On Friday night at the Oregon Relays, Lee University’s Christian Noble ran 3:36.00 to break the Division II 1500m record. Then an hour later, he doubled back to run 13:35, good for 5th in the 5000m. Hey, if you’re a small school from Tennessee that’s sent an athlete across the country, you might as well get your money’s worth! Besides, at this point, it’s a safe investment. Noble is well-versed in the impressive double that sets an NCAA record. At the BU Last Chance Meet, he ran the mile in 3:56.10 and then returned in the 3000m in 7:50.98 for two fresh all-time Division II marks.
If you have ever seen me hyping up Lee University on social media and wondered why, here’s a little backstory. Christian’s coach is a former athlete of mine. I was perusing the LetsRun message boards 12 years ago while dealing with an injury and responded to a post from a recent college graduate who was seeking a new coach to guide him.
Caleb Morgan had just finished up at Lee himself — which at the time was an NAIA school — and with no legitimate experience to my name, he gave me the reins to start writing his workouts. Caleb didn’t run quite as fast as Christian now has under his coaching, but he improved! Along the way, we were in constant conversation about training theory and how to best develop under-trained athletes. Mark Zuckerberg stayed up all night inventing Facebook so that we could use it to stay up all night talking about aerobic threshold via its messaging platform.
Then two years later, Caleb became Lee’s head coach at just 25 and suddenly found himself responsible for a lot of kids’ careers. We collaborated weekly on what each of the workout groups would do and experimented until we found a formula that worked for his athletes and training venues. Like every smug college runner who thinks they know everything, I spoke with the utmost confidence about what everyone should be doing. And then Caleb, who has always been an incredible motivator, tireless recruiter, and adept communicator, found a way to turn our ideas into something that his athletes could believe in.
In the years that followed, my input became less necessary and gradually faded into the background. Christian’s freshman year was the last time that I would still get the occasional text about structuring a taper or confirmation as to why so many good runners were doing so many hill sprints. I haven’t seen the training logs in a while, but I can guarantee you the way Christian became the best distance runner in Division II history is with loads of long intervals with short rest. Groundbreaking stuff — but it’s not just one guy!
Lee’s 1500 men: 3:36 – 3:43 – 3:47 – 3:50 – 3:52 – 3:52… and 5000 men: 13:24 – 13:46 – 14:18 – 14:21 – 14:24 – 14:30… and Celine Ritter has run 9:11 for 3000m and 15:58 for 5000m.
I asked coach Morgan what disadvantages a Division II runner on his team has compared to those in the highest division — he said not much, except they race with a chip on their shoulder.
THE CITIUS MAG PODCAST EPISODE WITH CHRISTIAN NOBLE (FROM FEB. 2021)
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Photo by Lee University