From Alan: (L to R) Yanathan Kebede, (800m 1:57) orginally from Ethiopia. He is the nicest guy you will ever meet but he he goes to Ohio State (boooooo!!!). Richard Smith, (400m 48.0, 800m 1:51, mile 4:13) incredibly talented. Kanda Karmo, (800m 1:56) he is probably the funniest guy you will ever meet. "Bitties!!!!!"
All photos are courtesy of prettysporty.com
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Without a doubt Alan Webb and Dathan Ritzenhein are largely responsible for a huge wave of interest in high school running, particularly with respect to the mile and two mile.
But Webb did the unthinkable. He broke Jim Ryun's legendary high school mile record last year at the Prefontaine Classic with a brilliantly run 3:53.43 mile, which computes to about 58 seconds for each lap!
The pride of South Lakes High School in Virginia, Alan is now a freshman at the University of Michigan. Alan has agreed to spend time with Coach Mick of kidsrunning.com to talk about youth running and his own personal experiences.
MICK: Alan, Let's start at the beginning. How did you first get involved in running and what about running did you enjoy the most?
ALAN: I always did really well in the gym class mile. I enjoy setting goals and then going out and achieving them, but the best part is the feeling you get when you cross the finish line in first.
MICK: What other activities did you enjoy as a kid?
ALAN: I played little league soccer and basketball, but I was most successful in swimming. I swam until the middle of my junior year of high school when stopped to focus all of my energy of running.
MICK: If a youngster asked you for advice on beginning a running program, what would you recommend?
ALAN: Just try and learn as much as you can about running then form your own opinion and of course just run hard.
MICK: Do you train mostly on roads or off-road?
ALAN: My distance and hill work is on roads and trails but speed workouts are done on the track.
MICK: Is there a general training philosophy which you believe in?
ALAN: Speed is number one.
MICK: As your own running progressed, how many miles per week did you run each year (grade 8, 9, 10, etc)?
ALAN: I didn't start training enough to have a weekly mileage at all until my freshman year of high school. 9th-30 miles, 10th-40 miles, 11th-50 miles, 12th-60 miles, all give or take.
MICK: How has your training pace changed over the course of your career?
ALAN: My recovery runs started at a little over 7min pace my freshman year and about 6 min pace my senior year. Well speed workout times are a little more complicated so I guess you will have to wait until I write my autobiography because it would take a book to explain it all!
MICK: What were your personal best times each year?
ALAN: 400m: grade (9)-54, (10)-49.8,(11)-48.4,(12)-47.4
800m: grade (9)-1:56,(10)-1:51.9,(11)-1:50,(12)-1:47.74
Mile: grade(4)-7:03,(5)-6:10,(6)-5:44,(7)-5:20,(8)-4:52,(9)-4:24 (10)-4:06.94,(11)-4:03.33,(12)-3:53.43
2-mile: grade (9)-9:34,(10)-9:10,(11)-8:59.9,(12)-8:45
MICK: If you were coaching a youth team, what would you do to instill a love of running and competing?
ALAN: Nothing, because that is the definition of talent in a runner. Having the competitive desire is what makes a truly great runner.
MICK: How did you develop the self-confidence to push your limits?
ALAN: I had a mentality that if you work hard you can get what you want. I wanted it so I worked hard. It just came naturally to me.
MICK: Did you use different strategies to improve your times?
ALAN: Yes, I stick with what has worked in the past but up (increase) the intensity and volume a little. That goes for everything. Speed, distance, drills, weights, etc.
MICK: What events did you run as a beginner and how did you progress to longer distances?
ALAN: I ran the gym class mile. I have and always will be a miler.
MICK: What kinds of races/distances do you think are appropriate for young runners?
ALAN: Everything up to the 5k. Relays are fun.
MICK: What advice could you offer youth/high school runners to give them the confidence to push the limits of their potential?
ALAN: If you work hard then you will improve. Simple.
MICK: How do you recommend young athletes prepare mentally for races?
ALAN: Middle-distance races hurt. They are supposed to hurt. If you don't want to hurt then you shouldn't be in the sport. It is a reality, but if you go into a race knowing that the pain is going to come and are ready for it then you will be able to deal with it better and run faster.
MICK: What advice would you give to young student/athletes with regard to academics?
ALAN: If you don't like it, well too bad. You have to tough it out because it is just part of life. (For me, school made running seem easy in comparison)
MICK: How should a young runner balance running with studying and social life?
ALAN: Just prioritize. They are all essential to be human but you have to put them in order or you will not be successful at any of them. You have to choose.
MICK How do you balance training with studying in college? ALAN: Time management is important. Try to being doing something productive all the time.
MICK: What kinds of weight training do you do? When did you begin?
ALAN: Right now I only do upper body lifting. No lower body yet. I will add that in later in my career. I started lifting when I was a freshman. I lift a lot is important for speed.
MICK: Could you describe any drills which you do and think are important?
ALAN: I do running form drills everyday. They vary depending on what I am doing that day. They are extremely important for developing speed.
My standard set is:
Straight Leg Bound
I can't really write how to do them, I would have to show you. My high school coach Scott Raczko is putting out a coaching video and features all of those drills and much, much more. It will be a very valuable tool for any coach looking to learn more about track and field.
Coach Mick and Chantelle Dron
MICK: Please tell me a little about South Lakes. What did you like most about your high school running experience?
ALAN: I loved everything about my high school career. I had a very good coach. Coach Raczko taught me everything I know about running. Running gave me a lot of confidence.
MICK: How should a youth program prepare kids for high school?
ALAN: Give them a safe base so not to burn them to early but develop them so they can get a head start on their running careers.
MICK: What is the big difference between college running and high school?
ALAN: More of it is on your own. You have more responsibility for what you are supposed to be doing.
MICK: What are the two most important things parents and coaches of young runners should keep in mind to ensure a positive experience for their kids?
ALAN: Encourage, but you cannot teach desire. So don't force, just nudge in the right direction. If you can, just show them what it is like. Take them to a track meet. If you can get your young runners to ask you to help them get involved, then the desire will be that much stronger.
Alan, Thanks again for taking the time to sit down and give us your views on running. I hope you run here in Boston soon so we can go cheer you on!