Dr. Jack Daniels: Advice for high school runners & coaches

Updated: Dec 21, 2018

I was digging through old e-mails and found this gem of a "Q&A" with Dr. Jack Daniels that I conducted in 2006 for the Heart of the Hills Running Club.

If you're not familiar with Dr. Daniels, I'll give you a simple visual: he would be on the Mt. Rushmore of American distance coaches.  Daniels' contributions to the general body of training knowledge, and especially the "coaching of coaches" has helped countless teams and individuals have successful experiences in distance running. 

Without recovery days you are only stressing and not repairing and building resistance to further stress

What I appreciate an information era of internet expert and "hacks", Dr. Daniels' keeps it real with sound scientific rationale and practical application. 

Here's the Q&A, enjoy!

1.) What are three tips you would give a high school runner?

Be consistent with your training. Progress gradually in terms of mileage and intensity of training – stick with one level of stress for at least 4 weeks before taking on more stressful training. Work some on general body fitness and eat and sleep well

2.) What are the importance of recovery days?

It is during recovery time that your body repairs any damage done by the stress of running and gets stronger to handle more stress.  Without recovery days you are only stressing and not repairing and building resistance to further stress

3.) What was your most memorable experience as a coach?

Can’t say there is a most memorable one – watching a girl I coached in college win 10 New England Titles in one season; watching one of my Division III women runners (who had a high school 800 PR of 2:39) win the 10k at Penn Relays in 33:01 and beat the Division I National record holder in the race; watching Lisa Martin (Australian girl I coached) take the Silver Medal in the 1988 Olympic Marathon; Ken Martin (Lisa’s husband at that time, whom I also coached) run 2:09 n New York City Marathon and place 2nd overall; Peter Gilmore’s 2:12 at last Boston Marathon, then first American at this year’s NY City Marathon in 2:13; Jerry Lawson (whom I coached for a number of years) run 2:09+ twice at Chicago Marathon (with having only a 28:35 10k PR); coaching Cortland women to 7 National Cross Country titles in 8 years.  I do have a most memorable experience as an athlete – being presented with a hand-picked bouquet of flowers by a 10-year-old Swedish girl when I won the Swedish National Championship in Modern Pentathon (first foreign athlete ever to win their championship) – definitely more memorable than my two Olympic medals.

4.) Do you make changes in your yearly training plans? For example, what role does experimentation play when you devise training?

Education is a never-ending process and if you don’t constantly wonder what might work better and try new things, you are not exploring the unknown.  This is most important for individuals who seem to be struggling with the training you are having them do.  Everyone is a little different, so there must be constant tweaking of the training.

5.) What advice would you give to a new coach?

Learn about basic principles of training.  Make training enjoyable enough that the runners will stay with it long enough to find out how good they can be. Nothing is more frustrating as a coach than to have runners leave your program – often because you are trying too hard to have success too quickly and over-stressing the runners.

6.) What advice would you give to a veteran coach?

Know why you have your runners do what you have them do and be able to explain what it is that each training session is designed to accomplish.  And, listen to your runners – their input can be very informative

7.) What urged you to publish your book, Daniels Running Formula?

I started writing my book in 1982, mostly as a result of my educational experiences in Sweden and graduate school in Wisconsin, and as a result of having had the opportunity to test and/or spend considerable time with some great runners – Jim Ryun, Gerry Lindgren, John Mason, Tom Von Ruden, Chris McCubbins, Billy Mills, Bob Day, Joan Benoit, Ken and Lisa Martin, Jerry Lawson, and many others.  When you see how these people dedicate themselves to training and the attitude they have about everyday life and health, you get some insight into what it all takes to be successful.  You also realize that all these great athletes are really very much like the rest of us in that they have doubts and question their training and wonder what might work better this next season.  They are regular people who find ways to avoid injury and to stress themselves in a way that will keep them motivated and progressing.  I figured I needed to write down some of the things I had learned about training to be a good runner, looking both at the scientific side of things and the human success side of the sport (which is so very much the mental side of it).  I think it was a good 8 years just getting started with the book.  I finally had to have my wife take our children away for a few weeks so I could work fulltime on the project or it would never get done.  I think all 4 of us benefited from that.  I have too much fun with my family to tell them to leave me alone while I do some work, so getting alone allowed it to happen. 

The second edition was much tougher than I anticipated, but as seems to always be true, allowed me to address some questions runners and coaches brought forward, that had not been part of the first edition. ​As with the book writing this has been done between 5:45 and 6:50 AM, while I am the only one awake around the house.  If not now, it would never get done. 



Coach Jesse Coy

4215 Raider Rd. 

Rapid City, SD 57702


Tel: 605. 605. 9820


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