Ressurecting the B.A.A. elite club, RBR Interview with Terrance Mahon by Larry Eder

Terrance Mahon and Jenn Rhines, 2008 Olympic Trials, photo by 

One of the most energetic and thoughtful coaches in our sport is Terrance Mahon. Terrance studied under the eyes of Joe Vigil and Bob Larsen, and has coached and advised the likes of Jenn Rhines, Deena Kastor, Anne Willard, Ryan Hall, Sara Hall, and Morgan Uceny, among others. 

After the Mammoth Track Club, Mahon moved to the UK for a year as UK endurance coach, and now, he is back in the U.S.A., coaching the newly ressurected elite wing of the Boston Athletic Association. 

Terrance Mahon sent these questions back to me in late January, and of course, I just found them. Special thanks to Marc Davis of the B.A.A. and to Terrance Mahon for his continued support of our sport and cheerfulness when I send him queries. 


RBR, # 1. How is your new elite club with BAA coming along?


Terrance Mahon: We are really excited with getting the Elite side of the B.A.A. running team going. In actuality, it isn't a new club - rather it is a resurrection of what was in existence long ago. The B.A.A. had athletes compete in the 1896 Olympic Games in Athens. So what we are doing now is getting back to the club's roots and bringing some emphasis back to the elite side of the sport within the organization.


Over the past few months we have been working on the basic logistical needs for the team. We first needed to organize where we would be doing our training, who we would work with for our medical needs, for physiological testing, bio-mechanical analysis and our sports therapy needs. The network is finally in place and we can now turn our attention to the athlete recruiting process. So in other words are our doors are now open for business.

RBR, # 2. Which athletes have you picked up so far?


Terrance Mahon:We are signing on our first two athletes now and will plan to make an official announcement shortly. Our first female athlete is a local All-American that had a great collegiate career. We are excited about her future potential both on the track and the roads. Our first male athlete is also a local runner. He is a huge talent and has tremendous range. We expect both of them to be impact players from the start and are excited to have them as part of our team.


Going forward we are looking to bring in athletes that will be coming out of college this spring/ summer. We want to sign athletes that are excited about getting the opportunity to train in a top-notch environment. Boston is a great running town and we have a ton of expert resources at our disposal. I am confident that if we get athletes that are willing to work hard then we can help them to get to that next level.



RBR, # 3. What are the goals of the club?


Terrance Mahon: Of course we want to put athletes on Olympic teams and World teams. Who wouldn't want that? It is the ultimate goal for most every pro runner and training group. However, we shouldn't forget that this all starts with working one on one to get each athlete better on a daily basis. I have a lot of confidence in our coaching system and the athlete support program that we have in place. I believe that if we can sign on athletes that were solid collegiate runners - the "All-American" types - then we will give them a shot at making the finals at US Nationals in a few years. Once you get an athlete to that point then you begin to put them in the hunt to make teams and as confidence grows their performance trajectory can skyrocket.  



RBR, # 4. Are you focusing on roads, are will the new club be seen on roads, cross country, and track?


Terrance Mahon:We are not limiting our scope to any one discipline in middle & long distance running. We are interested in having runners that can compete in any event from the 800 meters on to the marathon. We expect to compete on all surfaces - indoors, outdoors, roads and cross country.


RBR, # 5. You have done well with middle distance runners, steeplers and marathoners, any favortie distance?


Terrance Mahon:I love all the distances equally because they are all about running as best you can on the day. I think each event has its unique challenges and must be mastered accordingly. Alongside that each athlete brings their different talents to the table within each event. Matching the athlete with their particular event(s) and hitting it all right on the day is the challenging and exciting part of my job.


RBR, # 6. Will we see any steeplers coming out of your group?


Terrance Mahon: I hope so. There are some good college steeplechase runners out there right now. If the opportunity presents itself that we are able to sign on one or two then I would be excited to bring them onto the team. I would love the opportunity to help them chase down a podium spot at Nationals.

RBR, # 7. How was your year working in the UK?


Terrance Mahon: My year in the UK was an interesting experience. I learned a lot about what I liked and didn't when coaching for a National team as opposed to for my own club. A nationally run system is just so much different than anything that what we have in the US. There are more decision makers at the table and each decision is weighed against the whole. It takes a delicate balance for it all to go off without a hitch. For some coaches and athletes I think it works really well and for others it may not be the best. I am sure that this is how it is with any centralized program in sports. There is no perfect system that will be right for everyone. 



RBR, # 8. If you were speaking to a group of young coaches, what would you tell them about starting young runners in the middle distances?


Terrance Mahon: I am a big believer for getting the basics right. In this age of great technological advancements in training it is easy to put the cart in front of the horse and go straight to the "cool" new stuff. However, I think it is always wise to start with a solid foundation of what running is all about. This means teaching kids how to move well when they are young and how to be relaxed when they train. We should not be pressuring young kids to run too fast too early or chase records every time they step on the line. I would rather see coaches and athletes working on what it means to compete and being a good competitor whether they win or lose. I want to see young athletes that are having fun with their running and are happy to go and run whether it is for training or racing.


Some of the simples things coaches can do with young runners that will pay big dividends in the long run is incorporating things like general strength exercises, multi-directional movements, running games, hops, etc.  This is the time to work on all of these coordinated movement patterns. We need to do this at a young age before certain movement patterns get locked in. When we get young runners to be good athletes first then we give them a huge platform for development. Their speed improves, the chance of injury goes down, the repetitive nature of just logging miles gets put on the back burner and all of the sudden we are taking a long term approach to training and success. We also want to teach young athletes the importance of running relaxed first and running fast as a byproduct of being relaxed and composed.

RBR, # 9. What do you want people want to know your new club? 


Terrance Mahon: The first thing we want them to know is that we are now open for business. Second is that we are not going to be just a marathon training group. We want people to know that the B.A.A. is more than just the Boston Marathon. Of course the marathon is the flagship of the organization (as it should be); however, at the heart of it all is supporting running at the highest level. The B.A.A. has always prized that most along with getting our community involved as a whole with what running as a sport is all about. So our mission for the team is to put together a great team of runners across the middle and long distance events. We will do most of our training in the Boston area, but we will also hold camps at altitude and at warm weather training sites throughout the year.


When I was a young runner the greater Boston area was home base for many of the great US distance runners. We are looking to bring that level of excellence back to the city. Over the years I have ran in so many different places around the world and I have to honestly say that when it comes to the community support for running it is hard to beat Boston


RBR, # 10. Are you continuing to look for new athletes? 


Terrance Mahon: Our plan is to start out with a team of somewhere between 8-12 athletes mixed between men and women. We are looking to bring on anyone from the 800m to the Marathon. I expect that starting in the fall of 2014 we will have close to a full roster and we will then begin our major push towards the championship events. 

We have the system in place and ready to go - and now we are looking to sign on some athletes. It is going to be an exciting next few years as we get the project off the ground and build out our infrastructure even more. I believe that with the support of the B.A.A. and Adidas we will be offering a great opportunity for many of the top runners coming out of school to live and train in a professional and organized system.

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