Joan Benoit Samuelson racing at 2018 Freihofer's 5K
Photo by Kevin Morris @ www.kevmofoto.com
Probably no female distance runner in U.S. history has done more to shine a light on our sport than Joan Benoit Samuelson. The petite Mainer has a long and storied running career that spans from her time at Bowdoin College and North Carolina State (where she helped the Wolfpack win an ACC Championship) in the 70s through to the present where she sets marathon age records. Her story of winning the 1984 Olympic Trials Marathon, the inaugural edition, three weeks after knee surgery is legendary. However, her debut at the 1984 Olympic Marathon in Los Angeles established her as an instant star. Breaking from the pack at an early water station, Joanie ran the remaining 21 miles alone, entering the Coliseum to finish in 2:24:52, a record that stood until 2012. And although she has set many running records while her younger self, it is her commitment to running excellence as she ages that also stands out. In 2008 she ran a sub-2:50 marathon (2:49:08) at the U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon at age 50 and 2:47:50 at the Chicago Marathon in 2010. Joanie continues to be a goodwill ambassador to running, giving motivational speeches and coaching fitness clinics around the world. For those who would like to learn more about this remarkable woman, there is her book, Running Tide by Joan Benoit, Sally Baker, Collaborator, or the documentary, “There Is No Finish Line: The Joan Benoit-Samuelson Story.” - Laura Caldwell
Joan Benoit Samuelson and daughter Abby Samuelson finishing the 2018 Chicago Marathon
Photo by Kevin Morris @ www.kevmofoto.com
1. You have been coached by many coaches over the years, in high school, college, club and your professional career. Could you name several coaches who stand out in your mind because of their coaching style or philosophy? What did you take from them that impacted your running?
High School Coach....Keith Weatherbie
College....played field hockey for first two years at Bowdoin. Was coached by Russ Combs and the late Jim Wescott at NCSU.
Coached by Lynn Ruddy and the late Frank Sabasteanski at Bowdoin when I came back from NCSU.
Coached by John Babington when I ran for Liberty AC and Bob Sevene when I ran for Athletics West.
Keith Weatherbie, John Babington and Bob Sevene had the most influence on me. They expected a lot and knew how to handle workouts and athletes so the workouts always flowed smoothly. John was an avid runner and Sev often ran with me. John and Sev had a deep understanding of the runner's psyche. Mutual respect between athlete and coach is very important so is the chemistry of personalities.
2. As one of the most successful women's distance runners of all times, with decades of sub 3-hour marathons and faster on your resume, can you tell us about your approach to training over the years? You have been self-coached more than you have been coached. How did that evolve, and how did you approach it?
Keep it simple. Run the way you feel. The athlete knows her own body and how it responds from workouts better than any trainer or coach. I have always run the way I feel on any given day. If anything, I cut myself short on rest and don't take enough easy days. Learning this as I age.
My three key workouts for marathon training at the height of my career starting three months ahead of the actual marathon date: Long run of 20 miles; medium-long run of 12-15; one speed workout that could be either a track workout, tempo or race. All other runs were run with the energy and stamina I had at the particular time. When I was training twice a day, I felt as though the morning workout maintained my fitness and the afternoon session improved my fitness because I was always training at a deficit after a morning workout.
3. As you look back over your career, what training do you wish you had done more of? What training do you wish you had not done? In hindsight, what type of training works best for you? What is a signature "speed" workout for JBS?
See above. No real regrets except for perhaps not tapering enough.
Signature workouts: 10 x 400m with 200m jog recovery throughout my career before children.
High School: 1 x mile, 2 x 800m, 4 x 400m, 8 x 200m, devised by Coach Weatherbie.
College: Different ladder workouts depending on the coach.
As I moved to more marathons, I did a lot of mile repeats (4-6) with half the number of 800s and 400s.
Photo by Kevin Morris @ www.kevmofoto.com
4. As you have gotten older, how has your training and racing changed? What things do you do differently than 20 years ago? How have you adjusted to being an older distance runner?
More cross training. For the last several years, I have done a lot of Nordic skiing in the winter. In recent years, I have started to do a fair amount of road cycling. Nordic skiing provides a great upper body workout. I think the more closely upper body strength resembles leg strength, the more efficient a runner is going to be.
After having children, I stopped double training sessions except on winter weekends when I often Nordic ski and run on the same day. My mileage has decreased to about half of what it used to be at the height of my career. I haven't done track workouts since being a young mother with the hopes of avoiding injuries.
5. We know you have coached over the years. What are your thoughts about being a coach, and how did you approach coaching? What do you think the role of a coach should be?
A mentor, first and foremost. A coach should exude passion and understand that every athlete comes to the sport with different objectives and goals and know how to schedule workouts appropriately based on the ability, talent, and work ethic of the athlete. John and Sev (Bob Sevene) possessed both of these traits or abilities.
6. Every runner has experienced adversity in her/his running career. You have been so successful in dealing with physical setbacks and rebounding with success. How have you dealt with these adversities and been able to come back even stronger? (ex: Your injury/surgery before the Olympic Trials in 1984) How do you stay strong and motivated?
Passion and the ability to not focus on all the noise surrounding the injury or challenge. I think passion can lead to a strong will. Mind over matter if you will. No pun intended.
7. What do you think drew you to distance running and racing? What ignited your passion to run, and what continues to motivate you?
Love for challenge and the outdoors. Testing my abilities and limits. Always being comfortable in the environment in which I choose to train. Sometimes I think athletes move around too much and would probably perform better if they found an ideal training location for themselves and stayed put. Being able to focus on feelings in an environment that is familiar is what I attribute to my mental toughness, if you want to call it that. :)Kevin Morris @ www.kevmofoto.c
A very Big Thank You to photographer Kevin Morris for the beautiful photos of Joan Benoit Samuelson and family! www.kevmofoto.com
Coming up in the January 31 Newsletter, the WRCC is proud to announce an interview with Joan Benoit Samuelson, Olympic Gold Medalist in the first Women's Marathon in 1984. Joan will talk about coaches and coaching, and her amazing running experiences over the last 40 plus years!
The Women's Running Coaches Collective Talks Track and Field
@ the Nike NW HS Track and Field Clinic
Nike World Headquarters
January 12, 2019
L to R - Moderator Helene Hutchinson, Coaches Christi Smith-Ryan, Kathy Mills Parker, Christina Whitney, Nikki Rafie, Charlotte Lettis Richardson, Robyn McGillis, Melissa Hill (taking the photo!)
The WOMEN'S RUNNING COACHES COLLECTIVE proudly presented "Women Coaches Talk Track and Field" - a panel of women coaches at the Nike NW HS Track and Field Clinic held at the Nike World Headquarters on January 12th, 2019. This incredible panel of women coaches came from all areas of track and field, and running. They included a former World Record holder, a NCAA Hepthalon Champion, one of the foremost hurdle coaches in the state of Oregon, a coaching veteran of 45 years, a marathon coaching specialist, a young and successful HS XC Coach, and a creator of Runner2Runner. Each shared their experiences, knowledge, and wisdom of being a female coach in a sport that is dominated by male coaches. They shared information about coaching and mentoring young athletes. Below are some of the answers given during the panel discussion at the Nike NW HS Track and Field Clinic. We will continue to share these words of wisdom over the next few weeks. Stay tuned!
Coach Christi Smith-Ryan
On being a former national champion in the heptathlon and how that has helped with coaching -
"A little background on my story. I was just a long jumper and sprinter in high school, and my coach recognized my athletic ability. So I literally learned 5 additional events in the heptathlon.You learn very quickly that it's really not the work you do. It's about training smarter, not harder, getting control of your emotions when you are out there, and at the end of the day have the confidence in what you do. So my experiences really helped shape how I express, explain to my coaches, parents, my team how to build confidence. They have to self perceive they can do it. I think nothing can happen without a vision and instilling confidence. There are a lot of things we do to instill confidence because if kids don’t perceive they can do it, they won’t."
- Christi Smith-Ryan, Head Track and Field Coach, Central Catholic High School, Portland, Oregon, Former NCAA Champion in the Heptathlon
Coach Kathy Mills Parker
On being a successful HS and College runner, how has that helped you in coaching young athletes -
"Just being familiar with the type of competitions they are encountering. Honestly, a competition is a competition. A race is a race. And it doesn’t matter if you are at the top level or the bottom level, it's still the same thing.You have to manage your own energy, your own mind, manage every moment that unfolds, and so I think that has affected the way I coach. Having been there is the probably biggest thing as a coach. Ironically having competed at the highest level I was someone who was very injury prone, I think I had a year and a half of healthy training my entire career. And so that gave me another filter to help with people that are going through struggles. That’s been important in my work as a coach."
- Kathy Mills Parker, Former World Record Holder in the 5K, Veteran XC and T & F Coach of 15 years at Lincoln HS, Portland, Oregon
Coach Melissa Hill
On what is the "Goldilocks Approach" and how do you know what is "just right" for each athlete -
"I'm fascinated and a little obsessed on how to best build workouts for each one of my runners. I call this the "Goldilocks Approach". I want to find just the right workout for each athlete because each one of them is unique. So of course we do athlete assessments, we do intake forms when they first arrive as freshman and then each year of high school. We also do pre- and post-race evaluations. I keep these forms for the athletes to read over, and they are hilarious! I've kept them with me for years (and 3 moves) and I still laugh! High schoolers have a great sense of humor!
I found out when I moved from Oregon to Missouri how lifestyles affect our runners. Kids who are more active are not as injury prone as kids who come from more sedentary lifestyles. I realized you had to be on top of this to prevent injury and manage expectations. Runners come from totally different backgrounds and so I had to be hyper focused on what their background was, what they did for fun, and what they did with their parents in their free time. What was their sport background? And I used all that stuff plus other coaching tools to create workouts. And I asked simple things. "Why are you running?", "Why are you out here?" "What motivates you?", "What is your best running experience" and "What is your worst running experience". And that helps me plan their workouts.
I'm all about fun! They still think I'm crazy in Missouri! We did crazy stuff. We turned on the music and did fartleks to music. We built waterslides during heat restricted days, we just had fun and I think that's what kids need. Kids are going to walk away from HS and what is their memory? "I did this workout and I threw up?" (We did do some of that!) I think they are going to walk away and remember they had a good time and we created a team atmosphere. "
- Melissa Hill, Founder of Runner2Runner and Veteran Coach of Youth, High School, Club and Adult Runners
Coach Nikki Rafie
On dealing with an athlete who has had a disappointing performance -
"Who has not had this problem, right? I always keep the end with that in mind especially coming from the marathon. There are only so many things you can control and there are many things that are outside of your control. So first, I try to set the right expectation of what that success looks like for them. When I give them a goal for their performance, it's not just a time goal or a range of times, but I'll pick something that makes them feel good about what they are learning about themselves, about their execution, and their performance. So there are always positive and negatives coming from it . . . I'm trying to set us up for success! But seriously, right after the race, it is a good time to reflect and unpack: What happened and why are you feeling disappointed? They may have done fine and they are still feeling disappointed. I look for things that are actionable instead of just being hard on themselves and saying, "I’m not good enough or I'm not fit enough or I am never going to get it." "I'm just not that runner or hurdler or that marathoner" or whatever that may be. We talk about their race plan, did they stay focused or lose their head somewhere along the way? What they did the day before, did they rest? "Yup, I rested. I just went for a 90-minute hot yoga!" well, that’s not rest! "Did you hydrate", "no". And so now it's not really about them but about some contributing factor that we can do something with. That gets them past that blame game of being disappointed and back to what they are going to do better. Then, I try and follow that in the next couple of weeks with some good confidence building workouts. A time trial, something that reminds them of who they are, how good they are, and what they can do. I set them up for success for the next one. I am not shy to remind them no more hot yoga, no more 90-min basketball with your brother if you are tapering/resting. Make it fun for them as well as let them know it is about them, they are in control, and they can go out there and fight for it!"
- Nikki Rafie, Marathon Coaching Specialist, and Winner of the Portland Marathon
Coach Christina Whitney
On what traits do you look for in an athlete that might make a successful hurdler -
"This is a multi-level question. There are beginning level hurdlers, and there are really great hurdlers who are going on to be top level hurdlers. So you are going to have, especially in a high school season, the whole range. I’m not one to take a kid and have them come over and try hurdles and say, “Yes this is going to be for you when it really is not going to be for them.” Because you want them to feel successful, you want them to feel good about track and field and find a place they can feel successful. I am really honest with kids and say this may not be your event, but let's find something that will be your event. There has got to be something out here that you can be really good at . . . so let's find it! For hurdlers you need to have some coordination, you need to be able to skip with some rhythm, you need to have some flexibility, you cannot have a kid who cannot lift his leg high enough to get over the hurdle!"
- Christina Whitney, Top Oregon HS Hurdle Coach and Co Owner of the SGU Track Club
Coach Robyn McGillis
On how do you build a cohesive team -
"The key pieces are empowerment, building leaders, and conflict resolution. So with empowerment and leadership development I really want the girls to own the team and feel that they are building the team. So it starts for me with the team captains. When we elect those team captains (this goes back to my HR background) I have a job description that I pass out to the entire team of the expectations of being a team captain. I ask the girls if they are interested to submit an application and answer a few questions to why they want to be team captains. I have the team vote and tell me why they are nominating somebody. At the end of the day it is my decision, but I take all of that information into consideration. I don't want it to be a popularity contest. I truly want it to be someone who is up to the challenge of building a team and creating an environment we are looking for at CC.
For the accountability piece, the thing I have found over the past 3-4 years is called "I Commit". Once the team captains are in place, we meet and look at last year and the "I commit" papers and the list of tenets they want the team to be about. They want to hold each other accountable through the season such as, "We want to confront things with our team members face to face",
"That we are diligent with training", "We do all the right things", "We are on top of our grades". They change from year to year depending on the leadership that is in place but they help come up with that and they present it to the team."
- Robyn McGillis, Director of Track and Field Operations, Head Girls Cross Country Coach, Girls Distance Coach in Track and Field at Central Catholic High School, Portland, Oregon
Coach Charlotte Lettis Richardson
On being a long time Head Coach and planning your season -
"Your job as a Head Coach of a Track and Field Team is to look at the big picture. Many of us go into coaching because we love the sport. But being a Head Coach is so much more than just having a passion for Track and Field or Cross Country. You are a manager of people, your Assistant Coaches, and they in turn manage their events and the athletes.
You have to start early to plan your season. Months in advance you need to make sure you have all the assistant coaches in place. Staff meetings should begin in early fall, and each meeting needs to cover aspects of the season ahead. Job descriptions and expectations for each coach on the staff, goal setting as individual coaches and as a coaching staff need to be completed. A Mission Statement for the season is so very important. Spend time with your coaches in making sure you are all on the same page in terms of values and goals. Equipment inventory, scheduling of meets, and coaching credentials need to be updated. Every aspect of the team, including athletes, needs to be planned for and anticipated. None of this can be done a week before the season begins. You must start early to be successful.
Finally you need to plan the first day and the first week. Every coach must be cleared by your district and ON the track and field the first day of practice. This first day must run like clockwork. Know what will happen every minute of that first practice. This will set the tone for the entire season. Plan early and end successful!y!"
- Charlotte Lettis Richardson, 45-year coaching veteran and former Lincoln HS Head Coach in Portland, Oregon, for 13 years
Thanks to our Great Moderator - Helene Hutchinson
We hope everyone had a great holiday with friends and family, and are embracing the start of the New Year! Our team is looking forward to bringing new topics and initiatives throughout 2019.
The WRCC at the Nike NW Track and Field Clinic!
January 11th and 12th, 2019
We are excited to announce the the WRCC will hold a session at the Nike NW Track and Field Clinic on January 11th and 12th, 2019 at the Nike World Headquarters in Beaverton Oregon. Our session will be on Saturday, January 12th from 10:30 to 11:50.
Here is the list of our exciting group of panelist! Helene Hutchinson, long time runner and senior Nike Executive, will be the moderator.
Christi Smith-Ryan has recently accepted the Head Track and Field Coaching position for boys and girls at Central Catholic High School in Portland, Oregon. She has coached at the college level as an assistant at Kent State University, Ohio University, and Iowa University. As an athlete in the Heptathalon, Christi was the 2000 NCAA Champion while at the University of Akron.
Kathy Mills Parker is a veteran distance coach of 14 years at Lincoln High School in Portland, Oregon in both Cross Country and Track. As a competitor, Kathy won the first New York State HS Girls Cross Championships, the AIAW 1977 National Cross Country Championships while at Penn State, and set a World Record on the track in 1978 in the 5K.
Christina Whitney is a hurdle coach extraordinaire. Christina coaches at Tualatin HS and is co-owner of the SGU Track Club. She has coached several state champions in the hurdles, as well as many top 8 state finishers. A personal trainer, and veteran track and field coach, Christina is one of the most highly respected women coaches in the state of Oregon.
Nikki Rafie is a two-time Olympic Trials Marathon Qualifier, winner of the 1995 Portland Marathon, and has run 20 sub-three hour marathons in her 30 years of competing. In 2004 she began coaching in the Portland running community, and has helped 100's of women achieve their running goals.
Charlotte Lettis Richardson has been a middle and distance coach for over 45 years at the high school, college, and club levels. As Co-Head Coach at Lincoln High School in 2007, her boys and girls team won the 6A Oregon State Track and Field Championships. As an athlete in the 1970's, Charlotte ran at the national and international level, qualifying in the 1500 in the 1976 Olympic Trials.
Robyn McGillis is the Head Girls Cross Country Coach, Girls Distance Coach for Track, and Director of Track and Field Operations for Central Catholic HS in Portland, Oregon. As a competitor she ran at the University of California, San Diego, and was a national qualifier in the 800 and Mile Relay.
Melissa Hill has coached running teams at all levels. From youth teams and high school to post collegiate athletes and adults, Melissa Hill is a coach with extraordinary experience and knowledge. Her company, Runner2Runner has grown to 3 states and impacts thousands of runners each year.
These women coaches will talk about their coaching philosophies, share their experiences as women coaches, discuss topics ranging from "how to build a team" to "planning out your season through periodization". More information can be found at www.trackclinic.net
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