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The hotdog eating record

The 4th of July is known for fireworks and Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest. 


In 2000, the record for this 4th of July contest was 25 1/8 hot dogs.  The following year Takeru Kobayashi appeared on the scene. He had never been in the contest prior to 2001.  Kobayashi consumed 50 hot dogs that year—almost doubling the previous record.  Within a few years, the top ten finishers of the contest were all eating over 50 hot dogs.  In the 15 contests after that, the record went up a little less than 1 hot dog per year on average.


How Kobayashi doubled the record in one year is an interesting question, but I am more interested in why many people that had been in the contest for years eating under 25 hot dogs, saw Kobayashi eat 50, then started eating 50 as well.


Years later in an interview on Freakonomics Radio, Kobayashi said that his success was more psychological than physical, and that by setting a vastly bigger record, he redefined what people thought was possible, allowing them to push themselves.


The thought of eating 50 hot dogs hurts my stomach.  However, Kobayashi’s comment left me with some things to think about.


What does any of this mean for us non-competitive (non) hot dog eaters?


Do I have something that has held me back because I have a self-defined limit?


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