What a weekend to be a distance coach.
Sometimes progress is measured in small personal bests, as a runner moves their times faster by a second per race, so that by the end of the season the improvement is actually quite sizeable. Sometimes progress is measured in the ability for a runner to think tactically, seeing the race unfold in an almost prescient manner, knowing when the time is right to make a move or to hold back. And sometimes progress is measured in outright victory, the crowd on their feet bringing a runner home, knowing they are all watching a spectacular human achievement.
And sometimes, as a coach, you get a meet where your runners do all three. My team had personal bests on Saturday, jaw-dropping tactical moves, and a very big win (not to mention a very close near-win). I got to the track meet just before 6 a.m. on Saturday morning to set up our team area, so early that the dew was still on the grass and on the wooden bleachers, and it was just myself and a handful of other coaches getting ready for the day. I left almost twelve hours later, the bridge of my nose sunburned and feeling a little dehydrated. Yet the elation of seeing those outstanding performances lifted any weariness I may have felt after such a long day.
My runners work so hard in practice. Nobody gets anything for free in distance running. Sometimes we don't even get what you deserve. But Saturday was a time when every one of my runners felt a large measure of the warmth that comes when hard work and talent find each other. It was glorious.
So when people ask why I coach, it's for days like Saturday.
Back to work. Some runners will finish their season at League Prelims on Friday, while others will compete well into June. So it's a mixed bag of who does what. A long tempo for one group, short fartlek for another. I am tempted to break with tradition and do a small handful of short hill sprints to activate the fast-twitch fibers my runners will need in their kick these next few weeks. We shall see.