Coach Mike Mead

The Secret to Being a Better Runner - August 2006

Do you want to learn the secret to being a better runner? It’s really simple – run farther and faster. Daaahhh!

If it were only that simple.

The most frustrating aspect of coaching in my 11-plus years has been trying to work with underachieving runners. I get one or two runners each year who think there is some sort of short cut to getting faster as a runner, without actually doing a whole lot of running. For every two or three success stories, I have one or two failures.

The most common mistake young (and old) runners make is not getting enough base mileage during the off-season. It doesn’t help that some running guru’s come up with the “X-mile-a-week training program” that supposedly prepares runners to finish Y distance in Z time. There are too many factors that need to be considered for such a program. But those looking for a short cut will try it.

If you want to eventually get faster, you have to run. You have to run daily. May be two and three times a day sometimes. But it’s going to take a bunch of off-season mileage to get you ready to handle the training it takes to reach your goal race pace.

Another mistake many runners make is running everyday the same pace and distance. B-o-r-i-n-g! If you train like a turtle, you’ll race like a turtle. No offense to turtles, but think about it. You don’t drive your car (if you drive) in low gear on the interstate? Your off-season runs need to contain a variety of different types, speeds and distances.

Have goals. Many folks in general do not set goals. If you want to be a better runner you have to set goals and be willing to make sacrifices. I’m amazed at some of the runners I have recruited over the years who don’t even know how fast they’ve run for a particular distance! If you have goals, you should know. During my high school and college days, I knew what my time was suppose to be for every lap I ran for my goal time. In those days we did not have chronograph watches so you had to really pay attention during the race and make adjustments if you got off goal pace.

Having goals means you will need to prioritize your life. You have to run in all types of conditions and be willing to put running ahead of certain aspects of your life. My junior college coach (Ron Gunn) always advised us not to be “fair-weather runners.” If you don’t prepare for all conditions, you will not race well in those conditions you avoided. The only caution that I use here is be careful on those extreme days (heat and cold)!

Don’t be the type of runner that waits for the ideal conditions. First, if the ideal conditions do arrive, this type of runner will likely not take advantage. But if you prepare for all conditions, you’ll do better on the so-so days than your competitors looking for ideal conditions.

Running isn’t easy or everyone would be doing it. If you stay consistent, have goals and vary your training you will see improvement. Now get out there and train smart!