A Passion to run. A conversation with Olympian Jeff Galloway


In September of 2014 I was able to attend a Jeff Galloway running retreat at his Blue Mountain Beach home in Florida. Olympian Jeff Galloway has coached over a million runners to their goals through his clinics, retreats, training programs, books and e-coaching. Jeff Galloway by far is one of the leading experts when it comes to running. His love and passion for the sport flows out of him. That weekend changed my entire perspective on running. As one who had a hardcore runner mentality, I used to believe if you walked you really did not run the race. I know the run walk-run-method changed the way I run for the better, and has resulted in better times. What do you say to those who criticize your run walk-run-method?
One of the best aspects of running is that each one of us determines how far, how fast, whether we insert strategic walk breaks or run non-stop. Most runners support other runners, even when they may have different ideas about running. I want every runner to find the right training for himself or herself to enjoy every endorphin. Most of the critics of my methods have not tried my run walk run technique, pacing guidelines, structured long runs and coordinated training elements. They simply don’t realize how strong and fast they can run, how they don’t have to be exhausted or injured, and how exhilarating it is to pass people at the end. However, each runner is the captain of their ship and can choose how they want to run.

I know from my weekend with and your book “Mental Training”, that the mental side of training is just as big as the physical. How does mental preparation help during training?
One of the most powerful internal circuits that is turned on when we run is what I call “our spirit”. This is what keeps us going when we are ready to give up and allows us to do things we never thought were possible. This seems to be activated by the intuitive area of the conscious brain. By setting up a strategy, we can help activate this amazing component.

What is the hardest time in your life when you wanted to quit but you didn’t and why did you keep going? How did that experience change you?
About 6 months prior to my Olympic trials for the Munich Olympics, I had several races and workouts during which I just refused to give up on my vision of performance for that day. I felt my spirit take over and do what I could do on that day. One of these was during the Olympic trials.

What was so difficult about that time leading up to the Olympic trails? I needed to improve significantly to qualify to get into the Olympic trials.  Only about one race out of 4 was a good race.  As I got closer to qualifying, it became harder to improve.

You were part of the 1972 United States Olympic team in Munich, West Germany. What was your Olympic experience like before and after the eleven Israeli Olympic team members were killed? Olympic village was a happy place before the incident. Afterward there was a tough realism. We continued to enjoy being there and compete—it just wasn’t the same.

What was the attitude of you and your teammates after this tragedy? Was there any thought about not competing?  The movie “Prefontaine” documents this very well. There were a number of different opinions about respect for the fallen athletes and how we should recognize them. Coach Bill Bowerman got us together for several meetings and discussions. The overwhelming response was “they can’t take this from us” and “if we stop the games, they win.”

Jeff Galloway, Steve Prefontaine and Frank Shorter
Jeff Galloway, Steve Prefontaine and Frank Shorter

During that Olympics one of your teammates was Steve Prefontaine, the two of you trained together for some time. There is still a huge following of “Pre” and a legend that as grown, what was he really like?
Pre and I ran together, traveled together, and did several clinics together. The movie “Prefontaine” is an accurate portrayal of Pre. He was the toughest competitor I have known or observed. When things did not go right, Pre would keep looking for the reasons and not give up trying to be the best.

If you could give advice to your younger self knowing what you know now what would you say?
Don’t maintain high mileage every week, go even slower and take more walk breaks on long runs, and have a strategic schedule of races that build to the key races each season.

You and your wife Barb met on the track at Florida State University, what has keep your marriage going for all these years?
We met in 1974 and worked together in my recently opened store, Phidippides. We shared a love for what running did for us: turning on the brain for a better attitude, more vitality, and personal empowerment. Our best-shared experiences are our runs—almost every day. We treasure the time we have with our two sons and their wives.

In all of history if you could ask one person a question who would it be and what would you ask?
I would ask my father (visionary founder of an innovative school (Galloway school in Atlanta) a number of questions about his theories and beliefs—and some family background.

Diet and nutrition is very important to get us across the finish line. What is the one food you cannot resist that you should not be eating?
It used to be ice cream. However, over the past 25 years I have totally cleaned up my diet primarily because of the healthy and good tasting food prepared by Barb. I’m proud to say that there is no food or foods that I believe are in the “health questionable” category.

If you ever get a chance to go on one of Jeff’s retreats I would strongly suggest do it. He has a passion and longing to help everyone enjoy the sport of running and get the best results possible. You can find out more about Jeff Galloway and his running retreats at http://www.jeffgalloway.com

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