Secrets to Success

Final Paper


Any high school distance runner who aspires to be great, ask himself one question, what is the key to being an elite runner? Many high school runners who lack the knowledge of having a successful running plan think that there is one workout that is the key to making them great. They want to know what workout did Steve Prefontaine, America’s greatest distance runner do that made him so much better than his competition. Unfortunately for these high school runners, there is no secret workout that will make them great. There are about seven different things that all great runners focus on. These widely known secrets to becoming a great runner are mental toughness, training, weight-training, cross-training, nutrition, sleep, and shoes.

Mental toughness is a crucial part to becoming a successful runner. Coach Gordon of the University of Chicago says that mentally a runner has to be “dedicated, determined and confident” (Gordon). A runner has to be dedicated in order for him to complete all of his necessary training. Over the summer when school is not in session the runner does not have his teammates to run with him, therefore he his faced to run by himself. Running by yourself is difficult because you lose your support group. At school you always have your coach and fellow teammates to push you, but back home over the summer there isn’t anybody that will make you get out there and run. The second part of the runner’s mental toughness comes in his determination. He has to be determined to push himself to the limit knowing that he is going to feel excruciating pain. Before a runner enters a race he knows that during and immediately following the race he is going to be in extreme amounts of pain. This is different than any other sport. Coach Gordon says, “Determination is vital because running is the only sport where you have to SEEK PAIN in order to go faster, in other sports (football, etc.) you accept pain” (Gordon). If a runner wants to go his fastest he knows that he is going to have to punish himself. A runner knows if its not hurting than he isn’t going his fastest. Lastly, the runner must be confident. In order for a runner to get better he must set goals and he has to be confident that he can reach those goals. For instance if runner A is confident that he can beat runner B, he will not let runner B beat him no matter how much pain runner A is feeling. And a runner who lacks confidence will never set his goals high enough to become a truly elite runner. Coach Gordon explains, “Confidence is vital to an elite runner. Two athletes can be trained exactly the same, but the athlete who believes in himself will always beat the other guy” (Gordon). Without dedication, determination, and confidence no runner could ever become elite.

Probably the most important area of becoming an elite runner is his training regiment. An elite runner must start training for the upcoming season weeks in advance and his training usually consists of four phases which revolve around his final race. The first phase of his training consists of building a base and which is made up of easy runs that are not to long or too intense. Once the runner feels comfortable at a certain distance he can gradually pick up his mileage. This phase is very important in getting the runner ready for the other three phases. This phase is important in the prevention of injury because it helps the runner develop his form and get his body back into the ritual of running everyday. Daniels in his book, Daniels’ Running Formula, calls this phase of training “foundation/ injury-prevention training” (Daniels, 80). The runner has to be really careful not to move to next the phase to early because it will lead to injury.

The next phase is called “early quality training” (137). During this phase the runner continues to run the miles like in the first phase except in this phase he begins to pick up the pace a bit. The running is this phase consists of tempo runs and interval workouts. Tempo runs are