In April, marathon legend Alberto Salazar releases 14 Minutes, his new memoir about the sudden heart attack he suffered in 2007 that left him unconscious for 14 minutes. As a long-distance runner in the 1980s, Salazar was known for both his total dominance (he won three New York City Marathons in a row and set a world record) and an unrelenting intensity that ultimately led to early burnout at age 30. As a running coach for Nike’s Oregon Project, an elite distance-running program at the company’s Beaverton headquarters, he now teaches the same brand of fierce competitiveness to his athletes, three of whom have won medals in world championship races.
What’s the biggest difference between how you trained and how you coach?
These days we do more flexibility work, as well as core and weight training. We also do dynamic flexibility exercises, as opposed to static stretching, which is what I did a long time ago.
How do you avoid burning out your athletes?
Twice a year, we take two weeks off. And the two weeks after that are just easy jogging. That allows your whole system to recover, even psychologically.
What about all the new training technologies, like the underwater treadmill—what role do they play?
Well, for a runner like Dathan Ritzenhein, we’d like him to run 100-plus miles per week outside. But we’ve tried that, and he keeps getting injured. So our plan is that he runs about 100 miles per week, then runs another 20 miles on our underwater treadmill. It all has its place.
Has your approach to your own running changed?
Yes. Now it’s very relaxed. I jog about four miles a day at anywhere from a 7:45-to-9-minute pace. I never run to the point where I’m hurting. It’s a recreational activity for me now.