With his record-setting finish at the Ivy League Heptagonal Championships in October, it is hard to believe that six months ago, runner Ben True '08 was too weak to concentrate on a 30-minute television program. "I was just too tired," says True, an art history major from North Yarmouth, Maine. "I lived in a fog and was a whole different person. It was an athlete's worst nightmare."
True's strong cross-country running season follows his battle with overtraining syndrome, which occurs when the body is unable to recover from exertion. True began experiencing symptoms last winter while ski training in Idaho-he had taken a year off from school to train for the Olympic trials-and believes high altitude was a factor. He did not realize the full extent of the problem until he returned to the Dartmouth track in the spring and was chronically exhausted.
According to True's coach, Barry Harwick, "Overtraining is always a risk for athletes in endurance sports, especially for someone like Ben who has a high level of self-motivation. This season, I have taken additional care to be sure that every athlete on the team takes an occasional day off."
True had to withdraw from many major events, including the Olympic Trials in June. "There was no point in my showing up only to embarrass myself," he says. Being sidelined wasn't easy for a champion who was the first to break the four-minute mile at Dartmouth and earned All-American honors in cross-country running, cross-country skiing, and outdoor track and field.
True realized, however, that to fully recover from overtraining, he would need to rest. He took six weeks off last summer."Basically, you just have to throw in the towel and do nothing but wait it out," he says. "But for someone who lives to run and ski, taking just one day off from athletic endeavors is challenging."
Harwick notes, "Ben being Ben, during those six weeks, he volunteered to crew a yacht that sailed from Maine to Bermuda."
In addition to his recent triumph in New York, True placed first in the Murray Keatinge Invitational in Maine and at the NCAA pre-meet in Indiana. He was the first individual qualifier at the NCAA regional meet in New York and will return to Indiana to compete in the nationals. After he graduates in June, True plans to pursue a full-time running career.
Harwick thinks his prospects are bright: "Ben has already established himself as one of the greatest athletes to ever represent Dartmouth, and I sincerely believe he is in the best shape of his life this fall."
By ELIZABETH KELSEY
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Last Updated: 12/8/08