In 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:

1. Learn: Read 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.

Don't 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

won the 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 regret it.

2. 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.

As a 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.

3. 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.

4. 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.

Now do 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.

5. 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.

This tip 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 are crucial.

6. 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 really needed.

7. 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 pounding.

If you 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.

8. 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 yourself.

In high 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 happens.

9.) 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 requirements.

10.) 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.

You do 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 best.

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 champion.

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.

All these people are champions in my eyes. You should pick your own. Role models are all around you.