The long runIs a weekly long run part of your teams training program? During the racing season this can be very tough to incorporate, especially on the weeks you participate in a Wednesday night meet and a meet on Saturday.
Monday might be the best option during the season but during the winter time you could basically do it whenever you would like. If you are only going to get run one in per week this would be the most important based on my opinion for a number of reasons.
There are obvious mental benefits such as confidence and toughness that are gained from more time on your legs, but also as a huge aerobic fitness contributor. For a runner with decent or better fitness I would shoot for 10 miles as being the "long run" distance.
If you are unable to run at an easy pace for this amount of time, gradually build up to it. The goal should be to run with good form throughout and finish stronger than you started. This could vary from slightly faster than the average pace all the way to a purposeful drop down to 10K pace.
For anyone not regularly strength training, you are really missing out. If I had to attribute a single aspect of my training, leading to the jumps that I made from sophomore year to senior year, it would be strength training. My sophomore personal bests were:
15:48 - 5K XC
2:02 - 800m (I think)
4:36 - 1600m
9:46 - 3200m
I made slight jumps during my junior year as I was adapting to the added training load but nothing like the pay off senior year. As a junior, with a weekly mileage increase of around 10 miles per week (from sophomore year, 35 mpw to 45 mpw), plus two days per week in the weight room:
15:24 - 5K XC
1:57 - 800m
4:24 - 1600m
9:20 - 3200m
My 1600m time slightly lagged behind my other PRs from each season.
That doesn't make much since given the elite 800m, 3200m and 5k times. However, I attribute this to never truly focusing on the 1600m as a season ending goal. I obviously had the range to do so... and that takes us back to the point about the weights!
If you are a 5 foot nothing, 100 lbs soaking wet... you will not get too big for running because of weights. Maybe when you are my current age, but not as a youngster.
Along with two days per week in the weight room + a few easy miles, two morning workouts per week and treating all of the midweek meets as tempo workouts... I spent most evenings (1 hour minimum) after practice playing basketball in the driveway with my brother. Before bed each week night my dad and I completed 100 pushups and 200 sit-ups. Eventually I could do 60 of the pushups consecutively.
My newly discovered confidence in my upper body strength helped me start winning late race kick battles but also caused me to lose a bet to my teammate and friend, Peter Ranney. He was the most put together of all the distance runners, he was naturally a soccer player. He made my 60 look silly by going into the 70s right there on the floor at the North End Wendy's on HHI. Carpeted floors back then.
Weight training was not strictly enforced for the distance runners during my time in college. I was the only runner on the team with the level of strength training background that I had received and the lack of accountability showed. It was something we were of course told to do but it was the first piece of the puzzle to go missing when I was tired or busy.
What should you eat?
Even though pre race nutrition isn't a huge deal for the 5K and track distances, it is still important to know what your body needs. Everyone is different and the best advice I can give is to stick with what works for you. Two pieces of toast was my go to in high school before cross country race and I don't remember what I did during track meets. I would guess dry bread and a banana. As of now I go with plain oatmeal with strawberries or with brown sugar and a few drops of maple syrup. A banana is a common quick snack before an early morning run and coffee is a must. However I didn't drink coffee until I was in my 20s.
I feel like this is a bunch of rambling but I just want to get some of this out there as to possibly help someone improve or see certain things in a new light. Everyone is differs and there is no set roadmap, but there is so much information at your fingertips these days, you can truly do and learn anything. No amount of talent in the world is enough on its own.
Start training like an athlete! Running, while the most important, is not enough. Strengthen your core and hips. Work hurdle mobility drills into your routine. I didn't learn of these until I was in college and I hope to focus on this in a later dose. Increase the weights as much as you can but be care and increase slowly. I am not sure if you caught it in the table above but my leg press was 450 lbs! I weighed 140. The strength needed for that and to be able to bench press 1.5 times my weight = speed!
As pointed out in the video Ricky Brookshire had an impressive double. He later ran for N.C. State and became and ACC Champion. Like me, achilles issues ended his running career. Graham Lovett, seen in the previous blog video, ran at Summerville and eventually attended Clemson University. He was slated to be my roommate in 2001 but decided not to pursue running any further. This day was likely his best performance and it came as a junior, 4:19 and 9:22 only a few hours apart. Steve Haas as I mentioned was a Foot Locker finalist along with Ricky Brookshire (Brookshire missed qualifying as a sophomore by one place in 9th), later ran professionally for quite some time. He is now an agent and coach, working with some of the biggest names in track and field. Embrace the relationships that running brings into your lives. There truly is something unique and special about the bonds we create with our competitors after running, together, on the edge.