Tag Archives: Track & field

The Need For Speed

Coach office hours are open & today we talk about SPEED! Hot blooded & full throttle SPEED! Legs & arms driving, lungs pulling, heart pumping SPEED!

Who should do these types of crazy runs – Track Workouts/Speed Runs? I’ll make this easy…if you are reading this…you should do Speed Runs/Track Workouts.  

No you do not need a Track do to a Track Workout or Speed Run. All you need is a workout & something inside you that’s willing take a chance on yourself. If you have these two things, well, it’s time to rock ’n roll.

Did you think there was more that was needed? Maybe some mythical kind of fitness? Maybe you believe only REAL runners can do a Track Workout? I won’t ask what you think a REAL runner is because if you think there’s such a thing that means you believe there’s such a thing as a FAKE runner too.

How can I put this delicately? That’s all total bullshit. If you run you’re a runner. And if you don’t run you’re a runner that’s not running right now. And all Runners should do Speed Runs.

You’ll probably tell me that you’re not fast enough. You are. You’re in complete & total ownership of your own speed. You have a fast pace and you have a faster pace than that fast pace. You have a fastest pace too. You can’t do that one for very long…no one can do their fastest for very long.

You also have your easy pace and a strong pace. These are all speeds that YOU own. And when you go to the track you’ll play, yes, play with these speeds of yours. 

Go ahead, you can tell me you don’t know what to do. I got that covered. 

Go somewhere you can safely run – street, backyard, sidewalk, park.

Run easy for 2 minutes. Run so easy that you feel like you could run forever. 

Then stop. Gather yourself. 

Think about the word ‘strong’. When you’re ready…run “strong” for 1 minute. Feel strong.

Stop. Gather yourself. 

Now run ‘fast’ for 30 seconds. I didn’t say ‘fastest’… just fast. 

Stop. Gather yourself. 

Run for 15 seconds…15 seconds of filthy, laugh out loud speed with a smile on your face!

Stop. 

You just did a Speed Run. Badass. 

Welcome to the Club. 

No. 

Welcome back to the Club. 

Hurts So Good. 

I only had a few goals.

One of them was to qualify for the Olympic Trials.

I was good. 

Maybe, I thought, even Olympic Trials qualifier good.

I was not Olympic good. 

I may have thought I was at one point.

But I wasn’t.

I eventually understood that.

When you do some strides with a 3:50 miler you can’t help but understand. 

I was okay with it. 

Because I knew that if I really busted my ass I could qualify for the US Olympic Trials in the 1500m. 

I could line up next to the best milers of this great country…and belong.

I could race knowing I earned my bib and my spot on the starting line. 

That was one of my mountaintops. 

I spent years and years trying to climb there.

I was close.

I could feel it.

The day the accepted entries came out I scrolled down the list. 

I had run 3:43.93.

I read the final time listed.

I read the final name. 

That’s not my time.

That’s not my name.

There would be no bib for me.

I hadn’t earned a spot on the line. 

I was only 24 years old. 

I knew I would run faster. 

I knew there would be another Trials.

I knew I would make it next time…four years later.

It’s funny. You don’t know you’ve just run the fastest you will ever run when you run the fastest you have ever run. 

You just think “I can be faster”. But I never did run faster.

And I didn’t make it next time. 

When the 1500m field gets called to the line at Trials, I see me there lining up alongside them.

But I’m really just up in the stands. 

A fan.

A runner.

I may not be on the line, but my heart still races every time I hear the gun.

The Olympic Trials is my favorite meet. 

Because it hurts a little every time I watch.

And I’m proud of myself that it does.

The Most Elite Version of Yourself

 

Elite is not a time on a clock.

It’s what happens during that time on the clock.

Elite is not a medal.

It’s what you did to earn that medal.

Elite is not a distance.

It’s about running the distance.

Elite is not a finish line.

It’s a starting line.

Elite is not a pace.

It’s an effort.

Elite is not perfect form.

It’s keeping your form.

Elite is not a headline.

It’s the story.

Elite is not elitist.

It just means being the most elite version of yourself. 

Heath

 

IMG_1991

It matters.

That’s what I knew every day when I woke up.

It matters.

All of it.

Everything.

When I walked into the classroom and when I went to practice I knew it.

Mr. Heath made sure of that.

Because it mattered to him.

The challenge was if we could care as much about it as he did.

If we could do that, well, that is how one team wins 21 Meet of Champions titles.

 

He never treated Cross Country or Track & Field as peripheral sports.

To him they were the only sports.

That was super important to a 14 year old deciding what sport to commit to.

That mentality brought so many great runners into the program.

They didn’t even know they were runners!

But they wanted to be a part of something special.

 

Mr. Heath and I  didn’t coach the same way.

In fact, we were incredibly different when it came to coaching.

So, we argued.

But, we also laughed.

We laughed more than we argued.

We had fun working so hard.

The bar kept getting raised.

I’ll put those last 4 years we had together at CBA up against anyone’s best 4.

The greatest part was that it got harder and harder to get better and better.

And that made only made it more fun for us.

 

He didn’t need to do any more in the sport.

His place on the mountaintop was earned years ago.

You could add up the MOC titles of every other coach in NJ and put them in a corner and that pile would be smaller than his.

He kept coaching though.

Because it mattered.

And if something matters to you then dammit do it as best as you can.

That’s something I remember when I think about Mr. Heath.

 

There Is No Finish Line 

I‘ve read the book. I’ve watched the movies and documentary. I know how all his races ended. I know how many records he broke. I know how many times he took the lead in Munich in ’72. I know how long that last straightaway was. I know what race he ran and what time the clock said on May 29, 1975 when he brought his People to their feet one last time at Hayward.

I know where it happened. I’ve been to the Rock.

I also know that every time we dig deeper Pre keeps running.

I know that when we rise and stamp our feet and cheer for each other Pre runs harder.

I know that when we believe in ourselves and our fellow runners Pre smiles.

I know that as long as we refuse to give anything less than our best –

and make it a pure guts race –

and make our efforts works of art-

and barrel around corners with our eyes ablaze and our heads cocked to the side always looking ahead –

Pre will live on through us.

Pre inspired us and paced us and cut the wind and took the lead for us.

He did it better than anyone before him and anyone since.

Now, it’s our turn.

Stop Pre?

Only if you can Stop Us.

Between The Lines

(I originally posted this on Instagram before the 2014 NYC Marathon. I thought it might be a good idea to repost it now. Good luck to every runner racing this Spring. Enjoy the journey between the lines.)
*******************************
 It’s not going to be perfect. And it’s best to come to terms with that now.
You are going to go out too slow or too fast or fall asleep in the middle or come up short or have too much at the end. You may cramp because you drank too little and you may cramp because you drank too much. You may be sick and feel like crap. You may be healthy and feel like crap.
It’s not going to be perfect.
You have weaknesses. You screw up and make mistakes. You have doubts. You get scared.
Because you’re not perfect either.
But you’re not doing this because you thought you were perfect. You are doing this because you know you are getting Stronger. Because you are learning every day about yourself. And you Believe you can do this. And because being Scared is OK. Being scared reminds you that you are Alive. And sometimes you need to be reminded.
And you should celebrate that you are not perfect. That means you Always have something you can work on, Challenge yourself on. You know what you can be is Better.
You know what you can be is your Best.
You just can’t be perfect.
So this mile, this run, this marathon, this journey between these start and  finish lines can be Life Changing. It can be Inspiring. It can be a Triumph.
It can be so many amazing things.
It just can’t be perfect.
It doesn’t have to be perfect for it to be Extraordinary.
And neither do you.

Half is Greater Than the Whole

It was definitely not my longest. Not even close to my fastest. I didn’t hear any cheering or have any great epiphanies. I remember being scared. But I was excited too. Scared it was going to hurt. Excited that it might not.

It was my most important run.

February 4th. 1993. I was a junior in HS. It was a 1/2 mile run from my front door. That’s it. My most important run was only 800 meters long.

5 months earlier I had started my XC season with the fastest time by a NJ runner at the opening meet & that was soon followed by an invitation to the 5th Avenue Mile in NYC. I thought I may actually be a runner.

Then my foot started to hurt. Then it hurt worse. Taping it alone, icing it alone, screaming at it alone, throwing things around my room alone – it only hurt more. September would be lost.

October. Misdiagnosed – again & again. Told to take a few days off. Told to run on it again. Told it would get better. It didn’t.

November. I got mono. I got over the mono. My foot still hurt.

December. The bone scan said 4 cracks in the foot. Well, that explained the pain. And it would explain the knee high plaster cast I was put in.

It had been 5 months of knowing that every time I put my right foot on the ground it would hurt. It got to the point where I would flinch BEFORE I put my foot down. I anticipated the pain. Every. Other. Step.

The cast came off in late January.

I put on the shoes again – the shorts & the team jacket. I even put the team winter hat on. I didn’t need to. But I did it anyway. I wanted to feel like I was on the team. I wanted to feel like I had a purpose again.

Would it hurt?

I knew that I was going to start & finish this run at the same place. I knew I wouldn’t be gone long. I also knew I wouldn’t be the same when I got back.

I took a deep breath.

I know it now. I’m a runner.
You took it away. I want it back. Please. Give me this. Please.

I started down my front lawn.

It was the only run my Mom ever took a picture of. I didn’t even know it existed until she showed it to me after graduation 15 months later. Hundreds & hundreds of miles later. Miles without a flinch. State Championship miles. All American miles. So many miles.

None of them as special as this mile though.

And it was only half of one.

 

Fall for Me

Transcript of Conversation between a Runner and their Mind during the Moment. The Moment. Yes, that one. The one that decides which path you will take for the rest of the race. That moment.

Mind: You need to back off this. Seriously.
Runner: Really?
Mind: Yes.
Runner: But, I think I can hold on.
Mind: You’ll break. Believe me. Have I ever lied to you?
Runner: Well,
Mind: You’re focusing on the wrong things.
Runner: It does hurt
Mind: Exactly. Do you think it’s going to hurt less if you keep at it like this?
Runner: Well, no.
Mind: Do you want to finish strong?
Runner: Yes.
Mind: Do you want to even finish?
Runner: Of course!
Mind: Well, you’re not going to do either if you don’t back off now.
Runner: But I’m with this pack. I can stay with them. They will drag me along.
Mind: They are better than you. They’ll drag you along for a little while. Then they will drop you. Plain and simple. Drop you. And they won’t come back.
Runner: But,
Mind: Someone else will come up. Another pack. A better one for you. They’ll pick you up and this will feel better. You can talk to them. Instead of having to talk to me.
Runner: What if you just push me? You know, get at me to stick with this group. If I could just make it a little further I’d be close enough to the finish to..
Mind: To what? You know you’ve never been here before! You’ve never been this far up, this fast, this out on a limb, this brave, this scared, ever!
Runner: But I am now. I’m there and all those things now.
Mind: Yeah, now. Not later. Later it will get worse. It will burn more, there will be less air to breathe, there will be more lead in those legs and pain in those knees and ache in those shoulders of yours.
Runner: I know.
Mind: I know you do. And why do you know?
Runner: Because you tell me.
Mind: And why do I do that?
Runner: To save me.
Mind: From what?
Runner: From failing.
Mind: Exactly.
Runner:…
Mind: What else?
Runner: From getting my heart broken.
Mind: Exactly. You always want to go out and do something crazy. And that’s just crazy.
Runner: I know.
Mind: It’s OK.
Runner: Is it?
Mind: You’re right. It’s not OK. You put me in a bad position. I have to be the bad guy all the time.
Runner: That’s not what I meant.
Mind: What did you mean?
Runner: It’s not OK to be OK all the time.
Mind: Of course it is. OK is what we know. OK is comfortable. OK is safe!
Runner: I’m sorry.
Mind: I forgive you.
Runner: I didn’t ask for forgiveness.
Mind: You said I’m sorry. You just said I’m sorry.
Runner: I’m sorry because this is going to hurt. I’m ready to get crushed.
Mind: What-Are-You-Talking-About?
Runner: I’m going to leave this group I’m running with.
Mind: Good. That’s what I said. Back off..
Runner: I’m going to push. I’m going to go. Now.
Mind: You can’t!
Runner: Maybe I can’t. But if I’m going to can’t then it will be by trying to can.
Mind: You might fail! All that work we did!
Runner: I didn’t do all that work so I would succeed. I did it to give myself a chance to succeed. Nothing more. So i could get here. With you. So I could have this fight. With you. So I could be in this moment. With you. I did all that work, every day, so I could be in this position to fail with you. Or succeed with you. But I didn’t do the work to only have one option. It was always done knowing I could break. We could break. And the only way I can ever know if I didn’t break is to try and break. I have to see. I have to go.
Mind: Are you sure?
Runner: Yes.
Mind: Well, then let’s go.
Runner: Seriously? You’ll come? Just like that?
Mind: Of course.
Runner: But, all these years and races and moments? Every time you told me to hold back or drop off. You told me I shouldn’t. You told me I couldn’t.
Mind: Yup.
Runner: You always doubted. You always made me believe that I didn’t deserve to believe in myself.
Mind: Yup.
Runner: Now, just because I fought back? Just because I said no to you? Just because I decided?
Mind: You know you’ve always just been talking to yourself, right?

Are You Worthy?

I’m a sucker for cheesy moments. I love the John Tesh voiceovers and the slow motion recaps at the end of the Olympics or an Ironman. I even love the ridiculously melodramatic high definition Michael Bay/Jerry Bruckheimer moments when the hero is hurt and seemingly defeated yet drags his/her sweat drenched and perfectly tanned and sculpted body off the asteroid or Transformer carcas to fight one last good fight (in slow motion) as a fabulously mediocre Aerosmith song fills the silence. I do. I get weepy. I apologize for nothing.

One of my jobs, that I am sure I do as well as Aerosmith does soundtracks, is to coach. This week is the Meet of Champions. There is of course the Outdoor National Championship 10 days later but that is merely icing on the cake. Competing at States can be the apex or it can be one of the great tests of a Track & Field athletes career. Either way, it is special and it is singular. Counties and Conference do not hold a candle to the tension and excitement around a HS state meet. One track, one day (at least in NJ) everyone gets to line up and answer the questions being asked in hushed tones; who will break, who will fall, who will rise, who will risk it all and yes, who will win?

It is my sincere hope that not only my athletes but all the athletes take a shot at it. There is no doubt that our sport is among the very few that can honestly say the better the competition the better the performance. In many sports when someone competes against a poor quality opponent then there is a chance that the players statistics will be articially padded. Often in these other sports the lower the quality of your opponent the seemingly higher quality of your own performance. Not so in Track and Field.

So as we approach the aptly named Meet of Champions I sit here hoping that the young athletes that my guys have to race and compete against bring the best that they have to and that my athletes will respond in kind. I hope all of this this because Jeff Johnson hoped this for his athletes. I was one of them.

I was lucky to have Jeff Johnson as a coach. Jeff was the first employee of Nike. He came up with the company name and advertising gems like the word Swoosh. He was in many ways the soul or at least the moral compass of early Nike. He was great at what he did. He was an even better coach.

Jeff understood the romance that a runner has with the sport and as a result the wild fits of passion that his athletes could have during good and bad times. Most importantly he saw the poetry of competition. Jeff understood that greatness in this sport surely relied upon the individual. There is an element of competition that takes place internally- a battle within oneself every time one races and approaches ones own limitations – ones own greatness. But that greatness relied upon the external as well- the competitors – the rivals. He knew that we truly achieved greatness against the greatest competitors. Jeff knew that struggle against an opponent often inspired us to achieve more than we could achieve alone. He understood that in true competition our best opponents were with us as we battled to reach great heights and in some cases carried us there.

Jeff never spoke of the runners we raced against as the enemy. He never referred to this guy or that girl that wore other jersey’s as anything other than competitors. To Jeff, competition was sacred and therefore the competitors we went up against were not only greatly respected but were really the keys to our own greatness.

Jeff was a great coach .I’ve been a really lucky guy when it sones to coaches.

As we approach this Meet of Champions I can’t help but think about Jeff. NJ, like most states, has multiple State Groups based on size and whether the school is Parochial/Private or Public. We are extremely lucky that we then have a Meet of Champions where the best of each group meet for a final showdown. The Top 6 in each event at each Group meet and next 6 fastest/furthest/highest in each event over all the Groups qualify for the MOC. 42 athletes in each event. A meet where those that can bring the best out of each other can toe the line together. Jeff, who lives in New England now, would love this meet.

The Meet of Champions is Wednesday. NJ will be watching some amazing seniors compete for the last time as high school stars. Fans at the meet will also get to watch as a number of younger athletes stake their claim as legends in the making. The grandest gestures deserve the grandest stage and nothing like a throw down barn burner of a race at the MOC can establish a young athlete as a flat out stud better than one of those. .

So, I’m hoping that my guys and all the other coaches guys take the opportunity Wednesday to do something risky. Risk being great on Wednesday. Risk taking on those barriers. Risk pushing deeper into the hurt. Risk it on the backstretch instead of the homestretch. Risk not letting the pace slow. Risk it on that final throw or that final jump. Risk coming up short because you’re risking it all.

Yes, I know that taking risks can be scary. Yes, I know that you can feel all alone when you risk so much. If Wednesday truly is a Meet of Champions you will be out on that very thin line with 41 others in your event. You will not be alone. Until later. And then, when the 42 of you go your separate ways you all will have to ask yourselves what Jeff Johnson would have asked- were you worthy competitors?

One day. One track. There will only be one answer.

Cue the Aerosmith Arcade Fire. Walk away from the track in super slo-mo. Look back, not at an asteroid or a Transformer but at a track and a field. Are those tears? Sweat? We won’t and don’t need to know.

Am I too sentimental? Maybe. But that is who I am. Cheesy and sentimental. Again I apologize for nothing.

And if you competed and in doing so risked much and brought greatness out of yourself and those around you, well, you’ll have nothing to apologize for either.

 

 

Dear Seniors

Dear Seniors,

It’s almost time. It’s almost time to say… goodbye. You will leave us and move on. Many of you will have the opportunity to attend college and universities. You’ll study interesting things and meet interesting people and see some interesting stuff at interesting parties. It will be an incredible 4 (if you are intelligent enough to milk it – 5) years.

It’s almost time to go. There are juniors waiting for your parking spots. You’re so close to closing the door on this part of your life. But nothing is shut just yet.

I have never walked in your shoes or raced in your spikes. I never will. I know that. But I have been around this great track you find yourself on. Hopefully you find something worthwhile in what I am about to say.

Take it. Leave it.

As always… it’s up to you.

I’d love to drop some original knowledge here but the reality is that many of the great truths about life and running I’ve learned have come from movies.

So, through a few of them, I offer you some (borrowed) wisdom.

Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t slow down and look around you might miss it. (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off)

This is truth. You have to admit that Senior year got here quickly. It’s all about to end. You’ll be having that last relay and your last team meeting and the last time having to alter what you eat because of practice. All those sacrifices? Can you remember all of them? What about that time you had to turn off the Yankees game so you could get to sleep? Or the dance(s) on Friday night(s )that had to be skipped because of the meet(s) on Saturday(s). Sundays in the Summer? Long run. Saturdays in the Winter? 17 hour indoor track meets. You’ll miss them, all those sacrifices and stresses. They were worth it. The long bus rides, the bad fast food after a meet at the Armory in NYC, the terror in the paddock before a big race…it seemed like there would always be another meet or bus ride or set of intervals coming up. One bled right into the other. Soon there won’t be another. The bleeding will stop. So, don’t rush. Enjoy them. It goes by fast and soon even that will become “It went by fast.” Slow down. And please don’t take a day off. Not now. Don’t. Miss Anything.

You know, I’d like to quit thinking of the present, like right now, as some insignificant preamble to something else. (Dazed and Confused) 

Dazed and confused people dominate no single age-group. Both old and young will tell you that now is not as important as later. They will tell you not to care so much; it’s only HS. It’s only Track & Field. You’re only a teenager. They will tell you there is more after this and after this is the only time that matters. Screw that. This-Here-Now is important. Don’t live, train and race these next few weeks like they are some way-station or meaningless pit stop on a long voyage. Today, tomorrow and these last few weeks are important because they are what you have here and what you have now. I wish I knew what tomorrow held but I don’t and if today is one of the last practices with your teammates of 4 years or your final State meet with your friends, well, that sounds important as hell to me. It is OK to care. It is OK to have the most important moment of your life now. You can always have a more important moment…later.

The more difficult something is, the more rewarding it is in the end. (Big Fish) 

This was tough. You started out as a kid – a little kid really – a freshman. You made it, though. Many of you competed 8 seasons and some of you 12. There was never really an off season was there? The expectations were there all the time. You had so many commitments and you had to learn on the fly and then just like that you’re a senior and you have to guide and teach and mentor and counsel a new group of kids, little kids really, freshmen. You probably don’t realize it now – just how special it all was – how incredible you were. You probably don’t comprehend all the work that you had to do. You came back day after day to be a part of a most difficult task – to become better than you were the day before. The payoff in Track & Field (as in life) is always delayed. It takes months and sometimes years of work to marshall your own forces and achieve an effort you are truly proud of. The real payoff though comes much later. Once you have stepped away and you can see this time of your life from a distance counted in years and not meters or feet you will realize you are proud of yourself. You will realize you were extraordinary and a part of something epic. Rewarding in the end, absolutely.

Real loss is only possible when you love something more than you love yourself (Good Will Hunting)

I hope you walk off the track this June hurting. Seriously. I hope you are hurting real bad. That’s right, I hope you cry. I hope you miss it all – the competition, the struggle, the uniforms, the smell of the track on a hot day, the sound of metal bleachers, the feel of putting on a pair of spikes. I hope you miss your coaches, your teammates, this version of you. I hope you get emotionally crushed. I hope you experience that. If you walk away devastated that means you gave yourself to this sport. It means you loved it. When it goes, this part, it will hurt. Because that’s what a broken heart feels like. Savor it. Your heart will heal and it will grow back bigger and stronger. And when it does you’ll be ready to love again.

It’s almost time for you to go, to move on and find that mountain of yours that is waiting for you, right? Well, if you have just another minute, before you go, I have one last piece of advice. In all honesty, it’s a few pieces of advice for these last few weeks and beyond.

As much as movies teach us and inspire us Life is not a movie and there is no script.

So, don’t be an actor.

And don’t rely on special effects.

And as far as I know there is no sequel being planned so live this life as best and as fully as you can.

In life as in running…

always respect your competitors but never fear them.

Don’t be afraid when you are boxed in. An opening will show itself. Have the courage to pass and move up.

Always be a great teammate.

And always try to hand the baton off in a better place than you got it.

One last thing… when the people you care about leave make sure you tell them that you will miss them and that you want to see them again.

So, before you go please know…

We’ll miss you. Come back and see us.

Cheers,

Coach