“My advice to coaches is to forget about the track early on - get your kids running cross country and road races - just basic strength work first, the speed will follow.” – John Walker
In the early 1990’s the Australian Olympic Committee and the New South Wales Institute of Sport organised a special opportunity for Australia’s leading middle distance coaches and athletes to meet and talk with former mile world record-holders, Steve Cram, John Walker, Herb Elliott and Ron Delaney.
Luckily, some of this golden content was captured and somehow not lost during the following 25 years. Below, some of these questions and answers are summarised.
Question: When did you know that you had the potential to be a world record-holder?
I knew I could run from about the age of 10. I was always known as a cross country/road runner and it wasn’t until I was 17/18 that I thought any differently. We basically got our training in while we were younger, just running - to and from school, to and from tennis and rugby. So we were just getting our training in my being very active kids. I was like Steve, I wasn’t particularly quick over 400m, running only 48.9 for 400m but I could run 1:44 for 800m. It was strength that I had. People try and make things so complicated now - but it’s so basic - you just have to put on a pair of running shoes and go out and run. I think cross country running is the best form of training for any young athlete. My advice to coaches is to forget about the track early on - get your kids running cross country and road races - just basic strength work first, the speed will follow.
I never started running seriously until I was 17 or 18 and I was never the school champion at 800m or the mile - there was always someone better than me. But just because you’re good as a young kid, it doesn’t mean you’re going to be able to go on with it. You’ve got to show the talent but you’ve got to develop the strength and power to go on with it in your early twenties.
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