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Five Lessons Learned From Alberto Salazar

  • By Mario Fraioli
  • Published Aug. 16, 2012
  • Updated Aug. 20, 2012 at 1:54 PM UTC
Alberto Salazar, center, celebrates with Galen Rupp, left, and Mo Farah after the 10,000m final at the London Olympics. Photo: PhotoRun.net

Apply these lessons to your own training and take your running to the next level.

On the opening weekend of athletics competition at the Olympic Games in London two Saturdays ago, training partners Mo Farah and Galen Rupp, who are coached by former Boston and New York City Marathon champion Alberto Salazar as part of Nike’s Oregon Project, electrified the crowd at Olympic Stadium with their historic 1-2 finish in the men’s 10,000-meter final.

Farah and Rupp, a Brit and an American who have been training together for much of the past two years, kept close tabs on one another throughout the race, careful not to let the other get too far away. At one point, when the pace slowed and Rupp was getting antsy, it was Farah who tapped him on the shoulder and told him to be patient.

When the bell rang with one lap to go, Farah expectedly bolted into the lead, sprinting away over the final 400 meters with everything he had left in his legs. Not far behind him was Rupp, who found himself in fourth with 200 meters to go behind Farah and the Bekele brothers—Tariku and Kenenisa, the latter the reigning Olympic champion and world record-holder in this event. Coming off the final turn onto the home straightaway, Farah continued to lead, victory virtually assured, while Rupp found another gear, surging past the Bekele bretheren with 60 meters to go. Seconds later, Farah crossed the finish line, and, after realizing victory was his, looked back to see who else but his training partner, Rupp, raising his hands in triumph right behind him.

Meanwhile, somewhere in the stands of Olympic Stadium, Salazar was smiling. He would say afterward that he knew all along his two athletes would each medal, a goal finally realized years after it had become publicized. Since Salazar began coaching Rupp back when the 26-year-old blond haired boy with boyish looks was still in high school, he told anyone who would listen that his mission was to put an American on the medal stand. When Farah joined his training group some 18 months ago, Rupp, who had chased around the likes of Dan Browne, Adam Goucher and others when he began working with Salazar in high school, once again had someone one level above him to run down in practice on a daily basis.

Farah and Rupp crossing the finish line 1-2 on the world’s biggest stage is more than just a big win for Great Britain or the United States; it’s a victory for Salazar, too, who, not without criticism from other coaches, athletes, media and anyone else in the running world with an opinion, has been toying and tinkering with athletes, their training, their strides and their minds in an effort to prove that yes, in fact, runners from Kenya and Ethiopia can be beaten without the aid of performance-enhancing drugs.

Of course, while the myriad of resources Salazar and his athletes have at their disposal through their relationship with Nike can’t be overlooked, here are five fundamental lessons from his Oregon Project model that runners of all ability levels can apply to their own training in order to take their racing to the next level.

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Mario Fraioli

Mario Fraioli

Mario Fraioli is a senior editor at Competitor magazine. A cross-country All-American at Stonehill College in 2003, he now coaches the Prado Women's Racing Team in San Diego and was the men's marathon coach for Costa Rica's 2012 Olympic team. His first book, The Official Rock 'n' Roll Guide To Marathon & Half-Marathon Training (VeloPress, 2013) is available in bookstores, running shops and online.

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