younger years do not continue after graduating High School. Instead their focus turns to further schooling or starting a career in the work force. This is due in large part to the fact that in Hungary there are no opportunities to pursue athletics at the collegiate level. There are no university track and field teams, or any other sport teams for that matter. If an athlete wants to continue to pursue their sport after High School they have to do that separately from their university studies.

After graduating High School I had the opportunity to choose from many different options. In the end I decided to attend the University of Northern Iowa in the United States. The university offered me an athletic scholarship and after completing the requisite paperwork and entrance exams I boarded the plane and headed to Iowa in January of 1998.
The first six months proved to be harder than I had anticipated, not necessarily because I couldn’t fit in but because I had to become completely independent almost overnight.
Needless to say my running hit a few snags in these early days due in large part to the fact that I had neglected to properly think through before I left Hungary how my training would be conducted. In the beginning I followed the instructions of my coach in Iowa (Chris Bucknam). However we soon realized that the work I was doing was not having the desired results. We decided that it would be best to allow Gyula to write the training plans and to continue the work which I had begun in Hungary. From that point on Gyula would send me via email my training schedule for the week. I would in turn email back the results of the training and my observations as to how I felt during the training runs. Despite the great distance between us we still managed to work well together and the work I was doing was starting to bring results.

My introduction to America was a success. It was certainly helpful that the university had a tremendous indoor facility which provided a great training venue for the winter months, and the fact that we competed almost every weekend. I was consistently running personal bests in all my events. When I returned home in May of 1998, I won the age group national championships in the 1500m and 3000 meters. I also placed third in the adult age group in the 1500m.

In 1999 for whatever reason my running did not go well. In many cases I was not able to complete my training runs and on more than one occasion I gave up races. Because of these problems the summer of 1999 was spent resting with very few competitions. After this extended break I began my preparation for the upcoming season. The following cross country season showed that my earlier running troubles were only a temporary setback, as I managed to run respectable times during the season.

Successful years...

2000 brought good results. I ran a personal best 8:03,13 indoors in the 3000m at the (Cyclone National Track & Field Qualifier, Ames, IA). Than, outdoors on a cold and windy day in the beginning of April I won the 5000m in 14:16,12, at the (Husker Open, Lincoln, NE). My training continued to go well and at the end of April at the Drake Relays in front of 17,000 fans I ran four minutes in the 4x1600m relay, this was not only special because I ran under four minutes but also because two of my relay teammates were Hungarian, NEMETH Mate who has won numerous national Hungarian championships in the 3000m Steeplechase, and TIMAR Levente. The race was made even more special because we beat the legendary and heavily favoured Stanford relay team. Because of this tremendous victory we received a lot of press coverage. After my return to Hungary in 2000 I was privileged to take part in two national team appearances. One was in a 1500m race in Slovenia and the other a 3000m race in Gateshead, England. I also managed to improve my personal best in the 1500m in an IAAF permit meeting in Budapest, to 3:45,61. At the national championships I finished second to TOLGYESI Balazs, who was a semi finalist in the 1500m in the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, and is still the current Hungarian national record holder in the 1500m. At the end of the season my coach and I decided to focus our attention and energy on the U23 European Championships. We decided that my best chance of success would be running the 5000m and not the 1500m.

In 2001 because of my preparations for the U23 European Championships I only competed in a few select races, and I did not compete for my university team. According to NCAA rules an athlete has the option to compete “unattached” in a few races each season.

I only started competing seriously once I returned to Hungary; unfortunately there weren’t quality races where I would have been able to run the qualifying time of 14:12. Luckily for me, at the last moment at a race in Budapest I ran 13:59,37. In this one race I was able to achieve the qualifying time for the European Championships and break the mental barrier of 14 minutes. I arrived in top form to the U23 European Championships and in a tactical race, running a time of 14:04,84 I finished third behind a Spaniard and a Ukrainian.

Two weeks later I won two national championships, one in the 1500m (3:47,1) and the other in the 5000m (14:07,4). Based on the times I was running in practice as well as running twice, in tactical races close to 14 minutes led me to believe that I was capable of running around 13:45. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to attend any high level competitions to achieve that time. The problem of not being able to compete in the most competitive races in Europe has not only affected myself but has been a continuing source of aggravation for Hungarian runners in general. The younger runners have not run the times necessary to be invited to the top competitions where they might be able to run with the best runners in the world, but in order to run the times necessary to be invited they need to run in top level races. The solution to this problem is the hosting of elite level competitions in Hungary. When the federation will choose to tackle and address this problem remains to be seen.

Hungarian 5000m record...

In 2002 encouraged by the previous year’s successes, I set my goal as the adult European Championships. While the European Championships was my stated goal, in secret I had other plans as well: I felt I had a real possibility to take a run at the legendary MECSER Lajos Hungarian 5000m record (13:29,2), a record which at the time had stood for over 34 years. The possibility of breaking this record was made even more significant because of the fact that my coach Nemeth Gyula was reared in the same school of running as the legendary Mecser. They were both trained by the well known and respected coach, HIRES Laszlo.

My final year in Iowa ended with many fond memories of my university years. I qualified for the 3000m indoors NCAA championships with a personal best of 7:59,0. In an unforgettable race in one of the strongest collegiate fields ever assembled at that distance I finished in second place. Our distance medley relay team also performed well placing forth in the event. Later that year in the outdoor season I again ran a personal best in the 1500m (3:42,4) in Fayettville, AR, and a personal best in the 5000m (13:50,2) in Stanford, CA.

That summer I won the 3000m in the A-group of the European Cup, and two weeks following that race in Gyor, I ran 3:41,32 in the 1500m once again a personal best. The time was especially good considering I ran the last 500m all alone.

In Belgium (KBCNacht) on July 20th I broke the long standing Hungarian National Record in the 5000m with a time of 13:26,96.
On July 20th 2002 I had an opportunity to run in a strong 5000m race. Just like the year prior this was my last opportunity to run the qualifying time for the European Championships.
The race took place in a town near Brussels, Belgium, called Heusden-Zolder. It was an elite field and the meet organizers secured the services of not one but two “rabbits” to ensure a fast pace. Everything was set for a fast race, and maybe because of this I was a bit more nervous than usual. I felt that this time there could be no excuse for not running a good time, and if I failed I could only blame myself. Unfortunately, or looking back on the event fortunately the race was delayed by a huge rain and thunder storm. The athletes were forced to take refuge from the rain in the dressing room and by the time the rain let up the race had been delayed by almost an hour. At this point I was already cooled down and had to start my warm-up all over again. This combined with the delay diverted my attention away from myself and allowed me to run a relaxed race.
As we lined up for the start it started raining once again, however this was not particularly bothersome since the wind that accompanied the previous rain had died down. The “rabbits” started at the prearranged pace of 13:10. Since my goal was the 13:40 qualifying time for the European Championships I immediately found myself at the back of the field. Despite this I had to run much faster than I had anticipated just to stay with the field. At 3000m I caught sight of the large clock on the infield and it showed 8:06. At this point I was still careful, I didn’t want to run too fast and “die” at the end. At 4000m, though I had slowed a little I was still in good shape and running well, it was at this point where the breaking the record first crossed my mind.
With two laps remaining the clock showed 11:25 and I felt that I had enough strength left to break the record. The only question that remained was how much I would be able to shave of the record. I ran as hard as I could all the way through the tape and only stopped my watch well after I had crossed the finish line. The clock in the stadium showed only the winners time (13:11) my watch showed 13:29, I couldn’t believe my eyes, I knew I had stopped my watch late and the time that I had run was more than likely faster than 13:29. Almost immediately after the race I started to receive telephone calls and text messages however I didn’t know my official time and couldn’t confirm whether or not I had broken the record. The wait was agonizing but when the official results were revealed they showed that I had run 13:26,96!
I was extremely happy but there was no one to share my joy with. I thought of my coach back in Hungary who was sitting through the race in nervous anticipation...
The next day I was sorer than I had ever been but I didn’t care I was officially the Hungarian National Record holder in the 5000m.

A few days later my focus shifted to the upcoming European Championships in Munich, Germany in August.

Five days after my record breaking run, I ran in the Hungarian National Championships and for tactical reasons I skipped the 5000m and ran instead in the 1500m and the 800m. I was unlucky as I finished in second place in both events. The second place in the 1500m really bothered me as it was because of the meet organizers mistake that I had not won the race. (The organizers decided to run the stronger heat before the weaker one. Because the stronger group ran a tactical race my winning time in that heat was within striking distance for a couple of the weaker runners in the weaker heat. My worst fears came true as the winning time in the “B” heat beat my time. I was relegated to second place based on time difference.) I lost the 800m by 0,01 sec of a tenth this was due in most part to the fact that I had not raced the event since 1998 and I wasn’t really upset about placing second.
In European Championships in Munich, and I finished that race in 7th place with a time of 13:49,03.
At the seasons last race in San Sebastian (Spain) I ran a personal best in the 3000m with a time of 7:52,51. Never before had I craved the rest period that was to follow that 2002 season...

Injured and sidelined for one year...

I had to skip the 2003 season because of a knee injury. In the spring I travelled to America, to Santa Fe (New Mexico) where my uncle lives, for a high altitude training camp. Unfortunately because of my incessant knee pain I had to come home. In July I had knee surgery which was performed by Dr. STREICHER Matyas. I started light running in late August, and at this stage of the season there was still a chance that I could qualify for the Athens Olympics. This however was not meant to be, in October my appendix burst and the resulting surgery required me to take another two months off from running. By this time the ten months I had not been able to run was too much to overcome and my dreams of running in the Athens Olympics were over...


2004 was a year of disappointment. Despite winning two National Championship titles (1500m and 5000m) in Debrecen my training any my times were not what I had come to expect.

In 2005 after a successfully completing my base training I ran a promising 3:45 at the indoor National Championships in February. I followed this up by winning the cross country national title in April and all signs pointed to a positive outdoor season.
Since I was not able to use the times I ran in 2002 as qualifying times for competitions it once again became problematic finding high level competitions. I did manage to run in a few fast races however I was not able to achieve any good times, sometimes the reason was the weather and sometimes it was injury Regardless of the reason the 2005 outdoor season did not go as well as planed. Aside from running on the track I also ran in several road races. The one that is most worth mentioning was the race in Germany (Korschenbroich) where in a 10km race I ran 29:16 and placed fourth.

Once again I was unlucky at the National Championships. Not having learned the lessons from past championships the organizers once again started the stronger heat before the weaker one and once again I won the stronger heat only to be relegated to fourth place because the runners in the “B” heat ran faster times. The next day in the 5000m I started my kick too early and ended the race in second place. The only race that I was happy with this season was the European Cup race in Gävle (Sweden) where in a tightly contested race I placed second.

In 2006 I decided to focuse on the European Championships held in Gothenburg.

Early on I had decided to run the qualifying time in the 10,000m at the upcoming European Cup held in April. I figured that if I was able to qualify for the European Championships early on I would be able to relax and really focus on the 5,000m. My training for the 10,000 went really well and at the indoor National Championships, in a photo finish I placed second in the 3,000m.

My training was focused on the 10000m and this showed first and foremost in the amount of running I was doing. The 2006 Cross Country Championships happened to fall in the middle of my base training and the lack of adequate rest for the race showed in my performance.

In April the national team travelled to Turkey for the European Cup. Based on my training times I was almost certain that I would be able to achieve the European Championships qualifying time. Unfortunately Mother Nature was not on my side and the race was held in a torrential downpour, and we were forced to run the entire race in ankle deep water. Of the 32 runners who finished the race (many who have personal bests under 28 minutes) only the winner was able to run under the qualifying time (28:47).

A bigger concern than the weather conditions was the fact that my heel really started hurting after the race. The pain was so intense that I was unable to train in spikes and it prevented me from training properly the entire season, and naturally affected my performance in races. (After the national championships I stopped training in spikes and my foot improved dramatically.) In September I ran my first half marathon (Nike Budapest Half Marathon) and based on my performance (fifth place among Hungarians) I qualified to run in the IAAF World Road Race Championships in Debrecen. I performed well in this race crossing the finish line as the second Hungarian and placing 61th overall.