A lot of this has been reported before, but it is good to see the recognition.
By Betsey Bruner
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Although he won't be there in person, two-time Olympics pentathlon medalist and world-acclaimed running coach Jack Daniels of NAU will be riveted to TV watching the track and field events at the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing, China.
He will be especially interested in results for Magdalena Lewy Boulet, who finished second April 21 in the women's marathon at the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team Trials in Boston. Daniels is her long-distance running coach.
He is also coach to more than 60 other runners, both local and worldwide. He trains them either in person or via e-mail, including a runner in Kenya, a high-school girl runner in South Dakota and an aspiring runner imprisoned in New Jersey.
"Running is not a skill; you can at least do it," said Daniels, in an interview Wednesday at NAU. "It's just a matter of conditioning to do it better."
KEEPING AT IT
Daniels spoke in his office at NAU, adjacent to the outdoor track at the Center for High Altitude Training.
In 2005, he came to the center to be the long-distance running coach, after it was named a U.S. Olympics site for high-altitude training for elite athletes in a variety of sports.
"This is the best altitude training site in the U.S., and it may be the best in the world," he said. "That's what attracted me here, that it was such an ideal place to train."
Consistency in training is the key to successful running, he noted.
"In general, most people don't stay with it long enough to feel good," Daniels explained. "Thirty minutes is the ideal time to run, otherwise you spend more time changing clothes and showering than you do running. You want to do the least possible amount of work to give you the maximum benefit. It's got to be enjoyable; maybe not fun, but it's got to be rewarding."
Daniels said it takes about six weeks to establish a consistent running schedule. It is a slow, but steady, way to lose weight.
"If you ran one mile a day every day of the year, you would burn the equivalent of 10 pounds of fat," he said.
NOT GOOD AT RUNNING
Daniels, 75, who was born in Detroit and moved to the San Francisco Bay area with his parents and brothers. He attended Redwood City High School, where he competed in swimming.
At the University of Montana, he continued swimming and added rifle shooting in ROTC on campus.
Daniels first became interested in researching running techniques when he joined the Army during the Korean Conflict years and started competing in the triathlon, which requires athletes to swim, cycle and run over various distances.
His success in the triathlon led him to join the United States Modern Pentathlon Team.
The modern pentathlon, derived from the Greek root of pente or five, includes five events: Fencing, pistol shooting, 200-meter freestyle swimming, a show-jumping course on horseback and a 3km cross-country run.
The modern sport, like the ancient Greek version before it, is based on some of the skills needed by a soldier.
In both triathlon and pentathlon, Daniels excelled on horseback and the other sports in the two events, except the running portion.
"Historically, the pentathlon has been a military event," he said. "I got serious about running for the pentathlon. Fourteenth was the best I ever placed in running events."
Despite his weakness in running, Daniels said he was the Far East military champion in the triathlon, was voted the best pentathlon rider in the world and earned Olympic medals twice in pentathlon (see box).
Driven by his desire to unravel the secrets of the art of running, Daniels began his stellar career as a running coach in 1961 at Oklahoma City University.
He has specialized in coaching runners in the longer distances, beginning with the middle-distance 800-meter and 1,500 events, to the long-distance events: 5,000, 10,000 and the Olympic marathon at 26.2 miles.
"I probably have more marathon runners that anything," Daniels said.
He met his wife Nancy when he coached her in the marathon at the University of Texas in Austin.
"She was a very good runner," he said. "She made the Olympics trials in 1988 for the marathon, but didn't make the team."