Congratulations on your great finish in League
this year. You have obviously worked
very hard and are motivated to get the most out of your considerable
talents. I was asked by a neighbor of yours what advice I would
give you, given that I ran in the
Here are the major pieces of advice I have for you:
Running isn’t just about winning. On a daily basis, it is about executing the optimal workout or running the optimal race (which often does not end in victory). In the long term, it’s about realizing your potential. This is important to keep in mind when you evaluate your progress. Just because you can’t do something now, it doesn’t mean you won’t be able to do it later. Remember, you have ten weeks in a season, but it takes ten years to reach your potential. Keep things in perspective.
You need to become a student of your sport. Read a lot. Books, magazines, blogs. A good book to start with is Daniels' Running Formula. It covers all the basics of training and will give you a good foundation. I also recommend books like Running with the Buffaloes, Pre: The Story of America's Greatest Running Legend, Steve PrefontaineOnce a Runner, a novel about a miler that most runners (and even my non-runner parents) enjoy. But these are just my favorites. Read as much as you can. and
Start tracking your runs (if you don’t already). You can do this in a binder, on your computer in Excel, or on the web at sites like Runninglog.com, Running-log.com, Runnerslog.com, or Logyourrun.com (I am giving this site a trial run—pun intended). Put as much detail as you can into it, especially when you have pain, get sick, struggle with a workout, and of course, when you run well, too. You want to increase your weekly mileage over time, but you don’t want to go overboard. Your training log can help you walk that fine line.
Take risks. You’re young, and you need to learn how to run in different situations. In your early season meets, go out harder than is comfortable and try to hang on. Or run pace and let the leaders get away, then try to catch them. Do a hard workout the day before a race, to learn how to race with tired legs. Basically, don’t be afraid to make mistakes. They provide the best lessons.
Focus more on quality than on quantity. You have years to build into a high mileage runner if you choose to do so. In the meantime, every time you do a road run, do it at an “almost uncomfortable” pace. Don’t race, but run hard. The surest way to get strong is to do all of your road runs hard. Definitely don’t relax your road runs to have good interval workouts. A lot of young runners do this. They think great interval workouts are what make you fast. My advice is to instead have the best interval workouts you can given that your road runs stay hard. Over time, you will get accustomed to the road runs, and your interval workouts will improve. Then you’ll be a real beast.
Don’t just run. If you want to be great, you have to do much more than just run. Sit-ups, weight-training, stretching, good diet, proper hydration, enough sleep, etc. Remember this: no matter how talented you are, and no matter how long or how hard you run, there is always someone just as talented as you are, running just as long and as hard as you are. And they are doing everything else on top of that.
Finally, share your goals with your family, friends, teachers, teammates, coaches, and anyone else who will listen. If you have a big team, you already have a support network. If you don’t, you need to take the initiative to build one. Running is an inherently solo sport. But nobody ever really does it alone. The more positive support you have, the easier it will be to focus on executing your optimal workouts and doing the preparation necessary to achieve continued progress.