This article was written by DC Running Examiner, Mollie Zapata, for the June, 2010 Examiner
George Buckheit, founder of Capital Area Runners, coaches over 100 DC and Virginia runners. He’s been coaching here since 2003, and provides great running advice to Capital Area Runners, whether they’re training for their first 5K, or shooting for an Olympic Trials Marathon qualifiying time. Joining a team is a great way to meet other runners and get individualized training advice, so check out the CAR website to hear more from George.
Why did you start CAR?
I started this group in the fall of 2003 under the name Capital Crescent Track Club. We went through several name changes and affiliations before becoming Capital Area Runners in January 2009. The group was initially founded as an all women’s local elite racing team. Over the years, we’ve morphed into a coed training group that includes everyone from first time marathoners to Olympic Trials qualifiers.
What are your goals for the team?
The goal is to provide a supportive training environment in which we keep everyone working together toward common individual goals. It’s difficult to find a post-collegiate training group that provides the team atmosphere that we’ve created with CAR. I also try to provide a flexible schedule of workouts that fits our members busy schedules and allows them to squeeze in their running around family, work and school obligations.
When and why did you start coaching?
Immediately after my college graduation in 1979, I was hired as the graduate assistant coach of the cross country and track and field teams at my alma mater Bucknell. I had the good fortune of having my own running career guided by 2 coaching legends, Bucknell’s Art Gulden, and Oklahoma State’s Dick Weis who was my high school coach before he moved on to OSU. Their influences convinced me that I wanted to coach at some level, and even after I left Bucknell for the corporate world, I continued to coach at the club level in my spare time.
Why do you love coaching?
From my own experiences as an athlete, I know what a rush it is to make breakthroughs in your running performances, and as a coach, I still get that same rush every time one of my athletes comes up with a big performance.
Why is DC/NoVA good for running?
I think the DC metropolitan area is one of the greatest running communities in the country. We have a huge number of runners in this area, you can find races every weekend year round, and we have a large variety of great training venues in the form of the parks and trails throughout the region.
Where is your favorite place to run?
The C&O Canal Towpath is by far my favorite place to train. The natural scenery along the canal is great, especially in the area of Great Falls, and the packed dirt and gravel surface is very forgiving on the legs.
What is the most common “rookie” mistake in running?
Most rookie runners don’t understand that effective training is endless cycles of hard workouts, followed by easy recovery runs. They make the mistake of going out and trying to run hard every day and end up injured and/or burned out pretty quickly. It’s counterintuitive to think that if you train more slowly, you’ll run faster on race day, but if you expect to be a good runner, you better be building a lot of easy recovery runs into your training.
What words of advice can you give to beginning runners? What about experienced runners?
My advice is the same to both the beginning and the experienced runners. If you want to excel at running, it has to become a lifestyle. You have to not only get into a consistent running routine, you also have to take care of yourself by making sure that you’re eating properly, keeping yourself well hydrated, getting enough rest, and doing some stretching and strengthening exercises. You can run all you want, but if you’re not taking care of yourself by doing the little things properly, you won’t perform well on your race days.