working with high school runners and in recalling
my years as a student athlete, I've developed
some basic advice for runners starting out in the
sport. Here are Ten Tips I would pass along to
high school runners of all abilities:
everything you can on the sport. Running has a
history that is deep and rich. Learn what
different countries did throughout this history
that led to success and improved performance.
Examine the early Scandinavian programs, the
Australians under Cerutty, the New Zealanders
under Lydiard, the great British middle distance
runners, the Japanese marathoners, and the Kenyan
assault on the record books. You will find
amazing commonality in their work ethic.
miss the success of the American system. The 1972
Olympics saw the U.S. take first, fourth, and
ninth in the men's marathon. In 1976 the U.S.
took second and fourth. 1972 was the year of
Prefontaine and Frank Shorter. By now everyone
knows the story of "Pre," but did you
know that Shorter not only
marathon, he also finished fifth in the 10,000?
This was also the time of Jim Ryun, Jack
Batchelor, Marti Liquori, and many others. Read
and develop a love for your sport. You will not
Experience: Experience comes on many
levels. Run with people who know the sport. Seek
out the runners in your area who have experienced
both success and failure. Go to running camps.
Camps can offer insights and experiences with
other runners from around the country. The Camp
Guide on this website is a great way to research
camps that might work for you.
young runner I gave up a good job and a start at
security to train with Bill Rodgers, Joan
Samuelson, Greg Meyer, Pete Pfitzinger, and many
others. I had no money. I lived wherever I could
find a bed. I trained 15 to 20 hours a week. It
was the best time of my life.
No secrets: There are no secrets to
success in this sport. Every time you think you've
found one, it comes back to bite you on the butt.
This is a tough one because there is always
someone trying to make a buck off of a training
gimmick. Do your homework, go to reputable
sources. Check their success rate with other
runners and their proven longterm results.
No shortcuts: The research strongly
suggests that to fullly realize your highest
level of performance in any endeavor takes ten
years of focused work. Whether it is chess, math,
music, art, or athletics, achieving your best
takes time. There are all kinds of strategies
that will gain some success quicker than others,
but to truly realize your potential takes time.
the math. If you start running as a freshman in
high school and begin really focussing when you
are a junior, then you won't be at your best
until four years out of college. Success as a
distance runner takes this kind of time. Be
PATIENT, I promise it will be worth it.
Train don't strain: This goes hand in hand
with number four. While there are times when you
have to push yourself, more often than not
running should be comfortable and fun. Use your
heart monitor on your recovery days. Make sure
that you do not go over 70% on those days. At
this point in my life I figure that I would be a
great college coach. I'd let my athletes run hard
on their hard days; but on their easy days they
would have to run with me. That would be the
perfect way to make it an easy day.
is an example of the principle of specificity. To
race fast an athlete must train fast. To train
fast an athlete has to be rested. Recovery days
Run with groups: Feed off of other people.
Don't race them, just run with them. Recovery
days are great for building team spirit. During
group runs you can use the energy of the group to
carry you along, saving your energy for when its
Run on trails: In asphalt-covered America
this is not always an easy chore, but finding
soft surfaces is worth the extra effort. Trails
are much more forgiving on your legs. Single
track trails often force a runner to develop the
stabilizing muscles that help with balance and
agility. Trail running is to road running what
using free weights is to using machines. You get
a better total muscle workout without the
are racing on the road it is still important to
get a few workouts on the road. Once again we are
talking about specificity of training. Always get
some training on the course surface that you will
be competing on.
Measure yourself against yourself: One of the great
things about our sport is that we all can compete
and improve. I have seen athletes with seemingly
mediocre abilities make Olympic teams and
athletes with great ability never live up to
their potential. Take your time. Stick to the
time table that you and your coach set out. Do
not measure your progress against anyone but
school my personal best for the mile was six
minutes, in college it was 5:10, when I was 28
years old I ran a 30K (18.6 miles) at a pace
under five minute miles for the entire 30K. At 30
I ran a 4:12 mile while training for the marathon.
With hard, smart work and patience, improvement
Choosing a college: Choose a college because
it works for you on all levels. If you are
dedicated and willing to work, you can run
anywhere. Running can be a great part of the
college experience, but it is just one part. The
'96 Olympics saw just as many Division Two and
Three distance runners make the team as did
Division One runners. Go to the college that is
right for you; the one that has the academics,
location, and athletics that will meet all your
Pick a role model: There are all kinds of
mental and emotional tools that I can teach
athletes, some of which I will share in future
columns, but choosing a role model is a great
start. Having a model can give a runner a great
headstart. As a developing athlete I had the
opportunity to train with some of the best
runners in the world at the time. I got to
observe them and see how they responded to stress,
controversy, success and failure. By observing
these individuals, I was able to skip over some
of the obstacles to development. Seeing these
athletes handle themselves as champions helped me
learn how to deal with different situations.
not need to run with a role model every day.
Reading about the great runners of the past can
offer great insights into how you want to live
your competitive life. Here are a few of my
heroes in the running community. I'll share them
with you in the hope that they will do for you
what they have done for me.
Bill Rodgers: Four-time winner
of the Boston and New York Marathons, Bill is a
class act and a tremendous competitor. He is one
of those individuals who always treats races as a
always. Bill was never afraid to compete against
anyone. He loved to win but never feared losing.
Joan Samuelson: Joanie is the
toughest competitor I have ever met, in any sport.
When Joanie lines up at the start, you know that
she will bring the best out of herself and you,
if you are willing to open yourself up. Whether
training, racing,or living life she just does her
Ron Clarke: I have never met
Ron Clarke but he has been a hero of mine for
years. Despite being the best 10,000 meter runner
in the world for a number of years, he never won
a gold medal and took a great deal of criticism
for it. He always carried himself as a champion
whatever the outcome.
Greta Waitz: Another athlete
who always carried themself as a champion. Greta
was a silver medalist in the marathon in 1984 and
won the New York marathon many times. She always
conducted herself with dignity and honor.
Bob Kennedy: Probably one of
the most underknown of the great American runners.
Bob was a great high and college champion before
he shined at the open level. There are those who
argue that he is the best distance runner the U.S.
has ever produced, yet he is hardly a household
name. No matter. He does his best and lives as a
Susannah Beck: Susannah is less
known than many of the other athletes listed here.
I followed Susannah's career through high school
where she had great success and represented the U.S.
at the World Junior games. She had an up-and-down
college career and continued to pursue her
running as an open athlete. After graduating from
Yale she ignored all the financial opportunities
open to her and stuck to her task. Once again you
could see the talent was there but there were
obstacles. In spite of the obstacles, she
continued to strive. This year at 31 she finished
fourth at the Olympic Trials. She is still
chasing her dreams.
these people are champions in my eyes. You should
pick your own. Role models are all around you.