I really miss my high school track and field days.
If you are still in high school, cherish it! I ran at Indian Creek High School in a small Ohio town called Wintersville.
The town has grown quite significantly in the past few years, but has one of those unique, small town feels to it it.
The best running tips come from experience.
The people are friendly, hard working and love track and field.
It is a special place, in that it was where I attempted my first track and field race. I ran the mile and two-mile while at Indian Creek.
I didn’t have a clue how to run either of the events when I first started as a freshman in high school.
I’d see athletes run the first 400m in 57 seconds than finish with a time of 5.00 for the mile, others hit 65 seconds per quarter and hit 4.20.
I witnessed in amazement in how fluid those guys were.
I would monitor the newspapers over the weekends and see how fast the local runners were running the 1600m (mile) and 3200m (2) in the area.
I was only a freshman and my first crack at the distance was a 5.30 lowering to 5.09 by the end of the year. I’d see guys running in the 4.40-50’s area and just be amazed.
How do those guys run that fast?
I wanted some running tips to get to that level. Fortunately, I learned over the years a few ways to get there. Patience being number one.
I had a rival who would ironically become one of my best friends throughout high school, Mike Dopler, that would scare most of the competitors he raced knowing of his credentials (including me)
You have to understand, Mike, at that time in my life, was on another level. He had a mile PR of 4.32 and had run 800m in 1.56.
It doesn’t come overnight
He was light years ahead of me and one grade above me at that time. I was new to the sport, had only run a couple track races and couldn’t wrap my mind around how anyone could run a 4.32 mile or 1.56 800m.
My views are similar today but at a higher level. I see guys running under 2.10 for the marathon when my best is 2.19. How do you they do that?
It wasn’t until my junior year that I ended up outrunning Mike.
You have to be patient, learn from your mistakes and enjoy what you are doing.
Competition was a way of me expressing myself.
I found something that I enjoyed doing and have stuck with it ever since. My track times progressed as follows because of it:
Freshman YR (5.09,11.30), Sophmore YR (4.38,10.38) Junior YR (4.32, 9.46) Senior YR (4.24, 9.46)
There are 5 tips I want to send specifically to high school athletes. They are as follows:
1. – Be Yourself
What must be done to be a better high school runner is to realize just how special you are. There is no one like you.
You will always have competition, but be humble and respect it for what it is.
Competition will always bring the best out in you.
It will challenge and push you past your so-called limits.
I didn’t learn what a REAL race was until I was forced to push my body for a longer period of time in a track races.
I had mile races in high school where I would hit the first lap in 60 seconds flat. FAR too fast for my own good at the time and end up running a 4.26 mile.
Cause? Following someone else’s race plan. Don’t do that! Ironically, I ran my best high school mile and broke our stadium record with a 4.24 mile, totally alone.
Second place was 5.01…which brings be to my second tip.
2. – Don’t Try To Break Records Every Time You Race
Carefully select what races you are aiming for and set your training up to peak at the right time.
It has been 17 years since I graduated high school (unreal!), but one of the biggest mistakes I made was trying to be overly tenacious, break records and constantly trying to beat my personal best times for the mile and 2-mile every time I ran them.
Your body will not thank you for this. I can assure you.
Your main objective should always be to qualify for the state meet in your event and if getting to that meet isn’t your goal, than do your best to improve, but do it intelligently.
Running every meet all-out is a quick way to the hurt locker.
3. – District-Regional – State
No other meets should be as highly emphasized as those three. I ran my best mile in a duet meet against another team.
What I should have done is ran the mile just fast enough to win on that particular day (5.00 would have done it), but instead I was trying to break the stadium record of 4.28 running a 4.24.
Your body only has so many all-out efforts and if your a high school athlete the track season is long with sometimes 3 meets in a week.
You try going out too many times without an intelligent plan, your legs might feel like an about to explode bratwurst before you even hit the district meet.
Don’t do that!
4. – Find A Mentor, A Yoga Even
I was fortunate to have great high school coaches, but the one thing they didn’t do was be blunt enough and tell me what I was doing wrong.
I didn’t participate in the sport of cross country until my junior year.
I, for the life of me, could not dip under 16 minutes for 5K (ran 16.16 during my junior AND senior year).
I tried several times and scared it, but it continued to evade me until a month after the cross country season was over.
A 15.48 road 5K that I won in Wheeling, WV.
I had met a great coach by the name of Dennis Delbert who finally got it through my head that I was not going to win the race in the first mile, that I had to slow down, create a plan and run the last 1.5 miles of the race all out.
Advice, especially from those who have far more experience than you, can be your best friend, depending on if you are willing to listen.
5 – Don’t Be Afraid To Fail
A bad race doesn’t mean the end of world. You have a whole season ahead of you.
The first couple track meets of the season always seem to be the most stressful.
You are uncertain of your fitness level and what to expect. Don’t get bent out of shape.
Build your foundation in the early weeks of the season and let your strength be shown when it counts, in the last three major meets of the track season.
The early part of the year should be spent preparing and having fun. If your goals are a little more stringent and you want to make the state meet, than don’t be afraid to fail early on.
Focus all your energy on the money meets at the end of the year where you bring all your track sessions together for that peak performance you have always dreamt of.