High School Coaches Interview — Terry Jessup

There is so much that I could say about Terry Jessup…but I’ll just put it like this, there is no other coach that has done for me in shaping my training philosophy and my understanding of training as Terry has.

I remember while in college, my roommate Dan and I would venture to Luke’s Locker every free opportunity we had to talk running for hours on hours with Terry. Then, as a young coach, Terry and I would meet on the first Tuesday of every month at Lucky’s Cafe to talk training, coaching, and running.

I’ve never asked Terry a question that he did not have an answer for, and as you can tell from his responses below, his answers are always GOOD answers!

This is such an informative interview, from one of the all-time coaching greats, so please take the time to read through this thoroughly and if you have any questions for me or Terry afterwards, email me at thedailyrun@gmail.com and we’ll do a follow-up.


How did you get your start in coaching? 
Actually started helping coach my club team back in South Africa in 1970, after I returned after undergrad in the States. Really started in late 1972 when Robert Vaughan and I started the Dallas Metroplex Strider’s Track Club.
What is your educational background? 
I have a BBA from Howard Payne University and an MBA from Baylor University. ( Really helpful in coaching! ) However, I have attended close to 100 coaches clinics over the years.
What is your running background? 
Running started for me when Roger Bannister broke the 4 minute mile. I wanted to do that. ( failed miserably ).  Ran 4:18 in 1967 and got a scholarship to Howard Payne, ( The trans Atlantic phone service was so bad back then, I thought the guy said HARVARD! )
Continued running to 1972, ending with a 3:52, 1500 m time. Woke up one morning and realized, ” that is all you got son, time to start earning a living!” Did run a few ( sad ) marathons and average road races for, “fun” later.
What is your coaching philosophy? 
Very simple – ARTHUR LYDIARD.  I am not very smart ( degrees were easy to get in the 1970’s ), so the Lydiard system was easy to follow.
The key, as always, is to BELIEVE.
From 1969, when I first met Arthur, I tried to implement his training system on my own running. In later years I realized that I miss-understood his key principle, MILEAGE.
Coming from a, low mileage, interval based system from Europe, the only way to cover the distance he required was to JOG! The Lydiard system is build on QUALITY MILES! Does not mean tempos every day, but jogging does not count.
Peter Snell ( Arthur’s great middle distance runner ( Olympic golds in the 800m 1960 and 1964 and a gold in the 1500 m in 1964 ) drove this point home to me many decades ago.  I asked him about running 100 miles a week, his answer was, ” well I actually ran more like 125 miles a week, because we did not count warm up runs or easy ( shake out ) runs. ONLY MILES AT 160 BPM OR ABOVE! Try it some time, that is NOT jogging! ( By the way, my answer to Peter was, ” forget that, I counted every STEP I ran each week! )
In summary – make them RUN!  But, get good shoes from a Running Specialty store.  Build volume steadily, 10% to 15% per week. I have a -10 / 10 rule, as a guide. add 10 miles each year to last years maximum, ( 9th 25, 10th 35, 11th 45, 12th 55 per week as a guide ) then ask them to run an average of 10 seconds a mile faster each year. Finally, incorporate REST!  At least one day a week off, and a, “down” week every 4 to 6 weeks.
What is your favorite XC workout? 
Like most coaches I like the TEMPO run.
This is my definition of a good tempo run — it is based on about 20 to 25 seconds a mile slower that current 5 K pace, The distance should be 4 to 6 miles for runners with a good mileage base.
What is your favorite 1600/3200 workout? 
This is a 1600 m workout, but does bleed over to the 3200.
2 sets of 6 x 400 m at 2 seconds per 400 m faster than current mile pace – rest 45 to 55 seconds, 4 minutes between sets,  Example 4:40 miler = 70 second pace, so 68 seconds for this workout. NOTE:  the average of the second set is a good indicator of their current mile potential.
What is the most challenging part of coaching? 
After almost 50 years of doing this, the most challenging part is always having to adjust to the newer ones and not impose the successes of the previous group on them. Example – in the 1980’s I coached 4 girls who could run under 4:50 – some much faster. They graduated, but I expected the next group to be the same – not so much!  One of those girls set the State record in the 1600 in the early 1980’s – the next girl to run faster ( and break that State record ) came 23 years later!!!  So realize, that great runners come, only every once in awhile, enjoy them,  More importantly is be happy ( and grateful ) for all who follow – poor, average or good! 
What is the most rewarding part of coaching?
The pay check! Not so much! We do this because we love the sport, the kids and the challenge. Like I tell the kids, ” you must love running, or it won’t love you back”. Same goes for coaching, love it for what it is – good, bad or what ever. Your runners will make it worthwhile to you.
What is your favorite coaching memory?
Ok so, it is this runner’s state meet.  The goal all season has been to break the 23 year old State 1600 m record. First she tells me she will run the 800 as well at district ( for points ), I said ok.  She then said, ” I have to run the 800 at Region.” I said ok, but NOT at State, remember the goal! She did say a word about anything for most of the next 2 weeks before State.  Finally told me she was running both the 800 and the 1600 AT State! Naturally, I was NOT happy, but had to do as the school wanted.  
So sitting in the stands in Austin, at the 200 m mark I was not happy. I had asked her to go easy in the 800 at 6:10 pm and save it for the 1600. Gun goes off for the 800 and I look at the 400 split 63 seconds and well ahead! Obviously not taking it easy! She wins in a new State record of 2:07 something!  I almost throw my stop watch away! There goes the goal – the 1600 m record. I pace around for 2 hours, then it is time to go again. ( only 2 hours! )
The gun goes off, I hardly care, some girl pushes the pace really hard!  I think, ok there goes the State title! That girl slows a bit and THE girl catches up.( Happiness, a chance to win! ) Sitting at the 200 m to go, I see that it will take about 29 seconds to break the record, I yell, she responds and I can hardly watch as the clock ticks on.  With eyes half closed I see her hit the line from across the field. Close, but, what?  I knew it was a very fast last 200 M, but so what, if it was not the record? It was.
SO IN THE SPACE OF 2 HOURS THE 800 M RECORD ( LASTED ABOUT 5 YEARS ) AND THE 1600 M RECORD WHICH LASTED 10 YEAR!
A few other points:
Train them systematically:
1 -Easy mileage build up – no real stressed running. Early Summer.
2 – Quality mileage, now add tempos and fartlek runs by late July.
3 – Change emphasis to hills in September.
4 – Add intervals in late September and October for the cross country season.
5 – DO NOT rest totally after the cross country season.  December and January is for base mileage for the track season.
One last thought – RUNNERS DO NOT GET FIT ON THE TRACK – THEY GET FIT ON THE ROADS AND IN THE PARK.  THEY GET FAST, YES FAST ON THE TRACK!

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