I coach Drew as an individual. That means I train his physiology and psychology. The conventional approach is to train runners for an event. I train runners to become fitter and to raise their functional performance level, and then fine tune for the duration of the event. In my opinion, the runner's needs are more important than the "needs" of the event.
As a competitive runner back in the day, I liked being able to run well in a variety of events, but seldom was coached to do that. As an example, when I was trained with a focus on the 800m, I was unable to run a great 1-mile race, and certainly a very subpar 2-mile race. As a result of my many personal setbacks and failures as a runner who dutifully followed the instructions of my coaches and who unfortunately followed the recommendations of running book authors who used a periodized approach (base, then strength, then speed, then tapering and more speed), I failed, along with many teammates, to improve much relative to the amount of time, energy, and commitment that I devoted. It was disheartening to run nearly my best times for races at the start of each season and then work my bum off during the season with very hard workouts only to have them produce limited or no improvement. The effort didn't match the results. Often I would race better from my summer or winter break base training that I crafted myself; and the fact that I was working 40 to 60 hours per week (at multiple jobs to make money for school) during those off-season periods of time and my legs were super tired; it was all the more impressive to me that I was able to run well at the start of each season.
Once I became older and more educated about physiology, and once I studied the sport, and other endurance sports, carefully; I realized that the conventional methods were probably not the best way to train runners for the long-term. Too many times my friends and I were fitter at the start each season, even though we had not raced much in the off-season, than we were during the team practices in-season. A more endurance/stamina/strength based approach, which we all used during the off-season, was clearly more effective than the in-season approach of hard interval training.
As time passed and I coached a lot of runners, I found a good blend of training components. I learned that a coach needs to think like a top chef who knows how to use temperature, time, and the right mix of ingredients to produce the most tasty meals for customers or family. Most of the people who cook know the ingredients, but they don't know the temperature to use to get the best results - and that's not high heat, I posit. And, most people who cook have the same types of stoves and utensils. So, its not a matter of not having the right ingredients or the right equipment; it's the process that matters most.
Back to Drew, he's fit enough to race well over events from 800m to 10,000m right now. I didn't train him for the mile or 1500m. Yes, I fine tuned his training for a couple of key workouts prior to big races, and that's an art and knowing what the athlete needs and having the patience to not rush the process; for you do the athlete no good by being impatient or impulsive. In my view, it's a privilege to coach, just as it's a privilege to be a parent. I take it seriously, as time fleets quickly and opportunities soon disappear.
For Drew, just like Grace, Aidan, Ella, Valencia, Jeremy, Caleb, Joshua, Laurdyn, Daisy, and others, there is a limited amount of time for them to do what they love at their highest level. Yet, there's a need to not rush them too. The problem we have in America, and it may be true in other countries, we push too hard, too soon. Impatience is a weakness for us. We want everything now. We want to have the gold medal now.
With age and reflective thought, I've learned more and more that my grandpa's words, back in the 1980s, were as true then as they are now. He'd say, "Slow down Thomas! You can't force life to go faster. You have to let God handle it." Then, he'd hand me a grape ,pop (soda), and we'd sit under the shade tree to rest a few minutes before we went back out to the field to bale hay. I'd sit there uncomfortable at first because I was taking life slow. It felt hard to sit still! It felt awkward to me. But, as soon as I felt the breeze on my face during those hot summer days and noticed the cold and tasty grape flavor of my pop (soda) going down my throat, instead of gulping it, I became centered inside and more relaxed.
My grandpa would say, We all need to slow down. By slowing down, we discover ourselves; and, we discover that the best answers don't come under pressure; they arrive in the stillness of the moment.