Famed track coach Alberto Salazar visits Park City Track Club
June 8, 2012
As parents and athletes of all ages sat on a small hill a few paces from the gate at Dozier Field, one of the most storied distance runners in the history of the sport addressed the crowd.
Alberto Salazar, a three-time New York City Marathon champion, talked to members of the Park City Track Club, telling the athletes what it means to ascend in the sport of track & field. He described his few key principles.
"Don’t get caught up in what other people are doing," he told the crowd Thursday afternoon. "The best advice I can give athletes is to learn to do what you do correctly."
Salazar coaches the Nike distance team, which is aimed at producing Olympic athletes. Also on hand were some of the sport’s most famous runners, including Galen Rupp and Mo Farah, two of Salazar’s most notable protégés, as well as other Olympic hopefuls.
The group has been in Park City for the last six weeks, running at altitude and training at the PC MARC on an underwater treadmill, Salazar said. With the U.S. Olympic Trials in a few weeks, Salazar’s bunch have been preparing in the harshest way. Farah, who is a citizen of the United Kingdom and has already qualified for the London Games, runs twice a day and 130 miles a week. Rupp, who was a star at the University of Oregon, runs 105 miles per week as well as 25 miles on the underwater treadmill.
The group has a stringent schedule while in town: massages sometimes twice a day, a sports psychologist to discuss tactics and outlooks on the enormous races most of the athletes will be participating in, as well as a sleep schedule that Salazar asks for a minimum of 12 hours a day.
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And no burgers. After one of his athletes ordered a buffalo burger and fries while out to dinner this week, Salazar took it and ate it himself.
"Good nutrition is key," he said. "The process these runners endure is hard. It’s run, eat and sleep."
But with athletes like Farah, who is "the guy all of England is looking at" at the 2012 Olympiad later this summer, Salazar said the sports psychologists help his athletes tremendously.
"The mind is a very powerful weapon and tool," he said.
After wrapping up their altitude training in Park City, the group of Americans is scheduled to compete in the Olympic Trials then set off for France on July 1 for another high-altitude camp. That, Salazar said, will help the athletes adjust to London’s time zone.
He also suggested that most high school distance runners ask their coaches to let them train with the sprint coaches twice a week to mix things up and provide a different platform of competition.
"You can always play," he told the crowd. "And there’s still nothing better than breaking personal times."
His advice for the athletes — some currently with the Park City High School squad and others much younger — is to increase your training gradually. He reiterated that the more stress you put on your body when you’re young, the worst off you’ll be in the end. Salazar said the No. 1 cause of injury is training too hard and too quickly.
He said poor form and early-career stress on the body led him to end his competitive career ending a couple years after winning his last New York Marathon.