B.A.A. High Performance Coach Terrence Mahon Will Lead Team USA At The World Championships
This summer, B.A.A. High Performance coach Terrence Mahon will lead Team USA at the IAAF World Championships in Beijing. Before departing for the team’s training camp in Japan, Mahon spent some time answering questions about the World Championships, the B.A.A., and about running your best all the time.
(Q) This will be your third time coaching the World Championships team. What lessons have you learned from your international experience that have helped you while coaching Team B.A.A.?
Terrence Mahon: I think the greatest thing about being on Team USA is just that – the Team. We as coaches are all part of the team and it is our job to help out all of the great athletes so that they can perform at their best while wearing the USA uniform. If we all work together then we can collectively get the job done and be happy with the end results. Our sport doesn’t offer many opportunities to be on a team on a daily basis – especially once an athlete leaves college. Team USA has been the greatest all-around Track & Field team for as long as I can remember. Being a part of that tradition and sense of pride is something I cherish. It is also one of the main reasons why I wanted to coach for the B.A.A. Like USA Track & Field, the Boston Athletic Association also has this tradition of excellence that has stood for so long. To be a part of that and to continue to strive to maintain it year after year is a dream. As a coach I try to teach this to our young runners. The spirit of a top team can raise you above and beyond what you ever thought possible. We all work hard, but we all work together and that is what makes us great.
(Q) Before the World Championships, you and Team USA will go to a training camp in Japan. In the weeks and days leading up to competition, what do you make sure athletes focus on?
Terrence Mahon: The immediate thing that we need to focus on is the recovery from the travel. Most of our athletes will be making a long trip to Japan and have crossed many time zones. We will work hard to get the athletes on a schedule and adapted to the time zones and the weather as smooth as possible.
Aside from recovery the next thing is to make sure that the athletes don’t leave their races at the practice track. It is easy to go too hard in the last two weeks leading up to the event when they are surrounded by so much excitement and such a big team. My main goal will be to work with the personal coaches to help each athlete understand what their goals are for the practices and to not go beyond that at this point in time. It is better for an athlete to be a little more rested then to have over-trained when it is only two weeks to go.
Finally, I like to help the athletes understand that this is just another race. Of course it is the World Championships and they all want to do well, but they still need to focus on this one like they have done with all the races that have lead them to this point. It is still all about executing the X’s and O’s well. Those that can do that are the ones that finish the highest.
(Q) Many athletes and coaches with B.A.A. ties have represented the United States on the world stage (including a majority of the first U.S. Olympic team). What is it like representing both the U.S. and B.A.A. internationally?
Terrence Mahon: It is definitely an honor to be the coach for the B.A.A. and now serve as a coach for the U.S. team. I recognize what has come before in our organization and what we are trying to achieve going forward when it comes to having athletes qualify for national teams. It is even more apparent when I put on the U.S. Team gear knowing that this is what I am looking to have our athletes achieve with their careers. It gets me excited and further motivated to be the best coach that I can possibly be. I want to see our future athletes have those Olympic rings next to their name and have their photos and memorabilia residing in our Hall of Fame for all to see as they walk by.
(Q) What race or match-up are you most excited to see in Beijing?
Terrence Mahon: I am a huge track fan and love to watch all of the events so I am not sure there is one favorite race that I am most excited about. There is so much drama and so many stories going into this meet. Usain Bolt vs. Justin Gatlin will be the biggest one for the mainstream media, but I also want to see if the likes of Mutaz Essa Barshim and Renaud Lavillenie can break the world records in their respective events [high jump and pole vault]. As for the distance races it will be all about looking for what Genzebe Dibaba can do on the women’s side with her chance for gold in both the 1500m and 5000m races; while on the men’s side can Mo Farah do it again and defend his World Championship titles from Moscow. The one thing I am most excited about is that we have so many great U.S. middle and long distance runners going to China this year and many of them have a chance to get on the podium. I think it has been a long time since we have ever had such a global presence. That will make every race thrilling to watch all the way to the finish line.
(Q) Whether racing on the world stage or in a B.A.A. race, what are three things all runners should keep in mind?
1. When it comes to the competition track, the distance is always 400 meters around. When it is a marathon course – it is always 26.2 miles. It is never more than that even though it may happen to be at the World Championships. For an athlete to succeed on the major stage they need to maintain their composure. Keeping things simple and relating it all to how they have done it back home is the best way to manage the stress and anxiety that builds up prior to major competitions. The more that we can make it just like home the better they will do.
2. Create a good routine that works for you as an athlete and then keep it the same whether you are competing in Beijing or Boston. Don’t change them at the big races just because you see or hear that some athletes do it differently. It is our individual practices that keep us grounded and focused. Don’t worry what your competition is doing. Only focus on what you can control. Leave the rest for someone else to worry about.
3. Have fun. We run because we love it and because it makes sense to us. Sure we all come to the sport from different places and for different reasons, but we have stuck with it this long because it makes us happy. Never forget that – especially when you step on the starting line for your next big race. Go out and race as hard and as fast as you can. Do that and you will be happy with the result and with yourself.