July 7, 2011

Hansons: Rebuilding American Distance Running

Above is a group pic from the Brooks High School Coaches Clinic/Camp. If you notice, all the ladies are in the front row- so few of us!

We showed up for a group run on the first day of the Brooks Coaches Clinic/Camp and I saw two men in Hansons shirts with the group. I assumed they were fellow coaches, and off we went. The next morning in the elevator, I chatted with the same two men about how nice it was for Brooks to do this for us, and how beautiful the resort was. They commented on how I was a FAR way from Alabama, and then the ride was over.

Little did I know, I was speaking to none other than Keith and Kevin Hanson, founders of the Hansons Project. I really enjoyed hearing them speak at the clinic, and here are some high points I took away from the talk.

As teens, both brother loved to run. One was a bit more talented than the other, but both enjoyed marathons and shorter races. The problem was neither had solid coaching. At that time, American distance running had started to decline. The top competitors were no longer from the U.S. Keith and Kevin Hanson made a decision to do something about that.

The brothers worked tirelessly and through many financial trials to open a running store. One store soon became 3 and then came the athletes. Before the actual Hansons Brooks Distance Running Project, the Hansons hosted young distance runners in their own homes, providing them training and a job at the store(s). As you know, this led to bigger and better things.

After telling us about the history of the project, they became telling us things they've learned from coaching the top runners in the country.

*All athletes have doubts, even elites. All athletes have the occasional urge to quit. It's always a comfort to me when I hear "human" things about elites. We often put them up on their pedestal of perfect. When, actually, they have similar feelings. Another reason to admire them- they WORK through it!

*The Hansons talked a lot about Desiree Davila. She has been with the project 7 years, which is about average for the top competitors in the group. One attitude that she has (and many of the others) is that when a race doesn't go her way, or she doesn't place like she'd hoped, she says, "I don't deserve it yet." Instead of it being a put-down-to-self, it's more of feeding the fire to work harder. EARN you podium.

*Human nature looks down on the personality trait of stubbornness. It's this same trait that forms a great distance runner. You're tired- you won't quit. You don't do as planned- you try again, and again, and again... (They noted Brian Sell as the most stubborn athlete they'd ever coached. Haha.)

*They even talked about having too much of a good thing. As coaches, we often have to stifle those that want to do more. An example is of Paul Tergat. Paul trained at about 150-160 mpw prior to his world record. When preparing for the Olympics, he increased his mileage to 200 mpw. He was so exhausted that he didn't even medal. Not that any of us are going to be rocking 200 mpw anytime soon, but we can take the basic principle away, that more is not ALWAYS better. This was a great lesson for me b/c I've always leaned towards high mileage, even when my body sends other signals.

*The next point was a hard pill for me to swallow. I've always been one to live life to the fullest, even if that means doing things to sabotage my training. I'm not talking about wild partying, or anything crazy like that. I am talking about just doing TOO much. Lots of extracurricular things, little sleep, running around like a crazy person most of my life. According to the Hansons, that and nutrition are two factors that will ruin a solid training cycle. Interesting for me to hear when I had just finished a total BOMB of a race b/c of over(fill in your verb here). I'm #1 guilty of taking on everything under the sun AND doing my workouts, letting my body absorb the sacrifices.

Actual Training/Racing Tips

1. Pace, pace, pace- know it and practice it.
2. Fuel- have a plan for the race. Your plan should be researched and rehearsed.
3. Run your own race. Have planned benchmarks of the race. Meaning, know when you should hit each mile marker and STICK to it.
4. If that means you lead the race, then lead the race. It's not suicide, as long as that's YOUR pace. Example- Shalene Flanagan in the 10K.
5. Train for your course. Prior to Berlin, Desi went there and ran the whole thing. (Not all at once, but different segments during her visit.)

And, phew! There, my friends, is what I learned from Keith and Kevin Hanson. Run happy!!!!


  1. How's that for an elevator ride!? Awesome!! I met Kevin at RNR San Antonio last year and he seems like a swell guy!

    I hear you on your last bullet point and read the other day that balance for athletes doesn't always mean doing everything in equal proportions or "fitting it all in", but the quality of experiences and training practices as you pursue your goal....

    Hope that makes sense! Thanks for sharing what you took away from THE Hansons!

  2. That's so awesome. Sounds like really solid advice and I'll bet this was an amazing experience for you.

  3. Since I live, run and race in southeastern MI, and also attend the Hansons group runs on occasion, I see Keith and Kevin quite often. Nice guys.

  4. Fun post! Thanks for the recap.

  5. AH! I am so jealous that you met them!!

    On a second note, I loved this post. Those are serious valuable lessons, particularly the one about sabotaging training by doing other things. I'm stubborn and always think "I can still power through the training." Well, I can...but I am doing myself a disservice in doing so. Thanks!!

  6. Thanks for sharing! Great tips!!