Do We Have Quality Running Talent in the U.S.?

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Do we have the talent necessary to be among the best in distance running?  I believe we do have the talent, but we are not identifying it, so our best runners never take up the sport of running.  In a sense, we do very well with those in our country who decide to be runners, but a very small percentage of our youth ever consider being runners.

A major factor holding us back in producing more quality distance runners is the lack of Physical Education programs in our school systems.  If all our youth were exposed to regular physical activity throughout their early school years, some would find that they can run well and may even enjoy doing it.  Others would be spotted by qualified teachers, as potential runners.  As it is now, many of our better runners started running in hopes of getting in shape for another sport, or often because they got cut from another sport, so decided to give running a try.

It really boils down to the fact that a very small percentage of distance runners in this country take up the sport because they want to be a runner, and when you don’t have many doing something because that is what they want to do, you end up with a few stars, but not many.

Learning to run is like learning to read or write; you need to practice to do it well and few of our youth practice running.  Certainly very few get a shot at it in their early school years, with so few Physical Education classes offered, and when more free time is spent learning how to operate the latest electronic device than is spent on how to get a human body from point A to point B with ease.  Encouraging good health and fitness must become a more important part of everyone’s life and in doing so we will find many more champions in lots of sports.

A great advantage that running has over many other sports is that to run doesn’t take nearly as much skill, as does swimming, for example.  Sure, there are some aspects of running that can be worked on to make it a little less stressful, but most of our youth can run without being taught how.  I guess I would have to say that the sport of running may be the simplest sport of all, so to be great at it just requires a little time spent doing it.  We have the talent to compete with anyone, so let’s get after it.

Jack Daniels, PhD
Guest Contributor

Jack Daniels, PhD

Jack Daniels, Ph.D. is a two-time Olympian who’s been called “the world’s greatest coach” by Runner’s World magazine. Dr. Daniels is arguably the world's leading authority on the application of exercise physiology to training distance runners. While a professor and coach at the State University of New York in Cortland, Dr. Daniels spent thirty years testing elite runners and applying his findings to training champions. Dr. Daniels was several times named the National Coach of the Year by the NCAA, which also honored him as the Div. III Women’s Coach of the Century. During his coaching career, he has coached 30 NCAA National Champions; 130 All-Americans; and 5 Olympians. Dr. Daniels is an accomplished author, having written four books on running, including his most recent title, Daniels’ Running Formula, 2nd ed.

Jack's Website

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