Franklin Summer Practice
We spent the morning with Franklin High School in Southeast Portland and watched their summer practice held at nearby Clinton Park under the supervision of Coach Jacob Michaels and Rob Jamieson. The team weaved through summer sports camps at the park in a figure eight loop completing repeat 2500 meter course at tempo pace for the first 2000 meters and finishing the 500 meters at 5000 meter race pace. After the workout, Coach Michaels treated the athletes for drinks at the local Plaid Pantry convenient store. Coach Michaels explained Franklin's program.
How often do you practice during the summer?
The team gets together pretty much everyday Monday through Saturday at 9am. Sunday is on their own. We are firm believers in group runs and if people can't make the 9 o'clock time because of work or whatever, they arrange to meet at another time. We pretty much go everyday at 9am. Saturday we meet here and then we drive over to Forest Park. Some people who are not ready to run at Forest Park will run at Mt. Tabor instead.
Do you have a summer camp?
We have an altitude running camp just above Sisters, Or at Three Creek Lake. This will be the nineteenth year that we do it. It is five days up there and everything is above 6,000 feet. I only charge $95 a pop for everything because I want to keep it cheap and we just straight forwardly camp and run. Nothing fancier than that and the kids love it. Occasionally the kids will go fishing at the lake, but it is just hang out time and run a lot. It is super fun.
How do you create your culture at Franklin?
This is truly a neighborhood school. I've never had a transfer or never had never had anyone move into the area to run for Franklin. All these kids live within two miles of the school and so the culture is we can relate easily, get together in the morning and meet at a central location like we are doing right now in Clinton Park. It is sort of like neighborhood play time and no one lives very far away and it is easy to get together. Kids like each other and they like to socialize in the summer. We have this massive park nearby called Mt. Tabor that the kids like to hang out even when we are not running. The culture is it is a neighborhood school where no one has to come from very far, super convenient for everyone to get together and no one has to drive five miles away. The kids themselves have built that culture.
During the pandemic it was a godsend socially for the kids to live close to each other and they got together to socialize safely outdoors and run. The culture perpetuated itself without me being there because the PPS coaches were not allowed to be even in sight of the kids for eight months. The kids kept it going because it was so easy to get together. I would like to say I had a lot to do with the culture, but it is so easy for us to get together. That is the culture of Franklin is straight forward a neighborhood high school.
One more thing about team culture is, as much as the kids know that I am a highly opinionated coach who sometimes gets very intense, I give the team captains and the runners in general a lot of leeway as to how much they want to run and how much they are experimenting with their own running. I wouldn't call it necessarily individualized training. I would call it more . . . the athlete gets to choose how much they want to work and I will check in with them to make sure they are not over doing it, but some people want to run a lot more. If I see that it is working, I am like, you get to decide what your mileage is.
For an individual sport like distance running, you really have to tell the kids, 'how much you want to put into it and you get to decide, particularly during the summer, how much you want to do it.' I am not going to tell you the paces you should run. You are going to figure out what is an easy pace for you. Your weekly minutes? I actually don't know what your capacity is until you try it. If things start going south because you are running too much, I will gently give some suggestions how you can moderate your effort.
I tell the kids that this is not my athletic career. It is your athletic career. The way you become a better athlete is figuring out what works for you training wise and understanding the workouts or some of the basics of the aerobic development. Then you can make an informed choices about how much you want to run.
One of our team captains is going to run a trail marathon this Saturday and I think a few years ago I would have said, 'no way you are doing that.' But she has already done this before a cross country season and it works and she loves it. Yeah, trail races, it doesn't beat up your legs as a road marathon and go ahead and do it. This particular athlete is just an aerobic monster and recovers super quickly from super long runs. She figured that on her own and I was just along for the ride to make sure she was doing a semi decent training on her first marathon which she did a couple summers ago. That is the team culture at Franklin is that I am not command and control at all, despite the fact that I feel very strongly about certain training philosophies. The kids figure it out on their own.
What is the secret to Franklin's success?
A couple of things. The Portland metropolitan area, as you know, is super strong and kids feed off that from other schools. There has been an overall culture of excellence from the Metro area which is honestly not that common for an urban city area in the United States. Most of the successful schools are suburban, but in Portland, Metro has it going. Of course in southern Oregon, those kids are just monsters. The last few years has raised Oregon overall. Oregon kids are really good at distance running, we have a tradition and history of it, Prefontaine, let's go!
I think what people realize and what we have always realized over the pandemic is that you can run a lot more than you think you can. I notice that other teams are simply running a lot more and that is sort of our simple process. We might meet everyday, but a lot of the varsity kids are going for a second run in the evening. We run ten times a week and sometimes more. It is a ton of easy aerobic running at Mt. Tabor. Very easy to moderate workouts. We just pile on the easy miles and our kids don't tend to get injured running high miles because they are doing mostly social running. To me if is pretty straight forward and simple. We run a lot. Other schools have figured that out and I say in general that most of the schools in the US have figured that out. I try to moderate it by not going over board with workouts. Building an aerobic base for the youngsters is more important to me where they get used to daily easy running throughout the entire year and that is the basis of distance running versus high intensity workouts.
Pictures from Franklin's workout at Clinton Park are found HERE