Podcast: Episode 60 with Terrence Mahon

By Mario Fraioli |

“Watching from an athlete perspective, where all of a sudden he gets it, or she gets it, and you see that just click, and then it’s game time, I think that’s the biggest thing I get from an athlete. All these things you see as a coach, like ‘this athlete should be able to do this, or should be able hit these times, or do this performance,’ but it’s all nothing because it’s just you and me talking here and we know the science of it, and method, but the athlete is the one who has to believe in it and believe in themselves. It doesn’t matter how much you tell them how great they are, or whatever, until they get it. And watching that process happen, and how it happens differently with each athlete, is probably the most exciting part of coaching.”

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Really enjoyed sitting down with Terrence Mahon for this week’s episode of the podcast. Mahon, one of the best middle and long distance running coaches in the world, is currently the director and coach of the Mission Athletics Club in San Diego, which he co-founded last year with his wife, three-time Olympian Jen Rhines. Mahon was previously the coach of the BAA High Performance team in Boston, he was the distance coach for U.K. Athletics before that, and he was also the coach of Team Running USA/the Mammoth Track Club from 2004 to 2013, where he guided Deena Kastor to an American record of 2:19:36 in the marathon, Ryan Hall to his 59:43 AR in the half marathon, and developed eight Olympians during his tenure.

This was one of my favorite conversations. We talked about Mahon’s career as both an athlete and a coach. I learned more about Mission Athletics Club and what his objectives are with his new group. We discussed the trajectory of his coaching career, from his humble beginnings working with age-group runners at a running shop in Pennsylvania to becoming one of the most highly sought after coaches in the world. He also told me about his coaching influences and mentors, including the legendary Joe Vigil, Dan Pfaff, and others.

We got into the weeds of Mahon’s coaching philosophy and there are a ton of great takeaways: like the importance of really getting to know your athletes, being brutally honest with them, and being adaptable when it comes to setting goals. We talked about what he sees as his main responsibilities as a coach, how he keeps sharp and stays excited about the craft, what he learns from the athletes he works with, the idea of “coaching mastery” and what that means to him, and a heck of a lot more.

Related links, references, and resources:

— Follow The Mission Athletics Club on Instagram and Twitter.

— Check out their website.

A Brief Chat with Terrence Mahon: “It is amazing how much these little things play into the overall well being for each athlete,” Mahon told Runner’s World in 2006. “If they are not happy in their training environment then that affects their overall running performance.”

— “I never feel like I’m done,” Mahon told Track & Field News in 2011. “I’m going to coach for a long time because my ultimate goal is coaching mastery and the more I learn, the more I learn I don’t know.”

Terrence Mahon’s Pyramid Scheme: “We kind of do a pyramid within each six-week cycle,” Mahon, explaining his approach to marathon and half-marathon training. “Over the last two weeks, we’ll bring the distance back down but increase the speed.”

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Music and editing for this episode of the morning shakeout podcast by John Summerford at BaresRecords.com

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