Lessons From a Living Legend

By Mario Fraioli |
Me and Joe Vigil, June 2012.

I spent a rainy Sunday afternoon this past weekend digging through old notebooks and came across this entry from the summer of 2012. They’re my key takeaways from a conversation I had with Joe Vigil while waiting in line at a Starbucks in Eugene, Oregon during the U.S. Olympic Trials. After introducing myself to one of the most successful distance running coaches of all-time, I peppered him for advice and remember being impressed with his enthusiasm—he was 82 at the time—and willingness to answer a scattered stream of questions from this hungry young grasshopper. Listed below are the aforementioned key takeaways I wrote down from that exchange with one of the living legends of the sport—he’s STILL coaching at 88 years of age—who, and it’s giving me goosebumps as I type this, called me “Coach” when we parted ways that day.  

Coaching is an art and a science; the art is being able to apply the science. 

Never stop learning. “I get up at 4 every morning to read the latest research.”

Train specifics. Everybody trains 100 mi/week. Know what you’re trying to accomplish with those 100 miles a week.

“You’re younger and smarter than I am.” (Ed. note: The second part of this sentence is the only thing Coach Vigil told me that wasn’t true.)

14 weeks. It takes this long to train someone to be in a position to perform their best.

Understand the physiological demands of each distance and design workouts accordingly. 

+ Tune into Episode 22 of the morning shakeout podcast if you missed it the first time around and listen to 2004 Olympic marathon bronze medalist Deena Kastor tell me what it was like to train under Coach Vigil and how he helped shape her life philosophy: “If you have it, share it.”

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