one lap to go, Compton 1964
finish, Compton 13:38 American Record
WELCOME TO THE
BOB SCHUL TRAINING MANUAL
I have published a training manual based upon the
theory I have used for thirty five years. As I trained
with the great Hungarian, Mihaly Igloi, I have used his
theory and built on it.I am constantly learning and try
new things but the general workout pattern has been
proven to be very effective as I have had great success
in improving runners who came to me as mediocre and
blossomed into very fine runners, many reaching the
The manual is available now for $12.00, which includes
shipping in the USA. Send request with your check to:
Bob Schul, 3350 Boxwood Dr.,Fairborn, Ohio 45324
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|BOB SCHUL AUTOBIOGRAPHY,
IN THE LONG RUN
Book is available for shipment now.
I have been working on my autobiography
since 1965. It seemed to me that it was never
the right time. It touches on my youth when
I came close to death with bouts of asthma,
continuing through my high school and college
years. The emphasis of the book is how I
reached the greatest athletic part of my life,
when in 1964, I became the top distance
runner for the United States and went on to
win the Gold Medal in the Tokyo Olympics.
Of the five Americans to win a Gold Medal in
distance events of 1500 meters or over, in the
history of the Olympic Games, I am the only
one to be the favorite going into the Games.
The paperback book is available now and
can be ordered by
sending a check for $14.95 to Bob Schul,
3350 Boxwood Dr.,
Fairborn, Ohio 45324
. Postage in the USA is included in the price.
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THE BOB SCHUL RACING TEAM
The Club has had members from age fourteen to sixty nine. Bob started training athletes in
1966 when he lived in California. Both men and women trained three days a week on a track for speed
work. On the other days they went on long runs.
A partial list of club runners and their performances follow: I began training athletes in 1966 and since that
time hundreds of runners of all ages have trained with the Club.
Eamon O'Reilly....Georgetown University graduate, ran 8:50 for
the two mile at Georgetown in 1966. After training for eight
months he ran 2 hours, 16 minutes for the marathon in California in
1968, which was the fastest time ever run in the America's.
John Baker....University of New Mexico graduate. After a year of
training he ran a 4:01 mile indoors in 1968. John tragically died of
cancer in 1970. Subject of a book and movie called: "A Shining
John Shull....Ran 9:58 two mile in High School. Came to Wright
State where I was coaching in 1973. John was 6'2" 170 pounds.
In his Senior year he ran 14:22 for 5K on the track. He was an
"All American" in cross country and track.
Wally Saeger.....University of Wisconsin graduate. He ran in the
mid 8:50's in college for two miles. After two years of training he
ran a 2:13.9 marathon which placed him 11th in the 1980 Olympic trials in the
Bret Hyde.....Air Force Academy graduate. Ran 8:43.4
steeplechase at the Academy. After two years of training he ran
8:25.39 in the steeplechase in 1984. Eighth in 1984 Olympic trials
in the steeplechase.
I LOST AN ATHLETE AND FRIEND TODAY
IN SORROW--BOB SCHUL
International class Steeplechaser, Bret Hyde, age 41, lost his struggle to Lou Gehrig’s disease on Sunday
January 14, 2001. He was buried in Post Falls, Idaho the following Friday morning with the Fairchild Air
Force Base Honor Guard giving him honor for service to his country.
Bret had been diagnosed with the disease on September 2 of 1998 and for the twenty eight months he
fought for his life, he showed the same courage he had shown in his races.
As I stood watching the ceremony in this small cemetery, with a few hundred other friends, the snow was
falling lightly on ground that was already white and the pine trees held the snow on their bows. On any other
day it would have been a beautiful site.
An hour earlier we had attended a memorial service where I and Rob Langstaff, his friend since boyhood
and once a member of the Racing Team I coached, spoke to the overcrowded room where hundreds of
friends and family had gathered.
I came to know Bret when he and six other Air Force athletes came to Wright Patterson in 1981
specifically to train with the Racing Team. He had just graduated from the Air Force Academy where he
had run well in the Steeplechase with a best time of 8:43.4.
As I watched him over the next few weeks, I found he had little natural speed and his fastest 400 meters
was 56 seconds. This was a problem and would be a factor as he trained to become one of the best in the
What he did have was a strong work ethic and a drive that reminded me of my days with Mihaly Igloi and
the athletes who had that same drive. It wasn’t long before he was on twice a day workouts, six days a
week with a long run on Sundays. We were on the track on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday evenings, as
well as Saturday mornings. That left him with nine (9) workouts of runs of various distances and tempo. It
was not easy as he still had his eight hour job with the Air Force. But he had a goal and that was to qualify
for the Olympic Trials in Los Angeles in 1984. He told me he would do anything I asked. He was true to
his word. To be a top runner the athlete must be able to push their body even when they are hurting. When
other runners back off to run in a comfortable state Bret was able to push his body and run in a discomfort
That is not easy and takes courage to accomplish. And courage he had and he showed that in race after
race. It was also apparent that other runners in the workouts were able to learn from Bret. Others saw how
dedicated and driven he was and tried to emulate him. It was the perfect situation for me and I was able to
use Bret to make him and others better runners.
When Bret arrived in Dayton, Susan Overholser, had been with the Club for many years. I don’t know
how long it took but it wasn’t long before the two were dating. Over the months I watched the courtship
evolve into marriage and eventually two fine boys were added to the family. Bret became a husband and a
father and for those of us who watched the transition, it was what we expected. Susan and Bret were the
perfect match and you could tell they loved each other very much. Bret had been a leader on the track and
he carried that over to his private life. Leadership came easy to Bret, it was just the way he was. Others
expected him to lead and he did in an unpretentious, easy style.
As the months passed he became a better hurdler and could take the water jump with less effort. He was
now beating people who had beaten him in college. But still the basic speed was lacking. There was no way
I could change his muscle tissue but I could enhance what he had. We talked about changing to the 10K
but his size was against him for he was 6’ 4", 177 pounds. Not good for a 10K runner, and we would
continue in the steeple. Before long, Bret had become one of the best Steeplechasers in the Nation and he
made us proud of his accomplishments.
By the time 1984 rolled around, Bret was ready to run well and in the TAC championships he placed
second and was going to the Olympic trials. When, at one time, he had wanted to take part, he was now a
major player. In the trial heat I told him in order to make the final he couldn’t allow the race to be slow. His
best chance was to use his strength and not allow a lesser athlete with good speed beat him in the last lap.
He ran perfectly and made it to the final. With a days rest he stepped on the track with nothing to lose.
Again his instructions were to force the pace. He led most of the race until the final lap when those athletes
blessed with speed went by him and he placed eighth with a time of 8:27.59.
In his career he beat many athletes because of his determination and because he was able to get the most
out of his body. And through it all, Bret never said, "What if." What if I had more speed. He accepted what
he had and would tell me after loosing a race, "I really tried." There was never any doubt in my mind that
was the case. I never saw him give up. He never gloated over a victory or dismayed over a defeat. He
understood that all he could do was his best.
As his disease progressed he was in a wheelchair and his last email was sent to me, Susan told me it took
fifty minutes to write three sentences. But even then he joked about it. In his last weeks he was no longer
able to eat by himself or talk and he could hardly move a muscle in his body. Finally he made the decision
to end it all. No more food though tubes. No more medicine to keep the blood clots from forming. No
more anything, he told his wife Susan, communicating in a way only she could understand. A neighbor who
had been with him through this ordeal told me Bret was not afraid to die. That does not surprise me as his
courage was part of his being.
Susan, who had been his nurse, is now going to take classes to become a nurse. (In 2008 Susan became a
nurse and is working in that capacity.) Paul the eldest son, age 15, is a runner as is Seth who will be 13 in
February. (In 2009 Paul is finishing college and will go into the Air Force as he has been in the Air Force
program for his four years.)(Seth will be starting his Junior year in college in September of 2009)
Gene, Bret’s father, kept a scrapbook and the boys will be able to show their children the feats of their
grandfather. They can be very proud of his accomplishments.
As I stood in the cemetery and watched as the Honor Guard folded the American Flag with precision, the
snow continued to fall. Two Air Force Buglers stood off in the distance and once the flag was folded one of
the buglers began playing Taps and the other would echo the notes. The sound came through the pines, so
beautiful with the snow on their branches. When the last haunting sounds were heard there was a Twenty
One Gun Salute and then an Air Force Officer carried the folded flag to Susan, and with words of
thankfulness for his service to his country he presented her the flag.
A tear rolled down my cheek as I thought of this friend. Bret had shown courage in his races and over the
past two years Bret would show that courage in what would be the toughest race of his life. There is no
doubt he was able to do that. It is hard to understand why Bret would have to undergo this ordeal. We say
it isn’t fair. Of course all who knew him will miss him. He was a friend, a competitor, a son and most of all a
loving husband and father.
And now that Bret is with his God, I, like so many others can truthfully say, I am so glad he came into my
life. Our paths had crossed, but the time was far too short.
Greg Reynolds....University of Illinois graduate. He ran 4:12 in the
mile in 1982 while in college. He ran 3:40.35 for 1500 meters in
1983 after eight months of training with the club team.
Owen Hamilton.....University of Texas graduate. Ran 1:49 for 800
meters at Texas. After 16 months of training ran 1:46.02, 800 in
1984. Was a member of the Jamaican Olympic team in 1984.
Rich Block......Duke University graduate. Ran 1:49 for 800 meters
in college. After two years of training ran 3:59.7 in 1984 in the
Gordon Sanders.....Hillsdale College graduate. Began easy
training in the Fall of 1985. Because of a bad back he only did
1500 miles the first year.(30:13 10K the Spring of '86) 2300 miles
the second year and a PR of 29:28. In '89 with 3000 miles of
training he ran 28:28 and 13:52 for 5K. In 1991 he won the 10K
USA road championship.
Mike Michno....Hillsdale College graduate. Mike started training
with me in September of 1984 after he had run 3:52 in the 1500
meters. In the Spring of 1985 he ran 3:44. After joining the Air
Force and moving to another state he continued to improve,
dropping his time to 3:39.
Sarah Westover..... Did not run in college. Ran 2:43 marathon
after two years of training.
Maureen Cogan....Ohio State graduate. Big Ten Champion in the
5000 meters. Best time in college was 15:57 for 5K. After two
years of training ran 33:01 for 10K on the roads.
Gary Loe..... Was a freshman at Wright State in 1975. In his
sophomore year he was "All American" in the 5K running 14:23.
Brenda Webb.... Was a freshman at Wright State in 1974. As a
sophomore she placed third in the 5K in the NCAA division I
Meet. She transferred to the University of Tennessee on scholarship.
Jessica Kuhr...Was a freshman at Wright State in 1999. Her best 5K time in high school was 19:33. As a
sophomore she improved to17:14 on the track.
BOB SCHUL....1963-64 HISTORY
Returning to Miami of Ohio in the Fall of 1963, Bob would put to
good use the lessons he had been taught. Training by himself,
without an indoor facility, during the Winter was a challenge but
the goal he had set for himself kept him going, doing twice a day
workouts. With a great Fall workout schedule he went into the
indoor season in the best shape of his life. After breaking the
American record for three miles in an early meet he and Bruce
Kidd of Canada, traded wins in eight meets, neither winning by
more than inches in any race. During the outdoor season he went
undefeated at 5000 meters, breaking the American records for
three miles in 13:15.4 and the 5K in 13:38, running the last lap in
:54. (The world record was13:35) Bob stated afterwards, "If lap splits
had been given during the race it would have been easy to have broken
the world record." After winning the USA vs USSR meet, the National
Championships and the first Olympic trials in June, he broke the
world record for two miles. (8:26.4) This was run on a dirt track.
He then ran his second mile under four minutes, winning in (3:58.9),
again on a dirt track. Winning the Final Olympic trials and having the
fastest time in the world, he was picked as the favorite by Track and
Field News and Sports Illustrated, the first time an American
distance runner had been picked to win a Gold medal. (Through
2012 Bob is the only American to win a Gold Medal in a race
over 1500 meters who was the favorite going into the race.) Bob
is one of only five Americans to win a Gold medal in a distance
race in Olympic history.
INTERVIEW WITH RUNNERS WORLD
Bob Schul by Peter Gambaccini written in 2001
Bob Schul won the 5000-meter run in the 1964 Olympics ahead of Germany's Harald Norpoth,
American Bill Dellinger, and France's Michel Jazy; he is the only American gold medalist at the
distance. Schul, who ran in the U.S. Air Force, at Miami [Ohio] University, and for the Los Angeles
Track Club, once held the American 5000 record of 13:38.0 and the world 2-mile record of 8:26.4.
He has written the "Bob Schul Training Manual" and an autobiography "In the Long Run," both
available from his www.bobschul.net Web site. Now 63, he coaches the Bob Schul Racing Team and
men's and women's cross-country and women's track at Wright State University in Dayton.
Runner's World Daily: Being favored in the Olympics, as you were in 1964, was unique for a U.S.
distance runner. How did you feel about that role?
Bob Schul: When you go into a race as a favorite, you have much more pressure. You can't be a
person who would just say, "I can do anything I want because nobody expects me to win." If nobody
had ever heard of me at the Olympics, I could have taken off with a mile to go and said, "Okay try to
catch me." And if I didn't win, people would say, "Look at the guts the guy had."
At that time, I thought I could run about 13:20 [his winning time was 13:48.8]. And you've got to
remember we were on cinders, which I look at as being about 2 seconds per lap slower than an
all-weather track. So if I could have run 13:20, we're talking under 13:00 on all-weather. But those
are big ifs.
RWD: Michel Jazy had a silver medal from the 1500 in 1960. Did his lead late in the Tokyo 5000 give
you much concern?
BS: Oh yes. Jazy was the person I feared most. I had beaten [Ron] Clarke a couple of times. I'd
beaten [William] Baillie [of New Zealand]. I'd never run against Norpoth, but he was just a youngster
and an up-and-comer. I'd beaten Dellinger.
Jazy had run 3:54 [for the mile]. My best was 3:58. I knew it was going to be the toughest match I
would have in the last 300 meters, but my strongest suit was still to do it that way. As it turned out,
speed was not the overwhelming factor. Between 300 and 200 to go, I wasn't gaining on him. But
speed and endurance in combination was what won the race. Endurance is what failed Jazy. I ran
exactly the same time as Peter Snell did in his last 300 meters [in winning the 1500 in Tokyo], and he
was on a dry track and I was on a muddy track.(Both ran 38.7 for the last 300 meters.)
RWD: What made the L.A. Track Club so great?
BS: We had one of the finest coaches the world had ever seen in [Mihaly] Igloi. He was so dedicated.
He was at the track at 5:00 until 9:00 in the morning, and then again from 5:00 until 9:00 at night with
different people. That's tremendous dedication. He was doing that 363 days a year. He let us off at
Christmas and Easter. How many people in their jobs would do a split shift like that 363 days a year?
That's unbelievable dedication.
Secondly, we had a group of very dedicated athletes who just looked at these sessions as mandatory.
It wasn't like someone said, "I'm going fishing and I'll see you next week." Igloi was the driving force,
he said, "Every day, you must train." So everybody was at those workouts, injured or not. There were
times when I didn't do tremendous workouts because I was limping or something, but I was there.
Thirdly, there was a mystique that attached itself to this club. Gradually, we believed that [L.A. track
club members] Jim Beatty and Jim Grelle and Laszlo Tabori and Max Truex and Bobby Seamon were
the best in the United States, and that we [the rest of the club members] would also be the best in the
world if we trained properly.
RWD: To those who know your competitive running life, what would be the biggest surprise in your
BS: I guess most people don't know I was asthmatic and almost died of it as a youngster. Truthfully,
Tokyo is the only Olympic Games where I could have competed. All of the others [i.e., Rome in
1960, Mexico City in 1968] were high-allergy places. And in those days we didn't have all the drugs
that you can take now. If anything is fate, it's that the Olympic Games were in Tokyo at the time I was
approaching my peak.
Please see the Brief Chat Index for a complete listing of linked Chats that have appeared in Runner's
World Daily from 1996 to 2000.
EXPLANATION OF WORKOUTS
To do the workouts you must understand the terminology. Therefore allow me to go over the meanings
of the words I will use in the sample workouts. First there are various speeds you will be using. They
are "fresh", "good" and "hard". I do not run my athletes "all out" as I find there are too many injuries or
potential injuries when the body is pushed to that extreme. Distance runners do not need to run all out,
since in a race, when they are sprinting, it is not how fast their muscles will contract but how fast they
will contract when tired. There are efforts in between the "fresh, good and hard" but they are subtle
and will not be used in this correspondence.
"Fresh" running is faster than a jog but there is no pressure on the body. Everybody is different
depending on their natural reflex action. Some of you will run 200 meters in 40 seconds while
others may run 30 seconds. No matter, it is the effort that is important.
"Good" means that you now have some pressure on the upper body. Somewhere between 5/8 and 3/4
speed. "Hard" means you are running about 7/8. Now there is one other very important part
of the workout. That is the "build-up". If I tell an athlete to do good build up, that means you will start
"fresh" for 1/3 of the run, change to a gear I call "fresh to good", for 1/3 of the run and finish
the last 1/3 at "good". If you are doing a "hard" buildup, you run the first 1/3 at "fresh", the second 1/3
at "good" and the last 1/3 at "hard". Obviously you should be well conditioned to attempt "hard".
Where you run the intervals does not matter. It could be on a track or a nice grass field. Don't be too
concerned with exact distances. If you use a park then estimate the distance and use it. Try to stay off
the roads when doing these, as a softer surface will treat your legs much better. Even your long runs
might be done on a softer surface if it is available. Trails would be great for your long runs. Be sure to
wear good training shoes, not racing flats. Save those for the races.
AUGUST 29, 1964....2 MILE WORLD RECORD
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BOB SCHUL......OLYMPIC CHAMPION
Bob was the 1964 Olympic Champion at 5,000 meters in Tokyo.
He held five American and one world record and is the only
American distance runner who has won a Gold Medal while being
the favorite going into the Games. Picked by Sports Illustrated and
Track and Field News to win the Gold Medal based on his having
the fastest time in the world that year (13:38) at 5K(world
record was 13:35), as well as setting a new world record in the
two mile (8:26.4) and ran 3:58.9 in the mile. (All were run on dirt
(The 13:38 is equal to a 13:14 on the all-weather tracks.)
FROM YOUTH TO NATIONAL RUNNER
Bob was born and raised twenty miles North of Dayton, Ohio on
a ninety five acre farm outside of the small village of West Milton.
He had severe allergies and as a small child was close to death on
two occasions from severe asthma attacks. Although the family
doctor told his parents not to place too much stress on his body
with physical activity, they allowed him to participate where he
could. The worse time of the year was from the middle of July until
the first frost, which meant he was always last in cross country at
the beginning of the season. As Bob would tell you after the frost,
it was as if he had a new body and he would improve overnight to
lead the team.
His high school times were not spectacular, 4:34 in the mile; 2:04
at 880 yards and 51.5 in the 440 on a relay. (cinder tracks) As a
sophomore at Miami University (Ohio), he ran 4:12.1 in the mile
for a new school record.
After joining the Air Force he finally was stationed in California in
1960 and a year later he met the famed Hungarian Coach, Mihaly
Igloi. In the summer of 1961 the Los Angeles Track Club was
formed and quickly became the best distance Club in the nation
with such athletes as Jim Beatty, Jim Grelle, Laszlo Tabori, Max
Truex, Bobby Seaman and Ron Larrieu. The Club held all the
American records from 1500 meters to 10,000 meters. About
forty highly dedicated athletes trained with Igloi while Bob was
there from september of 1961 to September of 1963. Bob will tell
you it was Igloi who made it possible for him to win the Gold
Medal. "He taught me how to train my body and my mind. Those
two years, working alongside those other great runners, were
years to be cherished"
1955 DISTRICT MEET
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The following workouts were posted for my Club athletes who could not make it to the regular sessions.
They give an idea on how a session is handled.
TUESDAY, 1 1/2 mile jog, stretch (8-10 minutes), 1 1/2 mile jog, stretch, 10 X 100 meters (fresh), 5 x
200 meters (fresh)(50 meter walk), lap jog, stretch, 8 x 100 meters (fresh), 5 X 300 meters (2 fresh, 1
good build up, 2 fresh.(55 meter walk)(If you are on a track, walk across the field.) (normally written 2fr,
1gbup) It is understood that you repeat. If I had said 6 times then you would have run a good build up on
number six. In the case stated you would have repeated the two fresh only. lap jog, stretch, 8 X 100
meters (fresh), 9 X 160 meters. (2 fr, 1 gbup)(40 meter walk) This time you are repeating three times. , lap
jog, 10 X 100 meters(shake-up) A term I use which means very easy, shaking the arms to your sides at
times so you completely relax and the heart-rate returns to a lower rate. I do not write the "shake-ups" in
the workout as they are understood to be done as the last thing you do.Everyone does the same warm-up
and the initial 10 x 100 (fresh). Therefore I will not write them down anymore. Also everyone does the jog
lap and the 8 X 100 meters (fresh) between sets, so it is now understood and I will not write it down any
Therefore this workout will be written as (5 x 200) (fresh)(50 meter walk), (5 X 300)(2 fr, 1gbup)
(55meter walk), (9 X 160)(2fr, 1 gbup)(40 meter walk)
Thursday: (6 X 160)(fresh)(40 meter walk), (5 X 200)(fresh)(50 meter walk), (6 X 160)(2 fr, 1 gbup)(40
Saturday: (6 X 200)(fresh)(50 meter walk), (5 X 350)(1fr, 1gbup)(50 meter walk), (8 X 160)(3 fr,
1gbup)(40 meter walk)
I walk all intervals for relaxation and the walk distances are normally standard. Therefore I will not list the
walk interval any more unless we use another distance. Also after the initial stretching in the warm-up
phase,the stretching between sets should only be for 5-6 minutes. You should also do ten modified sit-ups
between sets. Be sure to stretch the achilles, calf muscles and I.T. band at all stretching periods.
I suggest all runners keep a log and write down their workouts. Also I suggest you take your heart-rate
after a set you find taxing and write that in the book. Also I want a morning heart-rate, when you first wake
up. Don't guess and I know you will forget from time to time.
Below are workouts given for a week to my Wright State athletes.
girls: Tues: 6 x 160 (2 fr, 1 gbup) 5 x 300 (fr) 6 x 200 (2 fr, 1 gbup) 6 x 160 (fr)
Thurs: 6 x 160 (fr) 4 x 200 (fr) 6 x 160 (fr)
Sat: Race or: 5 x 200 (fr) 6 x 350 (2 fr, 1 gbup) (50 meter walk) 8 x 160 (3 fr, 1 gd)
Boys: Tues: 6 x 200 (fr) 5 x 350 (1 fr, 1gbup)(50 meter walk) 6 x160 (fr) 5 x 300 (1 fr, 1gbup) (50 meter
Thurs: 5 x 200 (fr) 10 x 160 (2 fr, 2 gbup) 6 x 200 (fr)
Sat: Race or 8 x 160 (fr) 5 x 400 (pushing a little)(Time these)(200 walk) 12 x 160 (fr)
These are medium workouts so the athlete can do can do long runs on the other days. Since they are
training by themselves in some instances I feel it is better to keep the interval days lighter so they don't have
a mental problem with them. Once the athlete is with me I will increase their work load in the intervals but
now they will be running as a group and it is much easier mentally.
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Through the years I have been in many running situations that were funny or at times, not so funny. In this
section I will try to relate some of those times for you to read and hopefully enjoy. I will not reiterate
those stories that are in my autobiography although I may expand on some. I will do my best not to
embarrass any of my present or former athletes.
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RICH BLOCK IN GERMANY
In the early eighties the better runners in my Club would travel to Europe to compete for a couple of
weeks in various competitions. On this occasion Rich Block, who would soon break the four minute
barrier, was with me at a small meet in Germany. Rich was a little tired from travel and racing so I found
out the meet promoter needed a "rabbit" for the 800 meter race. There were only two good runners in
the race, another American and a runner from Sweden. All the others were local Club runners.
As I talked to the promoter he told me he wanted the first 400 meters to be run in 50 seconds. "Alright",
I said, "That will not be a problem" I knew Rich could run that fast but truthfully, I also knew he would
be close to "all out" in doing so. No matter, he was only expected to run the first 400 and he could drop
out if he wanted.
In those days you could pick up a little money for being a rabbit but since this was a small meet we
settled on $100.00 for Rich to do the job. Everything was set and Rich relaxed until the meet that
evening while I did some sight seeing.
On a beautiful summer evening the meet was under way and as the events unfolded I went to the meet
promoter to be sure everything was in order. "It is a beautiful evening", I said. "Have you told the other
runners that Rich is to be the rabbit in the race?" "Yes", came the answer, "Everything is arranged." After
a little more small talk I made my way to Rich to go over the plan. "Rich, they will start you in the third
position and you will have to get out fast. I will be at the 200 meter mark and call your split. Any
questions? "Rich looked at me and said, "This is to be 50 seconds, right? I don't think I can run any
faster as I feel beat." I smiled and said, "That is what they want. Have fun."
Rich continued his warm up as we had about thirty minutes before he was to run. Finally it was time for
the 800 meters and the announcer called for all the runners to report to the starting line. I moved to the
200 meter position and checked my stop watch. Everything was ready.
All the runners were lined up, side by side, with the American in position one and the Swede beside him.
Rich was next to the Swede. In German, the command came for SET, and soon after, the gun sounded.
Around the turn they came and Rich could not get in front of the other two runners. To make matters
worse Rich was forced to run in lane three which meant he was running twelve meters extra around the
turn. They were moving very quickly and I could see the strain on Rich's face as he tried to take the lead.
He was beside the American as they went past me and I yelled,"23." Into the turn now and Rich had to
fall back. Into the first quarter and they were a shade under 49. Rich was still in third and ran 50 flat. I
could see he would have trouble staying with them much longer. He made it to the 600 meter mark and
then his legs just wouldn't carry him any longer and he struggled in, losing many meters to the other two.
The race was won in 1:48+ and Rich was third in 1:57. He could have dropped out, but it was his
choice. I knew something had gone wrong between the promoter and the two good runners, otherwise
they would have let Rich take the lead. But how would I handle Rich. He had been somewhat
embarrassed and I wanted to keep it light.
I watched Rich as he walked to the high jump pit which was in the middle of the turn, right after the
finish. I saw him lay down in the pit as I walked in his direction. What would I say to him. I approached
him and said, "Well, that first 400 was pretty fast." I can't relate what he said in return, but I was keenly
aware that he was upset. "Well, just relax, I want to talk with the promoter." As I looked around the site
to find him I saw the American cooling down and I approached him. After the usual small talk and
congratulating him on his victory I said, "By the way did you know that Rich was the rabbit in the race?"
He looked at me a little startled and answered, "No, we were never told. I wish we had been because
the first lap was too fast."
I found the promoter and informed him that I knew he had not informed the other runners. "But your boy
did not lead", he said, "Why not?" "Because the others didn't know and Rich was only supposed to run
50 seconds which is what he did." With a wave of his hand he walked away. I must admit I was a little
upset with his attitude.
Rich had finished warming down and he asked, "Will I still get my money? "We will see", I answered
"We will see."
Later that evening there was the usual meal for all the sponsors and the invited athletes. Rich and I sat at
a table with a few other athletes from Germany and we enjoyed the meal and the company. The hour
was getting late and we had to catch a train to our next competition early in the morning. We had already
been paid for the competition expenses which included a little extra so all that was remaining was the
$100.00 for Rich. "Do you think he is going to give it to you", Rich asked. "Let's find out" I said and
turned around to talk with the promoter who was sitting with a group of well dressed Germans. Maybe
friends or backers of the meet I thought.
"Excuse me, but we have an early train and would it be alright if we settled up the fee for Rich in the 800
meters?" He stared at me for a few seconds before answering, "He does not deserve any money, he did
not lead." He was technically right of course but it was his not telling the other runners that was the
problem. "But Rich ran exactly what you asked, he went through the 400 in 50 seconds. Isn't that what
you had asked him to do?" "Yes, but." I didn't let him finish. "NO, no", I said, "I don't want to argue but
if you don't do what you said I will tell all the people at your table what happened." He didn't wait a
second before he stood up and looked at me. "Bob, would you like to come to my room, I know you
and your athlete must be tired." He turned to the others at his table. "Excuse me for a short time, I have
some business with my American friends. I will be back shortly." then he said something in German and
he led the way to his room.
We received the money and excused ourselves. The next morning we boarded the train for the next city.
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I'M RUNNING AS FAST AS I CAN
It was the middle 1970's and I was coaching at Wright State. When we first started in 1973 we were
terrible. We never won a contest in our first year and were being beaten by division III schools. But
now, in the third year, these same runners, along with a few new recruits, had blossomed and we were
competing on an equal level with most of the Ohio schools. All my runners were walk-on athletes as we
did not have any scholarships.
In this particular race one of the runners, Terry Roeth, was running fourth for us. As always I was running
from point to point cheering them on. The race was now nearing the last kilometer and I was urging all of
my runners to finish strongly.
The top three Wright State runners had passed me and here came Terry. "All right, Terry", I shouted,
"Give it all you have. Move up. "Now as we all know, coaches shout these statements just to make it
known to the runner that they care. But as Terry passed me he shouted something which I couldn't
understand and quickly forgot.
The race was over and the boys were jogging easily to cool down and we had run well in the
competition. Finally Terry came over to me. "Bob, I want to apologize for what I said." "Apologize, for
what", I asked as I was very perplexed. "For what I said on the course", he replied.
Now I had completely forgotten that he had said anything, but I must admit I was now interested. "What
did you say?" He looked at me with a slight grin on his face and stated, "Well, you know when you
shouted to me about running faster or something like that." "Yes, I remember", I really wanted to know
now. "Well, I was a little upset and I said, I'M RUNNING AS FAST AS I CAN."
Well I guess I was expecting something a little heavier than that. I looked at him and started to laugh.
"Go warm down, Terry. I know you were doing your best."
As I look back to that experience, I wonder if all runners can truely make that statement. It is a fact that
the only person who really knows is the runner.
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THE GREENHOUSE EFFECT
It was in the early eighties and "old man winter" was doing everything he could to make it miserable for
my Club team. We were using the excellent facility at Milton Union High School, where I went to school
and it was a beautiful eight lane all-weather track. When the first snows fell I would arrive at the track
about an hour early with a snow shovel made of plastic so I wouldn't cause any damage to the surface,
and spend that hour shoveling the second and third lanes. I told my athletes I looked upon the shoveling
as a weight workout, although I must admit I had trouble convincing myself.
In about the first week of January a big storm hit which was a combination of ice and snow. It was
impossible to use the track any longer. A member of a tennis club I partially owned at the time, was the
manager of a horticultural center or nursery and they had plants growing inside the entire year but
especially in the Winter to have them ready for Spring planting. I don't know how the conversation came
around to my Club training in this weather but when the conversation was over the manager invited me
stop by the nursery to see what he had available.
The next day I drove the eight or so miles and arrived at his office. "Let's go out to the nursery and I will
show you what may work for you", he turned to his secretary, "I will be back in thirty minutes or so." We
walked outside and then about fifty meters later we went into a greenhouse. On tables were thousands of
plants. "How big is this place?" I asked. "Well each building is about sixty meters long and about thirty
meters wide. "As I looked at my surroundings which was nothing more than plastic being held up by
ribbing, I wondered how we would be able to use the facility. You couldn't run the sixty meter distance
because the tables were too close together and the plants were hanging into the walkway. I was about
ready to tell him it didn't look like it would be useful, when we came to the middle of the facility. "Now
here is where I think you can run. "he said. I thought to myself, you must be kidding. Oh, the width of this
area was alright, almost ten feet wide, but it was only thirty meters from wall to wall. "I don't think this
will work." I stated with disappointment in my voice. He looked at me and a slight smile crossed his face.
"No, I don't expect you to run in here." He started to walk toward the wall where I could see there was
what looked like a garage door. He hit a button and the door went up, opening into another facility just
like the one where we were standing. "Is this better?", he asked. "Better, but there still isn't enough
room." He walked to the wall of that building and pushed another button and the garage like door went
up. Well, we continued on our journey and wall after wall opened up until there was a good three
The surface was concrete and there was a slight rise or fall between the buildings but I was beside
myself. This would work, it really would. "This is something else.", I stated in a joyful tone. "Can you use
it when the doors are open?", he asked. "We sure can, but can you leave these doors open for extended
periods of time?" He told me that each building had a different temperature depending on the plant that
was being grown in that facility. "We can leave a door open for over two hours and the temperature
won't change very much." He told me he would have his forman lift all the doors at the agreed upon time
and after we were finished he would close them.
It was settled, we had a place to train for the Winter and I thought to myself how I was going to tell my
Club runners about this place without laughing too much.
Two days later we had our first session. I couldn't use any distance over 300 meters but that was alright.
You could feel the difference in temperature as you ran through each building of thirty meter width. Off to
the side were thousands of flowers and other plants growing for the Spring season. It was unique and
possibly the craziest place I have ever trained. But it worked and of the twenty plus athletes who used
the facility there were some very good people. Two of the boys, Rich Block and Greg Reynolds would
break four minutes in the mile. Bret Hyde would go to the Olympic trials in 1984 in the Steeple. Owen
Hamilton would make the Olympic team in the 800 meters for his home country of Jamaica.
Most of the athletes drove fifteen to twenty miles, one way, to get to the workouts but that was always
the case. The winter weather made the trips a little harder.
I wonder if the athletes of today would ever use such a facility .Well, they wouldn't have to of course,
they would just pack their bags and move to another climate.
When anyone talks about the "Greenhouse Effect", I always remember the winter of 1982.
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CONCENTRATION: (Searching for the Perfect Runner)
What makes one athlete excel over another? Easily answered you say. Obviously they were born with
better genes. Therefore they are slimmer, shorter, and without any defects. We know that body weight
has a tremendous effect on distance running and there must be an optimum height. What that is exactly,
no one has studied as far as I know, but we can surely estimate that somewhere between 5'2" and 5'8"
would be a good guess. There have been taller runners who have done very well, but not many. I am six
feet one inch tall. Good runners cannot be stocky, so the small boned, slim runner has the advantage.
When we look at these body types, we must come to the conclusion that weight lifting may not be in the
best interest of these athletes. Maybe limited amounts would be all right but nothing that would build bulk
in the athlete.
I don't see the Africans doing any weight lifting and I did very little during my running career. What I did
do was use light weights for toning purposes and not to build bulk. The idea is to be as light as possible
without losing strength.
The next advantage is the birth place of the potential athlete. It is apparent now that being born at altitude
has a tremendous effect on the development of the cardiovascular and respiratory systems. So a distinct
advantage will go to those people whose parents live in a country where it is over 5000 feet above sea
level and the advantage may increase if you live even higher.
Once you have the body type and being born in the right place then we want to know how much oxygen
can be absorbed into the body and the rate it can be absorbed. Obviously some humans have better
"oxygen uptake" than others and therefore the factors listed above will give you the advantage. Genes
passed from parent to child would also be a factor. The percentage of fast twitch and slow twitch muscle
fibers in the body is a determining factor on how good the person will be.
In my days of training with the Los Angeles Track Club there were many athletes who did essentially the
same amount of work but the results were not the same. It must be assumed that at least some of those
athletes had the same muscle fiber or the same percentage of slow twitch to fast twitch cells. Of course,
one other variable is that some athletes do not run as effortlessly as others and therefore the wasted
motion used energy that could have been used in moving the proper muscles toward the finish line. Any
small discrepancy in the bone structure makes the runner work harder than they should and can bring
about injury. When we watch runners at the International level, we see that their running form is much
more perfect than the average runner.
If we dismiss the being born at altitude theory for the moment, we have put together the perfect body for
distance running. There must be thousands of these people in the world. Some will never be given the
opportunity to compete and others will never take the opportunity. So we are left with hundreds of
individuals who have the proper body makeup and are given the chance to see what their bodies can do.
Out of these we have a few who excel. Is it the training these people have been given that gives them the
edge? Surely many people do the equivalent training. However there are those who go a little farther than
their competitors. In 1964 I was and am convinced that no one in the world was doing the training I was
doing. If that was true, the possibility exists that the few who are leading the world today are doing a little
extra. Nurmi did it, followed by Zatopek, Kuts, Clarke etc. And sometimes it is because their bodies are
holding together as they push themselves harder than someone else. And that may be the most critical
point of all. Years of training without serious injury is a vital key to success. With all the attributes to
become a great distance runner, it will do no good if the body is constantly breaking down.
Now we come to the point of this essay. There is one more attribute we can study which is the level of
concentration these people have. I am convinced that this particular attribute is essential to being a good
distance runner. There are times in races where runners have increased the tempo and you ponder a
decision to go with them or to keep the same pace. At those times the decision is based on the amount
of mental toughness the runner has which is directly related to concentration. Mind over matter. Some
athletes will not place their bodies in high discomfort zones. In other words when they feel discomfort
they back off a little so they don't have to endure it. Other athletes will push through these episodes. And
theoretically there would be various percentages of discomfort for each athlete. In other words some
may back off at the slightest hint of discomfort while at the other end of the scale the athlete will not back
off until his body gives in to the forces of human endurance from a physiological stand point.
If this is true, how does a person achieve this ability. Is it an inborn trait along with the other gene factors
that give an individual the possibility of becoming a fine distant runner? I don't see how that could be the
case. Could it be the environment where the person is raised? Having a parent(s) that somehow instills
the notion that giving up is not an option. Possible. Or is it a learned trait from the training the athlete goes
through. I would think that the environment has some effect for surely a person who sees a way to move
upward in society has a greater psychological drive than another who comes from a family position
where they are comfortable. And that may be the greatest impetus of all. Is it that they are trying to be
better, having a need to be better than the other person? Are they wanting to leave a life where they are
not satisfied? Are they trying to show others that they are capable of achieving and this is they way they
have chosen? In many cases it is one of the few roads available.
But surely, training has a lot to do with how a runner can push through discomfort. A training program
that brings the athlete to discomfort periods time and after time must condition the "body of the athlete"
and the "mind of the athlete" to endure higher and higher levels of discomfort.
So we find the perfect human body, with the right percentages of slow twitch to fast twitch muscles cells,
who has been raised in the proper environment and is hungry for success. Then we place them in the
proper training program that has been designed by a knowledgeable coach. Then we use the perfect
environment(s); altitude, sea level, perfect trails, good sand, world class track, ample sun, temperature,
humidity etc. Then we have the athlete run only because work would interfere. Running is work. We
travel from the Northern hemisphere to the Southern hemisphere for the best competition, from Europe
to North America to Asia.
If all this is done and we throw in a masseur, a doctor, a psychologist and a few other things I have
surely left out, then surely, the outcome would be an athlete who can compete on an equal footing with
any athlete in the world.
I knew athletes once who trained four hours a day and still worked an eight hour job. I wonder how they
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MEN'S DISTANCE RUNNING COMES OF AGE IN THE U.S.
The question must be asked, "When did distance running in the United States become par with the rest
of the world?" If we look back in history, we can say the John Kelly did some marvelous things with his
running, but only a small part of the world was competing at the time.
Then in 1952, Horace Ashenfelter, won the Olympic Gold in the Steeplechase. It was a break through
for the United States, but even Horace would tell you he hadn't expected to win. The rest of the world,
mainly the Europeans, shrugged it off as an upset that can happen from time to time and they went back
to dominating the sport. Other than the Europeans, the rest of the world was still in distance running
We didn't have another break through until the 1960 Rome Olympics when Max Truex placed sixth in
the 10,000 meters,
running 28:50.2. For the United States that was excellent, but the rest of the world yawned and
continued to dominate. New
Zealand had now come on the scene, soon followed by Australia.
Truex had been coached by Mihaly Igloi and Max thought Igloi was the reason for his success. The fact
is that Max, as my
commanding officer, arranged for me to go under Igloi for two weeks in the Spring of 1961. In my
LONG RUN", I talk about those two weeks and how it was the start of my drive for the Olympics.
The people under Igloi and the Club that was to be known as the, LOS ANGELES TRACK CLUB,
would become the strongest distance running Club the United States had ever known. It all started in the
early sixties. Leading this emergence was Jim Beatty who would be the person to chip away at the
European dominance. Jim went on to set three world records at two miles and below and even more
American records which included the 5000 meters which he ran in 13:45. His time in the mile of 3:55.5
would make the rest of the world take notice. When he broke the world record for two miles in 8:29.8,
he became a contender for the 5000 meter Gold Medal.
There were other runners on the LATC who were running well. Jim Grelle was a very tough miler who
broke the four minute barrier over twenty times. Ron Larrieu was becoming stronger with every month
and I was learning how to race, as Igloi
continued to work me increasingly harder.
In those years there were a few others in the United States who were doing their best to keep up with
the LATC. George Young, the American record holder in the steeplechase at 8:38, was the most
prominent and as the LATC was setting American and world records', George and a few others were
training harder to keep up. There is no doubt that Igloi and his runners were pulling the others along.
Buddy Edelen had traveled to England to train and he was becoming world class at 10,000 meters and
especially in the marathon, where he was one of the best in the world. In 1964 he was slated to win a
medal but a bad back would keep him from running his best.
In 1964, a mix of old and new runners would take over the U.S. running scene. Bill Dellinger would
come out of hibernation and become a force. Gerry Lindgren, still in high school, would receive a lot of
publicity and test the veterans. Young, Larrieu, Beatty, and Schul would continue to run well. No other
American was given a chance of cutting into the dominance established by the rest of the world.
As 1964 progressed, it was apparent the US had closed the gap considerably in respect to the rest of
the world. In the steeplechase, the US had three people in the top fifteen. Even though Young had the
third best American time, he was the only one given a chance to medal.
In the 10,000 meters, Gerry Lindgren had the twelfth fastest time in the world with Billy Mills in twentieth
and Ron Larrieu in twenty sixth. Only Lindgren was given a chance to place in the top five.
In the 5000 meters, Schul had the fastest time in the world and for the first time in Olympic history an
American was favored to win a distance event.
So how did it all turn out. In the steeplechase, George Young finished fifth in a time of 8:38.2. In the
10,000 meters, Mills was the upset victor in 28:24.4 with Lindgren ninth in 29:20.6 and Larrieu twenty
fourth in 30:42.6. In the marathon Edelen placed sixth in 2:18:12.4, Mills was fourteenth in 2:22:55.4 and
Peter McArdle was twenty third in 2:26:24.4. In the rainy 5000, Schul won as he said he would do in 13:
48.8 and Dellinger beat Jazy of France by a few centimeters for third in 13:49.8. Both given the same
Yes, we had some performances that were better than expected. Mills in the 10K and Dellinger in the
5K, but we also had some that did not go well. Lindgren had injured his ankle a week before the final
and Edelen could not entirely rid himself of the back spasms.
In 1968, George Young, ran a great race at Altitude in finishing third in the steeple and Jim Ryun ran
well in finishing second in the 1500. Both were hold-overs from 1964.
After all these people had retired, the US fell on hard times. No one came forward to be competitive on
the world stage until Prefontaine, Rodgers and Shorter came into prevalence in the seventies. When
Shorter won the Gold Medal in the marathon and Prefontaine placed fourth in the 5000 in 1972, the US
had regained some of what they had lost. Rodgers had placed twelfth in the marathon. Ryun, who was
expected to do well, was tripped in the trial race and didn't run the final. Shorter continued to run well in
1976, capturing the Silver Medal in the marathon.
In the eighties we had lost the ability to compete against the world. We had Henry Marsh in the Steeple
who ran well but we were hard pressed to find anyone else the Europeans would say they thought could
win against them. And the world was changing. The Africans were becoming a force. It had started in
1964 with Keino in the 5000 and Gammoundi in the 10,000 while Bekila was unstoppable in the
marathon. Now there were many more Africans as they emulated Keino, Gammoundi and Bekila.
Now the United States has taken a back seat. Only Bob Kennedy is on the scene. Here we are the
richest nation in the world and we can't train enough people to be competitive. Was 1964 an illusion?
Why did we do so well? Was it pure luck? Anybody who has run distance races knows it is not luck.
You might be able to stop a few hocky shots through luck and win a contest from someone who is
superior, but in distance running you had better be well trained.
Or is it that there are more runners competing from around the world. No doubt world athletes are
running faster, especially the Africans. But even if this is true, are we as a nation staying up? In 1964 all
the athletes were running on cinder tracks and Schul makes the case that a race run on cinders at 5000
meters is about 25 seconds slower than running the same race on an all-weather track. That would mean
Schul's 13:38 is worth 13:13 on the all-weather track. A list would show the times in 1964 with the
reduction for the cinder tracks over the all-weather tracks.
........................................CINDER............ALL WEATHER .........1965 Better times
BOB SCHUL......................13:38.........................13:13 13:10.4 3 mile
RON LARRIEU..................13:43.........................13:18 13:11.4 3 mile
GERRY LINDGREN..........13:44.........................13:19 13:04.2 3 mile
BILLY MILLS...................13:57.4.......................13:32.4 13:12 3 mile
In 1965 most ran faster than they had done in 1964. And still the all-weather tracks were still in the
making.Add :26 seconds for the 188 yards 4 inches to the three mile times to give a 5K time.
Prefontaine ran 13:22 which would place him fifth on the list. Since he ran on an all-weather track there
is no reduction in time. Mills time in 1965 moves Steve to 6th best.
Why haven't the US runners improved since the mid sixties. We should have ten runners and possibly
more running below 13:10 for 5000 meters. Since that is not the case we should ask the question, "why?"
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MAX TRUEX IN POLAND
The year was 1961 and I had made my first National team. The USSR versus USA match was
completed and the US men had won again. I had not competed in that track meet as I was the third best
steeplechaser and only two athletes ran in these dual meets. A few days after the Russian Meet we ran in
Germany and I tasted my first International experience. I led in the race until the last hurdle, fifty meters
from the finish, when I was passed by my fellow countryman, Charles "Deacon" Jones who beat me by
an inch. I was upset that I had allowed that to happen as I had been slow over the last hurdle. Foolishly I
went to one of the barriers in the infield and continued to practice until my calf muscle gave out and tore.
Now what was I going to do. The rest of the trip was ruined by a stupid mistake. I had not run badly as
my time was
fourth fastest ever by an American, 8:47.8. Now that is just the setting for my story. We traveled to
Warsaw, Poland for our next competition and were housed in a very nice training center about twenty
miles outside Warsaw. We were secluded and it was great for training but many of the athletes wanted
to be in the city so they could taste some of the culture of the city. After two days we moved into a hotel
in the city. Prior to the move I used the wooded area and a cinder track to do my training and I had to
be very careful as my leg was very sore. I knew it would be impossible to run very fast in a race. On the
second day we were there I had finished my light training and started to warm down by jogging on some
trails in the woods that was just beside the track. After a mile or so of meandering through the trails and
thoroughly enjoying myself, I came to an opening and in front of me was another cinder track. The track
was deserted except for one solitary individual, Max Truex, who was our best 10K runner in the US.
Max was also my commanding officer in the Air Force although our relationship was a little different from
the usual officer to enlisted man, which I was. I watched Max as he made his way around the track and
came down the last straight away where I was now standing. He ran to the end and came to a stop and
placed his hands on his knees for a brief time. He then stood and looked at the watch he was carrying,
and had presumably stopped, when he had finished. Then he shook his head as if to say, "I just do not
believe it." I want to point out the fact that Max was about 5' 4" tall and cut his hair so short it looked as
if he was bald. A week earlier Max had posed in front of a picture of Krushchev, who was the dictator
of the USSR at the time, and you would have thought they were brothers as Max puffed his cheeks out
for effect. As he walked in my direction I asked him, "What are you doing Max?" "Four hundreds," came
the reply, "but I can't believe I am so slow." Truthfully as I had watched Max come down the straight he
looked as if he was running at seventy
seconds and I wondered how fast he wanted to run. "Max, you were moving pretty good, how fast do
you want to run?" He
looked at the watch again as if wishing somehow he had misread the time. "I am trying to run 70 to 71
for a 400 and I can't get below 82. I feel like I am moving all right but if I have to run against the Polish
athletes when I can't break 80 I am going to be in big trouble." I looked at the track set in the midst of
the forest. "Have you been running a full lap Max?" He looked at me as if I was crazy, "Of course I am
running a full lap." "Max, look at the track, it is not 400 meters." "Not 400," he asked in amazement,
"what do you mean." "I think the track is much longer, maybe 500 meters," I said with a slight smile on
my face. "You're kidding?" He said as he turned to survey the area. "It does look big, doesn't it?" Max
was finished with the number of 400's he had wanted to do and we jogged easily through the woods until
we reached the building where we were staying. We asked the caretaker the size of the track and he
confirmed it was indeed 500 meters. "Well I guess my 82's are worth 70 seconds for the 400. I will be
all right for the race this weekend." He gave me a little laugh as he walked away to shower.
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ASSESSING AMERICA'S DISTANCE RUNNERS
How does one assess the greatness of America’s distance runners? Each generation has pushed beyond
the one before with better training, better tracks and better equipment. So how do we place these
people in order of greatness?
I suppose we must first look to see how they fared at the world level. Did they win any major
competitions. Did they set any American and World records. If we are going to compare these people
we must have some way to measure the environment of when they ran. Maybe that is impossible but we
know that the modern all-weather tracks are much faster than the old cinder tracks. How much faster?
Hard to say, but obviously the difference must be close to two seconds per lap. Why is this so? First
there was little rebound from the cinder tracks, in effect you had to work much harder to achieve the
same stride length. Stride length is important as the stronger push off you have off the back foot the more
time you will spend in the air with both feet off the ground and therefore your stride length will be longer
without any additional effort.
If we would theoretically give four inches less per stride and the length for a stride is seven feet, then we
must take approximately sixty two (62) strides per lap. In a five thousand meter race that means you
would take 775 strides times the four (4) inches (lost) and you would have a difference of 258 feet or 86
yards. That 86 yards is worth 13 to 14 seconds. That alone is a major difference.
Secondly, we must account for the condition of the track. Obviously an all-weather track is always the
same, stride after stride. The runner does not have to worry about stepping in a hole. On the cinder track
the runners, with each push off, create a small hole that causes the runners foot to shift each time he hits a
hole. This happens almost constantly as the meet is in its latter stages or in a long race where many
runners are tearing up the same lane. This means that each athlete is constantly fighting to use his energy
to stay in a straight line as he is being thrown from side to side as his foot lands. In other words the
athletes energy is not all going forward but some is used to keep the body from shifting. Runners on all-
weather tracks do not have this problem. The difference is easily one second per lap and possibly more.
For those of us who ran on both type of tracks the difference was tremendous. That would mean the
cinder tracks are 12 to 25 seconds slower, due to this factor, than the all-weather tracks.
Those two differences would mean the cinder tracks were 25 to 38 seconds slower in a 5K race than if
that same race was run on an all-weather track
Another consideration and a major one is if the athlete won the race. If they did not, then we would have
to assume they were running as fast as they could at the time. Obviously if the race was tactical and he
lost, then we could not compare. On the other hand if the athlete won the race we might assume he could
run faster. One way to ascertain this would be to look at his finishing lap. If the last lap was exceptionally
fast it would show that the athlete was not in any stress going into that lap.
We must also take into account the competition. Obviously every athlete runs faster when the
competition in the race is excellent. Fast times normally come from fast competitors. There are cases
when an athlete does a great time on his own but it is rare. If rabbits are used it is even better than having
great competitors in the race. The athlete does not have to worry about tempo and all they have to do is
concentrate on the job at hand.
Is this logical? It would be interesting to do a scientific study so we know for sure.
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TRAINING DISTANCE RUNNERS FOR INTERNATIONAL
Written August 13, 2000
In 1996, when I was in Atlanta for the Olympic Games I was invited to speak to the employees and
guests of Nations Bank. Afterward as I mingled with the guests a gentleman joined the group and was
introduced as Mr. McCall. After five minutes one of the other people in the party mentioned that Mr.
McCall was the CEO of Nations Bank. This was the perfect opportunity to relate my ideas on how the
United States could bring distance running back to where it had been in the 60's. When the perfect time
came I spoke to Mr. McCall concerning my ideas and he seemed very interested and asked me to write
him a proposal. When I returned home I did just that and I will place those ideas here for you to read
with updates. I also contacted Craig Masback and informed him of the conversation and gave him Mr.
McCalls name and address so he could follow up and use his good office to help bring my ideas to
The United States has fallen to a second rate power in distance running from the 1500 meters to the
10,000 meters. During these last several years we have not had many runners ranked in the top ten in the
world in any of the distance events. In this Olympic year of 2000 we still have athletes who have not
qualified for the Olympic standards and now we have only one representative in the men's and women's
This should never happen to the United States with our population, standard of living and technology.
However something is lacking or we wouldn't have this situation. It is easy to point fingers but at the
same time, we must have an honest discussion if we are going to remedy the situation. So what are the
possible reasons? Do the distance runners of this nation lack determination? Are they willing to pay the
price to keep up with the world? I can't answer that since I don't know what they are doing in their
training. Some are very dedicated I am sure and would be very upset if they were told they don't have
Are we keeping up with the training. Since I have been training athletes for some thirty five years I know
you have to continually experiment and therefore my training methods are better now then when I ran in
the Olympics in 1964. I have always believed to be a proper coach you must watch your athletes in the
workout and adjust the workout to how the athlete feels and is performing on that day. I hear constantly
from athletes that their workouts are posted on bulletin boards and they are expected to do the workout.
That is not coaching in my opinion.
And that is the third reason, do we have coaches who understand what it takes and have they trained at
the levels they are asking their athletes to do. That is not to say they had to be international runners but I
believe it would be helpful since they would more fully understand the psychological aspects of
International competition. If you haven't been there how can you give advice.
Whatever the reason, we must find an answer. If I can go back to the Los Angeles Track Club which
was and still is the best Club Team ever in the History of the United States, that would be the model for
future clubs in the United States. I am not talking about a "paper" club where athletes come together to
represent a club but never train together. The Los Angeles Track Club trained under Mihaly Igloi, the
great Hungarian coach and only those athletes who were training with him were allowed to carry the
colors of the club into competition. They trained thirteen times a week. Twice a day Monday through
Saturday and once on Sunday. And I will tell you it was very seldom an athlete missed a workout.
Can this be done again? Of course it can and in the last few months the USAT&F has brought into being
two clubs. One of those will be in Pocatello, Idaho and the other in Seattle, Washington. I don't know
who will coach those clubs so I cannot give an opinion on how successful they will be.
However it is a start and the USAT&F should continue to back clubs throughout the United States. In
different locations corporations must be persuaded to back these clubs. They must be convinced that
backing such a club would be good for their bottom line. What better way to advertise their product than
to have their name in road races throughout the United States and on tracks throughout the world.
Obviously these athletes would be out front and would receive publicity in many magazines. Sponsors
would not have to be shoe companies but any company in the city where the Club will train.
The important point is we need many different systems to train these athletes. All coaches feel their
system is the best, otherwise they wouldn't use it. But all athletes will not prosper under the same system.
Personalities differ and the psychology of training must suit each athlete.
The important item is to pick the athletes for each Club and the training system which is to be used. Each
club coach should interview a number of athletes to see if they would fit into his system. I would want to
use some psychological tests and interviews with a psychologist before I chose the people to train.
Even though all the athletes in my era worked full time and still trained twice a day I believe it would be
best to have the athletes work part time, probably four hours, five days a week. That would be a
necessity since too much down time would not be best psychologically. I don't believe it would be a
problem to convince various companies to hire these people on a part time basis.
So what is the next step. The USAT&F people must be the catalyst. They must be the ones to see to it
that press releases are given to all media. They should have meetings with every coach who is qualified
and wishes to have a Club team. They would help in contacting athletes so they are aware of the
opportunities. Each coach could do it on their own but that is not the way it should be done.
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PSYCHOLOGY OF COMPETITION
Why do people compete? Can you think of anything more destructive psychologically. The worry, upset
stomach, sleepless nights. Of course there are all levels of competition and I would assume from
observing the human race over these sixty plus years that not everyone likes to compete at very high
levels. In fact my best guess is that only a small minority love the high level of competition.
Now I am talking about competition that can keep you awake at night wondering if you have done the
right things to be at your best. It doesn’t have to be in the world of sports but exists in business, religion,
the arts etc. The level of competition where you put everything on the line, do or die as they say.
But I have been in the world of business and the only time I felt the same as when I was competing in
sport was when my livelihood was at stake. In other words something must be at stake or at least you
feel something is at stake. In sports it may be as simple as your reputation.
When I was in high school at the State competition I was as nervous or maybe more so than when I
stepped to the line for an important international race. Why? I had nothing to lose except my self
imposed reputation. I wasn’t expected to win by anyone, even myself. But there was something, some
idea in my mind, that I must run well, for if I didn’t I would bring shame upon myself. Is that what it was?
A mentally contrived idea of my own making.
Humans, because we are thinking animals, have a way of making too much of an ordeal. We worry
about what might be and not what is. Many times we make things worse than they are.
Of course I can think of some scenarios that are so bad our own minds cannot comprehend what is
going to happen to us. When something goes wrong with our bodies, something that is life threatening,
we have a hard time comprehending. We worry about the situation. We don’t have to contrive anything.
What is real is real enough, there is no reason to go beyond reality.
Having said all that let me go to the part of competition I know the best. Man against man, head to head,
with something at stake. As I look back I was more nervous when I was not as well prepared as I
wanted to be. But what does that mean? How did I know that I wasn’t prepared? I surely didn’t know
what my competitors were doing in their training. I thought I was doing everything possible in my training
in high school. Of course as I look back I think how funny that statement is. If I was doing fifteen miles a
week it would have been good.
When I was in High School I remember lining up for the State Mile race and being so nervous I walked
off the track and threw-up. I did it in college too and as I look back I realize I wasn’t handling the
situation but I was allowing the situation to handle me.
Later I made a discovery, a mental awakening if you will. I decided I would only run as well as the shape
I was in. Oh I knew I could factor in the excitement of the race but that would always be there. The one
thing I could control was the work I could and would do in the weeks, months and years prior to the
race. Therefore if I was prepared properly I could and would run well. Being prepared properly meant
that I was doing more and better work than my competitors.
How did I know I was in better condition? How did I know I was doing more work? I didn’t, that’s
right I didn’t. So how do you assess your condition against those who want to run you into the ground.
You step to the same starting line and test your body against theirs. Your Physical conditioning and your
mental conditioning is put to the test. If you lose, you spend some time re-evaluating your training. Where
can I change the training so I can become a better athlete? Do I spend more time running, run more
miles, run faster in my workouts, eat better, sleep better. You look at your entire life and learn to treat
your body as a machine. How do you make this machine more perfect? Check everything, even the way
As your races improve your mental state improves. There is no doubt that success begets success. When
you finally believe totally in yourself, when everything has come together, when workouts that once were
difficult have become easy and hard days of the past are no longer hard and you have moved to a higher
plateau, then you are ready to test your rivals. Now you can compete.
That is the reason records continue to go down. Athletes continually test themselves against their rivals.
When they lose they realize they must train a little harder and a little smarter. They do that and beat their
rivals and then someone else goes to a different level. It is a constant reaching for better training.
Isn’t it interesting that someone fifty years ago didn’t train like athletes of today who are setting world
records. Why didn’t they take a quantum leap. Why didn’t they say to themselves, my training is
ridiculous, I am going to increase the load four fold. They didn’t and therefore records continued to fall
slowly. Of course we must remember running tracks and shoes have also helped to bring records down
and we must put those items in proper perspective. (Take two seconds per lap from cinder track
records over all-weather tracks.)
Getting back to the competitive side of racing, runners come to the race with different intensities. If we
could measure the physical fitness of everyone in a race we would find several runners with near equal
cardiovascular fitness. However one of these athletes would be able to beat the others most of the time.
Why? Because that person is able to concentrate on the race better than his rivals. And in many cases
the athlete is able to push through discomfort better than the others.
That is a part of the race we never know. How do you measure how much discomfort the athlete is able
to withstand. Many athletes will back off when they feel their bodies in that discomfort zone. Some are
able to set the discomfort aside and continue pushing the body. That is not to say they don’t feel the pain,
it is to say they have learned to deal with it.
Is it possible to train the athlete to accept more pain or is it a personality trait. It may be both. I have
come across athletes who seem to have the natural ability to push their bodies to extremes. But at the
same time I believe I have been able to train all my athletes to push harder in races. Learn to live with the
pain. There have been times when I was so tired in races, trying to stay close to the leaders, I had
fleeting thoughts that soon I would have to drop off the pace. But I was able to say, it will only hurt for a
short time, two, three, four minutes is such a short time, don’t slow down, don’t back off.
There is no doubt there are runners who do not win, who run harder, enduring more discomfort, than the
people who beat them. They are tougher psychologically, but have not placed their bodies into the same
cardiovascular condition as those who beat them. Oh, I realize that on certain days there are other
factors, but if we could rid ourselves of those factors the above would be true. Then, of course, we must
My point is then, that it is not enough to have the body in great cardiovascular condition. A top athlete
must be able to concentrate totally on the task and have the ability to run through discomfort. It is the
mental side of racing. Yes, some athletes are born with superior attributes (genes) and they will be able
to get to the top if they are able to put the other two factors together.
The tough competitor is one who can push through discomfort. A person who has the ability to put up
with more pain than their competitors. All other factors being equal it is this person who will win the race.
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Bob Schul #15 running the steeplechase
in Brussels in 1961 (Best time 8:47.8 in 1961)
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