The Internet and Running

It is easy to take excellent running web sites for granted. Fewer than 15 years ago, there was almost nothing that qualified as a “running web site.” All information about training principles, racing, and injuries was contained in running books or magazines. With the rise of the internet, runners have access to a wealth of information not only about how to build a training program, but also about races and times of other runners around the country.

Running fast races takes more than simply running 30 minutes each day. The right mix of base building, tempo runs, fartleks, interval workouts, and long runs are the best way for a runner to reach his or her potential. However, without a guide for how these workouts should be run, it is nearly impossible for runners to figure out the right way to run these workouts by trial and error.

Even more important for elite running in America is the fact that the internet allows runners throughout the country to compare their performances to other U.S. runners. Nowhere is this more important than high school track and cross country. Before the internet, it was easy for the best runner at a school to settle for winning local track meets while being completely oblivious to how his or her times rank nationally.

That changed in 1998 when John Dye started a web site called DyeStat. John and his team have done an amazing job compiling all of the high school results around the nation into one resource. Now high school runners know exactly where they stand compared to their peers and have every motivation not to settle at being a local hero.

Just to show what the internet age has meant to high school athletics, take a look at this chart showing the best times high school boys times from 1993-1995 compared to 2008-2010:

1993 1994 1995
1600m 4:09.11 4:05.58 4:05.71
3200m 9:04.04 8:55.1 9:01.75

Source: XC and Running Analysis

2008 2009 2010
1600m 4:00.29 4:01.06 4:04.38*
3200m 8:34.23 8:50.70 8:44.06+

* = 1 mile race
+ = 2 mile race
Source: DyeStat

Perhaps most striking is the incredible improvements in the 3200m times. My theory is that this is a result of more coaches realizing that higher mileage is the only way to run fast in the distance events. I think the internet had a lot to do with changing the mid-90′s perception that high school kids can run fast 3200m times off little distance training.

I guess the point of all of this is that we runners should be thankful for the internet and take advantage of the rich sources of running information that it provides.

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