The 41-year-old marathoner represented Mongolia at every major competition

Long before B.Ser-Od  became one of the most prolific distance runners in the world, he planted himself on the start line of the Hong Kong Marathon in 2002. At the time, Ser-Od had never run anything longer than 20 kilometers — or about 12 miles — even in training.

That hardly prevented him from running with a lead group of Kenyans for the first few miles, after which the marathon imposed its remorseless brand of agony. As he labored to the finish line, well out of contention, B.Ser-Od came to an important realization: Marathons are long and difficult.

Yes, here is B.Ser-Od, now 41, and there is no one else quite like him. A five-time Olympian, he has now run in 74 marathons and represented Mongolia at every major international competition since 2003.

On Sunday morning in Budapest, with the support of his wife, O.Oyuntuya, who moonlights as his coach, B.Ser-Od made his 11th straight appearance at the World Athletics Championships, in the men’s marathon.

In the process, Ser-Od has become a uniquely popular figure in the marathon world: a self-made runner who emerged from obscurity to become a near-permanent presence on the global stage.

B.Ser-Od, whose 5-foot-7 frame has the smooth aerodynamics of a hang glider, still has outsize goals. He hopes to improve on his personal best of 2 hours 8 minutes 50 seconds. He hopes to place among the top eight at a major marathon. And he hopes to race next summer at the Paris Olympics.

In 2003, he made his first appearance at the world championships, placing 63rd in a time of 2:26.39, which demolished Mongolia’s national record by about 10 minutes. B.Ser-Od continued to break it — he ran a test event for the 2008 Olympic marathon in 2:14.15 — but he was confident that he still had untapped potential when, a year later, he met Gebrselassie at a road race in England.  He broke through with a top-10 finish at the 2011 London Marathon.

(source: The New York Times)

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