Author Marc Bloom’s latest book, Amazing Racers, is a must read for every coach, athlete, and parent who is associated with the sport of cross-country. It describes the development and success of the incredible Fayetteville-Manlius program and its iconic coach, Bill Aris, who leads both the boys’ and girls’ teams. Between 2006 and 2017, the latter group won the Nike Nationals 11 times, while the former qualified 12 times, taking home the crown in 2014. The girls were so dominant, that in 2010, had the entire remaining field competed as one team, F-M would have been victorious.

Aris follows the philosophy of famed Australian distance coach, Percy Cerutty, and his Stotan approach to training. Such distance stars as the great Herb Elliott and former world record holder John Landy were guided by Cerutty.

To this writer, the truly astounding point of the book is how Aris persuades a group of athletes AND their parents that this totally committed lifestyle, both in and away from actual training, would lead to a path of unparalleled success. I find this both inspiring and somewhat depressing. Inspiring because it illustrates what is possible, but, at the same time, depressing, due to many societal factors that make it difficult to create such an atmosphere where athletes and their parents buy into such a regimen.

Author Bloom, who has had a huge impact on high school cross-country for many years, has brought the suburban-Syracuse, New York, program to life. His description of the workouts, the trials and tribulation that were met by the athletes and coaches, and the success that was achieved year after year will bring any reader to a new level of respect for the sport and reverence for the F-M runners and their magical coach who guides them.

The majority of high school teams would find it difficult to establish the Stotan creed to the extent that Aris has been able to do, but the lessons learned from reading this book will illustrate how far athletes can be pushed to reach the highest level of success. The summer base training that includes long (10-15 miles) steady runs, fast shorter distance runs, and long repeats are important to the success of any program. It is not uncommon for the F-M girls’ team to finish a hilly 10 mile run in 63:00. At a summer half marathon, the boys completed the course in 1:13.25, 1:16.59, 1:19.45, 1:20.37, 1:20.37, and 1:21.24. Needless to say, these young runners take a very serious approach to their training.

The late Joe Newton, York High School’s legendary coach, and Aris shared similarities, with the most common being that their teams were capable of working hard and maintaining a laser focus on the goal of being the best in the country.

Few teams will experience the success of Fayetteville-Manlius or York, but using many of the ideas that these programs implemented will most certainly promote excellence.
Newton’s book, The Long Green Line, presents a different format to explain the teams’ successes, but, combined with the information Amazing Racers provides, the reader will see a common thread: Intelligent hard work, along with parental support, leads to GREAT results.

Yours in track,
Rod O’Donnell

Read more of Rod O’Donnell’s articles on http://www.runohio.com

Life Lessons from Cross-Country – updated 2019 – http://runohio.com/index.php/news-features/features?start=10