March 29, 2023
Mark Coogan is an Olympian, the head coach of Team New Balance Boston and now he’s an author. He just published "Personal Best Running: Coach Coogan’s Strategies for the Mile to the Marathon."
In his book, Coach Coogan shares his secrets to success, revealing the physical and psychological strategies needed to be the best athlete possible. But it's not just about the training. Coach Coogan weaves in stories from his career and also has testimonies and accounts from some of his athletes on how all the physical and psychological training comes together perfectly. You’ll read parts by Elle St. Pierre, Sam Chelanga, Abby Cooper and Alexi Pappas.
If you enjoyed our past episode with Mike Smith, the book is Mike Smith-endorsed. He said it "grants you access to the philosophy, problem-solving and insight of one of the top distace coaches in the world."
How he handles race day nerves as a coach
– "I throw up. At the Olympic Trials or something, it is hard – so hard to watch. These guys train for one race and not everybody is going to make it. I have lots of discussions about this with them. If you don't make the team or if you do make the team, the world doesn't really change. Your mom and dad are still going to love you regardless. Your siblings are not changing. They're happy for you regardless. We definitely have that discussion. When we race, the other thing we talk about is: Let's be in the race. Let's try to be in there with a lap to go. There are no guarantees. If you're there with a lap to go, you probably had a pretty good run. You can be upset a little bit after the race but not for that long because you gave it a go."
What are his proudest moments as a coach
– "A lot of people listening to this probably coach college or high school. It's just as cool to see a kid break two minutes (for 800m) or five minutes for the mile for the first time. It's hard to break five minutes for the mile. When they do it, they can see the hard work they put in. I don't know if there's a race that's my proudest ever. I feel like I'm doing a good job when Elle is pregnant and she can call me up and not be scared to tell me that she's pregnant. She called me up and I couldn't be happier for her. There are things that are more important than running. Being healthy and having a family is more important.
I did this Zoom thing with the USOC and they were talking about depression. It was a session for coaches. I'm going to butcher the numbers but they said kids from 18 to 28 in a typical year like 30% of them will go into some kind of depression. Sometimes it's not serious and other times it is. They said we should be aware of that. After COVID, the number is up to 70% of people have some form of depression. What do you tell a kid who is depressed? You tell them to eat well, get sleep, join a team, get some exercise and get outside. That's what distance runners do. So if they're doing the right thing, they may be depressed and you may not see it. Exactly what I just said, I told to the team. After practice, someone on the team said to me, 'I've been down in dumps and don't know why. I'm so glad you said that because it allowed me to come to you to tell you that.' That made me feel really good. Things like that – that's what I like the best about coaching."
On not focusing on cheaters
– "We talk about focusing on doing your best. If you're doing your best and someone is operating in the gray zone and beats you, it is what it is. You can't let that destroy your fun, your racing or your running. If they're gonna do that to themselves, fine. We're trying to get the best out of ourselves. I'm really lucky at New Balance because the people that I report to don't want any shenanigans. They'd rather have someone come in fifth, be happy, be healthy and represent the brand correctly than get caught up in something that's not above board. Even if it's legal, there's still a gray zone in my book."
Chris Chavez launched CITIUS MAG in 2016 as a passion project while working full-time for Sports Illustrated. He covered the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro and grew his humble blog into a multi-pronged media company. He completed all six World Marathon Majors and is an aspiring sub-five-minute miler.