Weighing (L)In

Before I even get out of the blocks on this topic, I will offer the disclaimers that:

a) I have little interest in the NBA and have not watched a professional basketball game in several years

b) despite his recent rise and wild level of popularity, I have never seen Jeremy Lin play a single minute for the New York Knicks

With both of those facts out there, as most of us know it still remains impossible for anyone to escape the Jeremy Lin phenomenon these days, even on NPR and running web sites, where opinion from pundits, analysts and dilettantes alike attempts to put the significance of Jeremy Lin into proper perspective for us. Even for a story that I have admittedly not followed closely, I have gathered a fair amount of insight on the role of Lin’s attendance at Harvard, the importance of his Asian heritage, his time in the NBA D-League, what constitutes a ‘bad night’ on the hardwood for Lin and even the existence of an ersatz, cello-playing Jeremy Lin that overlapped with the Knick Lin in Cambridge.

Without worrying too much about the state of basketball in the Ivy League or the number of replica jerseys due to be sold in China in the wake of Linsanity, there is one question that has sparked my interest to a certain degree. In an age where the fast and ready access to a wealth of electronic data allows for an endless amount of analysis and comparison, many in the running community have inquired and mused about whether a running equivalent of Jeremy Lin exists, and if not yet where will he come from. While that discussion and the related assertions and arguments hold little practical value, it did prompt me to think about whether and how a ‘Jeremy Lin’ figure can emerge and exist in our sport.

Due to the nature of the way in which professional basketball and professional running are structured, it should follow that potential Lin equivalents (equivaLints?) exist at virtually every turn on the running circuit. Due to the limited opportunities that an NBA, D-League or European League basketball player has to gain exposure, break into a lineup or log valuable playing time, there may well be potential impact players languishing on the bench or sweating out their time as practice players on roster to support the team’s structure from the low position on the totem pole. The professional running circuit, like running at any level, has no bench and no practice players. If you’re fit and enter a race you have the ability to compete well and gain recognition. For the most part, there is no second string field that earns a place on the starting line only when the hitters pull out of races. Sure, it can sometimes be difficult to get into the heats you want in select meets, but the bottom line is that if you prove you belong you will be granted access to a lane. In such a system, the burden of creating a breakout moment rests primarily with the athlete, who can’t claim that sitting out while others race serves as an obstacle to performance. At the developmental levels (youth, HS programs, etc.), the open access to competitive opportunity remains one of the most welcoming and beneficial aspects of our sport. Even college teams have travel and developmental squads, and major road races see handsomely rewarded professionals toe the same line that high paying or fundraising hobby joggers do.

So, the answer to the question ‘Who is the Jeremy Lin of the running world?’ is…. there is no such thing. Jeremy Lin is more of a modern-day Lou Gehrig, who started at first base in place of Wally Pipp and then went on to play in over 2000 straight games, than a figure that can be compared to any unsung heroes in waiting of the running world. Regardless of when and how an athlete gains his moment on center stage, the value and potential of that moment becomes lost unless the level of performance warrants recognition and reward. Races like the USARC series, USATF Cross Country and other major road races have no true qualification standard and afford each runner that feels deserving of a spot the chance to lace up the shoes and compete for glory and prize winnings. Coaches and race directors typically don’t decide who gets the nod and who sits out, and that means that each runner remains in control of his own race outcome and destiny. Clearly, some are going to make more of such opportunities than others, and maybe those that seize the moment share more in common with Jeremy Lin, but if you want to identify runners that keep their heads down; display a consistent and honest work ethic each and every day; and patiently await the time to shine then you only need to scroll through the top six or eight places of any elite race to see the up-and-comers mixed in with the names of those paid and sponsored professionals.

In the wake of Jeremy Lin’s meteoric rise, NBA scouts, coaches and GM’s have been prompted to wonder whether they already have the next Lin somewhere in their organization. Some teams undoubtedly have just such players waiting to break out if they could only achieve the necessary game experience and seasoning necessary to excel professionally. I don’t know much about coaching basketball, but I can imagine that it’s difficult to give every athlete on a roster equal access to playing time during which they can earn and keep a prominent role on the team. In that sense, in team sports you are always going to create a system in which some teammates thrive at the cost of others whose development is thwarted. In our sport, ironically, the more ‘playing time’ you log in your event the worse off you are, and thus the best way to help both yourself and your team is to spend as little time competing between the gun and the finish line in any given race. The backstory of hours on the roads, trails and track do, however, provide the sobering balance to the perception that runners merely rip off their sweats and drop blazing times based on pure talent alone.

One tried and true sports psychology approach emphasizes focusing on the factors that you can control while leaving the elements out of your control on the periphery. My guess is Jeremy Lin has succeeded due, in part, to employing just such a strategy while remaining poised to go for his when the right rime presented itself. Many people express surprise when unsung stars and instant sensations speak and act with confidence (sometimes mistaken for arrogance) after they have burst upon the scene. The countless hours of preparation, visualization and other rehearsal that precede a proverbial coming out party serve as a common denominator for the patient athlete that has done many times in practice what eventually (hopefully) becomes manifest once the lights go up. For this reason, coaches and the athletes themselves often have a much easier time taking these ‘surprise’ success stories in stride, for they have known all along that once the time is right it’s possible to capture lightning in a bottle. The Jeremy Lin craze won’t last forever, but if Lin has prepared diligently he’ll prove that he has staying power once the next great thing comes along and steals some of the limelight.

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Whither 2012?

I don’t know how long the tradition of new year’s resolutions has been around. Somewhere along the line it became vogue to go against prevailing custom and claim that resolutions set at the turn of the year were, in reality, seldom carried through or that the process of making resolutions was only for chumps, or some other such theory. The past week or so I have seen a lot of chatter about new year’s goals in place of the passé ‘resolution’ moniker. I’m glad I haven’t put my foot in my mouth around co-workers, peers, etc. and mentioned any big resolutions for 2012. Imagine how silly I would feel if I had put an antiquated practice like that out there for anyone to judge. If you still think it useful to make some resolutions and never got around to it, or simply couldn’t craft any on your own, the government has a web site set up to help you out (no lie). Go ahead, I won’t tell if you borrow some goals for your own list.

No more soda, eat in more, get to the gym....

Tongue-in-cheek aside, the bottom line is that in coaching, and in sport, without goals to strive for you really are doing little more than chasing your tail. In a sport where the very essence of what we do is run in circles (literally), the very least that we can do is lend some sense of purpose and meaning to the daily miles logged in an effort to speed up our revolutions when results count.

I don’t really know what sorts of people only set goals for themselves at the turn of each year. My guess is that the same folks that are sucked in by the magazines at the grocery check-out; page through Runner’s World for the run less-PR more-rock hard abs plans; and always have a few extra holiday dessert pounds to chase are the same ones that are apt to make yearly lists as the ball drops on New Year’s Eve. It seems as though a much more sensible way to set and pursue objectives is to operate on a seasonal, fiscal, academic, etc. cycle depending on your personal circumstance.

Fortunately, in the world of collegiate cross country and track & field, we are not without a wealth of moments during which performances and outcomes are measurable and definitive. Each season, academic quarter, and even the summer provides an opportunity to tick something off the list. Maybe, like the very training that responsible coaches design, the goal-setting process too should be an exercise in periodization, with macro, meso and micro goals. Will goal theory be the next emerging field of study? I once overheard an athlete, in all seriousness, referring to her mini-goals. Maybe she was on to something…

This coming week the UC Davis Track & Field teams we will dedicate a group meeting to facilitating the individual goal-setting process. Part of the challenge involved with such an undertaking lies in the fact that everybody (thinks) s/he already knows how to set goals, and will be quick to rattle off examples like 1) have more fun, 2) break a school record, 3) beat so-and-so, 4) run fast, yadda yadda yadda. Once we break down the flaws with immeasurable, vague or simply misguided goals, the challenge then lies with hooking athletes into the process of examining the root of performance: behaviors. Changing, molding and evolving behavior will allow athletes to effectively form the habits necessary to realize their goals.

Well, maybe not this type of behavior modification

This year, for the first time, the new wrinkle in the goal setting scheme will also feature a little wisdom from Jim Valvano, as shared in his 1993 ESPY speech. (If you’ve never seen the speech, it’s worth the 11 minutes it takes to watch.) Valvano stressed the importance of keeping three important questions at the core: where did I come from? (past); where am I (present); and where do I want to go? (future). Unfortunately, Jim Valvano is probably not relevant to most 18-22 year olds in this day and age, although many have probably seen the clip of him running wildly around the court after NC State upset Houston for an NCAA title. Nonetheless, the simplicity of Valvano’s three questions make them ideal for breaking down the essence of establishing goals. Like it or not, we all have a past that defines our performance, culture, modus operandi, etc. Assessing those roots and the way in which they shape our current reality represents a pivotal step to determining the direction for any future endeavors.

Following the conclusion of the fall cross country season I stress the importance of celebrating success (goals attained) and analyzing those areas where we came up short. Then, regardless of whether the outcome was the desired one or not, you have to turn the page and return to the process of building from the ground up for the next series of goals. If we always rested on our laurels or bemoaned our shortcomings we wouldn’t end up truly advancing.

Due simply to the manner in which we mark the passage of time, 2012, like any new year, brings with it the symbolic opportunity for renewal and the possibility to chase dreams, whether new or simply retooled. A person can train, work, study and live without goals, but as the proverb states ‘The thrill is in the chase not the quarry.’ Happy hunting in 2012!

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Back in the Saddle

It’s a good thing blog posting isn’t part of my job description, as it seems as though I managed to make it through the balance of the fall cross country season without penning one single post. I also wouldn’t be able to count blogging as procrastination if it were part of the duty roster. This week between the Christmas holiday and New Year’s day seems to be a dead time for lot of folks, but fortunately I’ve been able to recharge my batteries and buckle down to get some work done in the relative peace and quiet on campus and amid the sleepy, December pace of life in Davis.

The 2011 cross country season seems like a distant memory now as the advent of the

Big West Champs on the podium

2012 track & field season now looms. This is the first year that the academic schedule has allowed us to spend a few days on campus with the full team before they have to worry about heading back to class. By starting practice sessions again on January 3 we have been able to put together a six-day ‘mini camp’ that features plenty of training along with a number of team meetings and social functions. The hope is that we can use this time to bring the team together, forge a more cohesive unit and use those elements as a strong base upon which to build successful upcoming seasons for the Aggie men’s and women’s teams. Thus far, each day features a full docket of activities that should keep the athletes busy while also beginning to point fitness and preparation levels toward upcoming competitive opportunities.

Earlier this month, the entire Aggie coaching staff made a junket to the USTFCCCA coaches convention in San Antonio, TX. For the second year in a row, the JW Marriott Hill Country served as our host. In addition to returning with enough complementary pens to last a full season, I also came home tired from long days but rejuvenated by the time spent around coaching colleagues in a great setting. The weather this year was more like the Pacific Northwest, but that didn’t stop a few of us from getting out on golf course runs, and the weather also made the Texas-style comfort food all that much more welcome. Having missed out in 2010, I made sure that this year included a trip off the  grounds of the ‘convention compound’ to take in the Alamo and Riverwalk. Rather than include my own, crude BB photo of the Alamo, here is one of more than 3.5 million that popped up when a Google search for ‘alamo at night’ is performed:

The Alamo on a beautiful Texas evening

Like a certain popular tourist destination in this fine country of ours, I am unfortunately bound by the creed of ‘What happens at the convention stays at the convention,’ so I can’t really say much more on that topic, other than Jessica Beard and Ngoni Makusha were this year’s Bowerman Award winners. You’ll have to attend next year if you want to find out more about the shenanigans on site.

Christmas week brought a sinus cold/infection/malaise, but after bouncing back and enjoying a relaxing holiday, I have gotten in some solid training and continued to chip away at the endless amount of work necessary to pull the 2012 season together. No complaints, just the facts. I do still plan to make good on the pledge, I mean mention, of lacing up the racing shoes at some point. It will happen in 2012.

UC Davis hosts an all-comer meet on January 7, and on the following Saturday we truly usher in the year with our annual Blue/Gold Intrasquad meet. From there, the women hit the indoor circuit and we’re off and running for the next six months. I’ll be speaking at the VS Athletics Superclinic on January 21 in Sacramento. Aside from ties to an (in)famous old Aggie in Peanut Harms,

Peanut FTW, and the facial hair

I’m not quite sure how I made the clinic bill this year. Maybe my contributions will consist of  nodding emphatically while Joe Vigil speaks.

The coming year holds a great deal of exciting events, and as the Sacramento Running Association’s Elite Team and related initiatives get off the ground I look forward to working with the athletes involved and while contributing to the area’s profile as a home for elite and emerging elite level athletes.

In order to leave some fodder for future blogs I will leave off here and get on with the day. As 2012 approaches I’ll skip trying to find anything pithy to impart and simply let the great Gene Autry take us home by crooning a little ‘Back in the Saddle Again’. Enjoy and Happy New Year.

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The Racing Season

Anyone that has spent time around a collegiate cross country team during the months of August-November knows that there are rhythms involved with the way in which a fall schedule unfolds. While these patterns can lend a degree of predictability to the direction of any given season, there are also many reasons that we run races instead of handing out championship hardware based on how things shape up on paper.

Regardless of how they are structured, the summer months of July and August represent the ‘first half’ of the season, during which time runners in our program lay down a large aerobic base, begin some strength-related workouts, pepper some strides into the mix and generally spend time logging miles and time on their feet in preparation for the season ahead. Over the past few years, more and more Aggies have made the commitment to spend their summers in Davis, where they can train with teammates instead of running on their own while waiting for the season to arrive.

A decent summer rule of thumb

Here at UC Davis, we refer to the period of time from report date (somewhere around August 20th) to the start of class (somewhere around September 22th) as the Running Honeymoon. Following the academic quarter system means that we enjoy over a month of training together as a team before anyone has to enter a classroom or open a book. This stretch of time, when we form the team dynamic, go to team camp on the West Marin coast, and get early season races out of the way, helps sets the tone for the remainder of the fall and allows us to put a lot of important components of the team together without worrying about the student half of the student-athlete label.

Men's 2010 NCAA Championships

When the Running Honeymoon draws to a close and our days become filled with class, labs, group study, loud dorm mates upstairs, and all the other distractions that can detract from the runner’s lifestyle, we try to shift gears and focus on what I like to term the ‘racing season.’ This past Saturday collegiate teams got their first opportunity to begin playing the points game in an effort to win the lottery at season’s end and receive a berth for the NCAA Championship Meet in November. The Aggies stayed close to home last weekend, racing at the Stanford Invite and using the day as a means of assessing our fitness and racing tactics while also previewing the course that will be used for the West Regional meet this fall. It can be hard to resist the compulsion to chase points at any of the numerous inter-regional meets on any given weekend, and we will do so in mid-October at Pre-Nationals, but it’s also easy to lose sight of the reason behind why races are run when we become too focused on other teams’ performances and lose sight of the need to control our own races and destiny, accenting areas of strength and addressing those areas that need further emphasis.

And they're off

When all was said and done, the Stanford meet yielded close to the results that we were expecting in both the men’s and women’s races, although we didn’t quite take the scripted routes to those outcomes in either case. The next two and half weeks will be spent going ‘back to the lab’ with both teams so that we can prep for our next two races of emphasis, the Santa Clara Bronco Invite and Pre-Nats. Much of the day at the Stanford Invite also features a full menu of HS races. As a former HS coach and current recruiter of HS talent, I would like to think that I will never tire of watching young runners compete in the formative stages of their careers. Aside from a few, elite programs, many of those HS athletes and coaches also remain free from having to worry about the need to amass regional or national points, although the recent trend surrounding the Nike Cross Nationals meet has begun to change the HS racing season somewhat. The HS races offer the full, and somewhat refreshing, gamut of competition levels, from future collegians to those that can barely cover 5000m while wearing heavy training shoes instead of competition flats.

Some of the elements of the racing season are universal and unchanged across ages and levels: the angst of making the travel squad (or at my age gaming up and entering a race); the potentially paralyzing power of the unknown that characterizes the minutes before every race; the release of the gun; doubts about whether you can hold pace and finish; and the relief and affirmation that accompany the reality of crossing the line and realizing that every second of racing was worth the experience.

It’s been a long time since I toed the line, and I have become very good at using the excuse of too much coaching to justify that fact. Just the same, I still get workouts in and advocate that every coach remain in touch with the competitive mindset that we so reflexively demand of our athletes. At some point soon I will have to put a race on my schedule, pull on a singlet and actually accept the objective reality that it yields. Until then, I’ll have to live the vicarious thrill of the collegiate racing season in which we are currently entrenched.

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Life enhancer

Last weekend many people across the United States renewed their pledges ‘never to forget’ the events of September 11, 2011. For the Aggie cross country team, as well as for me personally, September 10 represents an anniversary of a different sort. For lack of a better term, you could call it ‘Stump Day,’ after the namesake athlete for whom this day is now known. Stump, our nickname for Sarah Sumpter, a current fourth year student-athlete in our program, is hard to describe or define accurately in just a few words.

In a recent FloTrack interview by Kevin Selby that went public on their site this week, Sarah relates the story of cancer diagnosis, treatment and the return to competitive collegiate running that, in one sense, came full circle when she put on an Aggie singlet exactly one year after her initial diagnosis with a brain tumor. If you haven’t allowed yourself to get sidetracked by watching the video linked above, it is well worth the eight and a half minutes that it will take to learn about Sarah’s journey in her own words and to gain some of the perspective that can be gleaned from her comments. While the one year anniversary, and Sarah’s third place finish in a fairly competitive race this past Saturday, by no means represent a definitive end where either cancer or running is concerned, the day remains a milestone and a symbolic step forward nonetheless.

Sarah battles Deb Maier and Taylor Dutch

As an inevitable, inextricable and willing player in Sarah’s unfolding and onging saga, it has become too easy to let the remarkable nature of this young woman escape me during the day to day routine of life in and around a team of distance runners in the throes of what should be best moments of their careers. I have grown to identify Sarah’s now willingly-shaved head as part of her persona rather than any sort of stigma or emblem associated with cancer survival. Instead of seeking ways to make certain aspects of training easier for Sarah, or wanting to protect her from hard efforts, I have allowed myself to follow her cues and mete out hard training, treating her as the high-level athlete that she is unless I am told otherwise.

It wasn’t always this easy or ‘normal’ on the heels of a shocking diagnosis; a risky craniotomy operation; prolonged recovery; slow return to physical activity (walking, then shuffling, then ‘running’); weeks of radiation and chemotherapy; and the eventual resumption of training runs, workouts and some competitive track and road races during a redshirt spring season. At every turn, Sarah’s willing search for challenge and a longer leash left family, medical professionals, our sports psychologist, teammates, coaches, wondering how to fit this outlier patient-student-athlete into a traditional model for what she was confronting on a daily basis.

Nobody needs to be told that vibrant, disciplined and accomplished 20-year old distance runners are not ‘supposed’ to confront life altering adversity. I still have moments where I reflect on my initial reaction in the emergency room where Sarah and I awaited her mom’s arrival on September 10, 2010. Before the gravity of the situation and cycle of events to come had even sunk in, my early train of thought had me wondering how I was going to get her released from the hospital that evening in time for a good meal and full night’s sleep before our race the following morning. It seems laughable on one hand, but Sarah’s mind was in a similar place, and she went so far as to verbalize those thoughts when she remarked that the whole ordeal was really going to have a negative impact on her race the following day.

After long days, weeks and months of recovery, Sarah returned to a full class load and daily practice starting winter quarter, and over the course of the winter and spring every time I inquired ‘How we doing today?’ Sarah invariably squawked a simple ‘We’re alright’ that meant nothing more and nothing less than just that. We were alright, and we were going to make it through that day, and that became our standard operating procedure. For an athlete that thrives on structure and predictability, life and training became an exercise in adaptabilty for Sarah, as we agreed to wake up each morning and see what that day held for her.

As a coach and educator, it can prove difficult to see any student-athlete struggle, particularly when those trials are not part of the plan. One aspect of the gift of Sarah’s presence yields is that her existence is not outwardly defined by struggle, but rather from the quiet strength and resilience that she exudes. Her presence in our program and in my life will forever change the way I both coach and live. I would be remiss, also, to discount the nature of our team/family that has embraced Sarah despite the emotional toll that comes with the uncertainty and sometimes awkward elements that supposedly invincible 18-22 year olds can experience when faced with issues of adversity, mortality and another’s bad fortune. Teammates have rallied around Sarah without wearing their emotions on the sleeves or using Sarah’s situation as an excuse or distraction, but rather with a sense that Sarah is a contributing and dependable team member and not a cause for which we all run.

It’s hard to envision work more rewarding than that which I get to do every day among student-athletes like the 36 runners on our cross country roster. Without trying to draw more out of the situation that can be warranted, having Sarah around does provide some perspective each time I think I’m having a bad day. I suppose like many things, good and bad days are all relative.

I once heard a very wise coach counsel anxious student-athletes that nobody has a crystal ball to foresee the future. Sarah and I have agreed that even if we did, we wouldn’t peer in to see what awaits us. I guess instead we’ll just have to keep waking up every morning and see what the day has in store.

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PT Reyes team camp

The UC Davis Aggies just returned from five days at cross country team camp. The trip that we take to Pt Reyes National Seashore has been in the program in one form or another for many years, and it provides some magical moments for the two teams and coaching staff. We can’t wait to plunge into the season that awaits. Read on to check the highlights…

2011 UC Davis Aggie Cross Country

Reasons I love XC camp, in no particular order:

1. Isolation – there is no cell service no Wifi at the hostel, and aside from one chance to check in with the outside world when the team runs from Bear Valley, where there is cell recpetion, this is one of the only times during the year that athletes (and coaches) can be 100% dialed into the moment at hand without any outside distractions

Sky Trail en route to the coast

2. The kitchen – preparation and clean up for all meals at camp are performed by athelte crews; aside from the fact that coaches end up taking part in essentially every shift, if you keep your ears open you can still hear some of the best conversations between the arbitrary groupings of mixed gender and age that comprise the kitchen crews

Nobody in the kitchen? Unheard of.

3. Chow time – hunger is the best seasoning, as the saying goes, and at camp that represents part of the equation; truth be told, however, the team eats well at camp due to a massive CostCo run and the presence of bountiful and healthy food; I wish the athletes ate like they do at camp on a daily basis

4. Hostelling International Pt Reyes – the Aggies have headed to Pt Reyes for years, and renting out the entire hostel for five nights gives us the run of the place and allows us to make it our home away from home during the early part of the fall season; the routine at the hostel runs like clockwork, and the staff is supportive and lets us do our thing while there

Back patio at the hostel

5. Pt Reyes trails – the trails, terrain and scenery of Pt Reyes make for some of the best running that you can serve up for a five-day period; in addition to Bear Valley trail to Arch Rock and the network of trails right outside the hostel itself, the epic run of camp involves 13-15 miles of up, down and winding coastal trails, and this loop embodies both a physical and mental beast for all to conquer

Bear Valley Trail ends at Arch Rock

6. Muddy Hollow hill sesh: 250m hill repeats, with a 100m stride out at the bottom of each; we had a frosh do 13 this year; STOUT

7. Team building – everything at camp is about team building; you can only run so many hours a day, and while we make sure that our time at camp involves a healthy diet of running, the opportunity to set individual and team goals, work with our sports psychologist, and live and function as a unit is a priceless component at the outset of any season

8. Newspaper Prom – 2011 gave us the second annual intra-team prom, where all the formal wear is contructed from newspaper, magazines, garbage bags, wrapping paper and cardboard; this year was Sadie Hawkins-style, where the women pulled names and got to ask the guys; pictures don’t do this event justice, as it is a sight to behold when the couples head from the lower to the upper bunk house to attend the dance

Aggie women await their dates

9. Naps – probably as a side benefit to the isolation element, recovery and naps take on new meaning when there isn’t somewhere else to be or something pressing to do

Zzzzzzzzzz

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The coach’s bookshelf

Summer typically provides a good time to catch up on reading that doesn’t get done during active coaching seasons. I didn’t do a very good job setting time aside to read this summer, and with the start of the cross country season now less than a week away I regret my lack of page turning.

Whether they actually get opened or not on a given day, I almost always have at least one book on hand and in progress. The list of books below represent some of the most valuable/indispensable elements of my coach’s bookshelf. There are no secrets in the coaching business, but if you look hard enough you can find the origins of every ‘secret’ out there. It is no coincidence that most of the books listed represent  ones that: a) have not only been read, but generally get perpetually re-read over time, b) have worn pages, cracked spines and scrawled notes in the page margins, and c) are not willingly or frequently loaned out.

Books to live and coach by (in no particular order):

1 – Daniels’ Running Formula, Jack Daniels

Jack has done all the scientific research and lays out the results for everyone to use. If I had a nickel for every time I’ve consulted his pace tables…

2 – Distance Running, Robert Lyden

I can’t even remember how or where I stumbled upon this book years ago. Like most coaching books I shake everything through the sieve and keep the nuggets. Lyden presents a lot of good ideas, many from the titans of the coaching world, and organizes the material in a user-friendly manner.

3 – Good to Great, by Jim Collins

A corporate management book by nature, but one that has wide pertinence and applicability to the construction and maintenance of any team or organization. No need to be scared that Collins’ models and concepts don’t translate to the coaching world. Our end product may not always be a financial bottom line, as with the companies Collins researched, but other parallels abound.

4 – Road to the Top, by Joe Vigil

If you ever have the chance to get your hands on this book, do it. It can be hard to find. Vigil is another pioneer of the sport. Don’t miss him if he speaks at a clinic within driving distance.

5 – Bowerman and the Men of Oregon, Kenny Moore

Like him or not (and like the Ducks or not), Bowerman and the UofO program provide fascinating material for study. It’s hard to argue with the quality of the end product.

6 – Running with the Buffaloes, Chris Lear

Something between cult classic and a template for the anatomy of a season. This lens on a championship campaign with CU conveys it all – human triumph, frailty, team dynamic, self doubt, etc. Required reading for the (aspiring) collegiate distance runner.

7 – Mindset: The New Psychology of Sucess, by Carol Dweck

Dweck’s concept of the ‘growth mindset’ offers an interesting tool to enable evolution and growth rather than allowing yourself to be bound by perceived limitations on talent, intelligence, etc.

8 – The Silence of Great Distance: Women Running Long, by Frank Murphy

If you coach women, this is a must read. Heck, if you coach distance runners period you should read Murphy’s account of the early women distance pioneers. Well researched and presented.

9 – Wooden on Leadership, by John Wooden and Steve Jamison

I guess it doesn’t matter which Wooden book you have in your library, but you had better have at least one in there somewhere. There’s a reason this man is regarded as the greatest coach of all time.

10 – The Talent Code, Daniel Coyle

Excellent and reader friendly strategies to unlock potential. Coyle addresses three principal areas: practice, ignition and coaching in his work, and he traveled far and wide to bring practical data to back up his assertions.

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