Danny Mackey and Racing like a Beast
By: Cait Chock
The past year the Brooks Beasts(http://talk.brooksrunning.com/) have gone from four runners to fourteen, their notoriety skyrocketing. Leading those Beasts to faster times, Coach Danny Mackey, shares there’s no magic to success and progress comes with heaping helpings of self-motivation and patience. As he explains, even the most talented of athletes must be, “willing to be a little patient. Some who won’t listen, it’s just a bad world to get into.”
One of the original four of Danny Mackey’s Beasts was his wife, Katie Mackey(http://www.katie-mackey.com/), whom he began coaching a few months after she graduated from the University of Washington. Katie, after setting the school record in the 1500m (4:10.66) has continued to improve and, now a professional, lowered that PR down to 4:04.6. “She’s obviously really talented but she was also very raw,” explains Coach Mackey. “She was pretty banged-up in college, healthy enough to run fast…[but] because she was just pretty raw we’ve integrated more and more into her training. She has a really open mind.”
Such an open mind makes Katie one of the most coachable athletes Danny’s ever coached. Other runners can certainly follow suit, there are other ‘extras’ outside of running workouts that come with making you the best competitor you can be.
Individualization and Integration
The Brooks Beasts function much more in a team environment than other elite groups. But that doesn’t mean Mackey isn’t mindful that each athlete is different and training programs need to be tailored to the individual. “I try to mold my understanding of the body around the athletes, that’s where things start, the science,” states Mackey. “[But] people are really different in all the things that make them tick.”
While the Beasts(http://www.brooksrunning.com/on/demandware.store/Sites-BrooksRunning-Site/default/Athletes-Brooks_Beasts) meet six days-a-week and the essence of workouts are the same, some runners do more core and drills. The amount of functional training highly depends on what a runner’s done previously, naturally each year building upon the last. Integration is key, as is knowing how much your body can handle.
Core work, agility and flexibility drills, and weight routines will make you a faster, stronger, more resilient runner but, only if you’re mindful not to do everything at once. As you begin implementing these essential ‘extras’, start with the stretching and mobility work, as you can’t really over-do these. But, for more taxing elements, such as plyometrics and heavier weight training, add with care, erring more on the side of less is more. Again, it all comes back to patience, looking long term, and even the time of the season.
“Running is prioritized, depending on the time of year, November is really different from March,” explains Mackey. There’s a time for base-building and strength and there’s a time for sharpening and peaking. A good rule of thumb is to remember plyometrics, heavy weights, and anything aimed at building power and strength are to be coupled in the strength cycle of your training, not as you’re tapering for your big race.
The Total Package
Another key to Katie and her Brooks Beasts’ continual progression is living the life of a runner. Having a team of nutritionists, massage therapists, and personal trainers isn’t a luxury every runner can afford; however, that’s not to say there aren’t plenty of realistic lifestyle considerations to adopt.
“Resources are one thing,” acknowledges Mackey. But quick on the heels of that Mackey explains that resources, while incredibly helpful, aren’t the only factor. “As [the athletes] have gotten a little older, they learned the hard way.” Reality check: the older we get the less we can get away with. Meaning you may have gotten away with pushing those easy days a bit too hard, cramming in more hard workouts per week, or considering 5-minutes enough of a warm-up.
As you age the body needs more time to recover and more diligence in aiding recovery. The Beasts make it a priority to get enough sleep, refuel within 30-minutes of each run, and are mindful to eat quality foods. Sure, all those miles entitle them to treats but, they ensure to have eaten enough protein and essential nutrients in addition to those desserts. Every runner should also spend time stretching and practicing self-massage. Do this and your body will respond accordingly.
We mentioned the Beasts meet and train together nearly every day. That kind of group dynamic is essential to how they function and it also breeds a high level of support. Even if you aren’t meeting with a training group for most of your runs, having at least one other person to run with for hard workouts makes a marked difference.
A training partner to share pacing duties will wind up making workouts ‘feel’ easier while, quite often, also lead to faster times. An extra body there will push you when things start to hurt.
Mental Tenacity and Motivation
Another asset of Katie Mackey, “She’s really tough mentally, a good racer.” Running tough is a skill runners are continually working to improve and the mental side of running and racing is never to be overlooked.
Practicing the art of mental visualization, having a personal mantra, and writing your goals down are viable ways to keep you running relaxed and strong when the pain sets in. Include these mental training tactics in building your arsenal of ‘extras’, channel that motivation of a Beast, and welcome the new PRs.
Caitlin Chock (caitchock.com) set the then National High School 5k Record (15:52.88) in 2004. A freelance writer, artist, and designer she writes about all things running and founded Ezzere, her own line of running shirts (www.ezzere.com). You can read more, see her running comics, and her shirts at her website.