The Basics of Distance Running Will Help Make You Great

Author: Andrew Mascio, USATF Registered Coach MoraineX5

Distance Running can be a very complex sport at times with hundreds of different training methods and philosophies. Many successful coaches have somewhat conflicting strategies, so it’s sometimes hard to know as a runner who to listen to and what to follow. But even though there are disagreements and debates about the best training methods, there are some basic fundamentals of distance running that if every runner does, they will improve. 

The Fundamentals of Distance Running: 

1. Stay Healthy:

I know you’re probably thinking well that’s obvious because if you’re not healthy then you can’t improve. But even though this is an obvious fact to improving, not only in distance running but in every sport, many runners often neglect or skip the simple things they can be doing to prevent an injury.

Stretching after every run, even on an easy day, is very important to helping prevent injuries and also improving your flexibility and stride length. After an easy day, I recommend stretching for at least 5 minutes and on a hard day at least 10 minutes.

Listen to your body – in workouts don’t force the pace. If your legs are feeling tired, you can still run the workout at the same effort as a previous workout, but it may not be as fast. Keeping the effort the same is important, but keeping the pace the same isn’t.

About a year and a half ago, I had the opportunity to Skype the American record holder in the marathon, Ryan Hall, and one of the pieces of advice he gave me that has stuck with me since is that it’s better to take workouts easier than harder. He said that when he was a freshman at Stanford, he would always run with the top group, but he ended up not having that great of a season by his standards. So his sophomore year, he decided to run workouts with the second group and this resulted in him having a much better season. 

Another way to help prevent injuries is weight training. Doing core each day to improve abdominal strength is critical to building a strong running body and to improving form. Additionally, lifting will help strengthen your body. Having strong muscles will help ensure a consistent, smooth running form, which will lessen the chance of injury. As Reed Ferber, Ph.D., director of the Running Injury Clinic at the University of Calgary states in a 2013 Runner’s World article, “If muscles are weak, one footfall will not be like the rest. How your knee turns, your hip drops, your foot pronates changes with each step. But with strength, these movements are the same each time, so your mind and body know what to expect.”

Lifting and core are not the only ways to improve strength and running form. Body weight exercises that target the legs, hips, and gluteus medius are also critical to strengthening your body. Some of these exercises include: Fire Hydrants, Donkey Kicks, Lunges, Clamshells, Lateral Leg Raises, and more. 

2. Proper Nutrition: 

Another obvious yet often ignored key to becoming a better runner is nutrition. Proper nutrition doesn’t just mean proper nutrition the week of a race – it means proper nutrition the entire season. Get in a habit of eating properly so that it becomes a pattern of excellence throughout your season. It can be hard to resist sometimes but just avoiding dessert after dinner can make a big difference. Try to obtain your calories from more “productive” foods for runners than sweets. To see some of food recommendations for distance runners you can access our Wolf Creek Track Club nutritional suggestions here: WCTC Nutritional Guide

3. Keep it Fun: 

Often the stress and pressure of competitive racing can get to some runners. An easy way to avoid this is to never lose sight of the fact that running is fun. There is a reason you choose the sport of running and that is because you like running. After hard workouts and races, hang out with your teammates later that evening. In a 2011 article, University of Houston Head Cross Country Coach, Steve Magness, states, “Hanging out with friends is one of the most effective recovery protocols there is.” Magness goes on to state, “Going from a high-stress workout to a desensitized period of just joking around together decreases tension way faster than anything else we’ve tried.”At practice, make sure to mix things up – maybe have some themed days or play a game like dodgeball or something before an easy day.

If you get tired of running the same old routes, switch things up by going somewhere unique to run like a state park or rail trail. Another way to avoid the stress and pressure of racing, is to remember on race day that all the work for that race has already been put in and there’s nothing that you can really do that day to change the time you’re going to run. There’s no need to be uptight before races, there’s no need for fiery, pump-up speeches from coaches. All you need to do is believe in yourself and training, stay loose and keep the mood lighthearted before the race.

At the Rio Olympics, champions like Usain Bolt and Mo Farah were incredibly loose before their races. They were having fun with the crowd, which I believe helped their performance to a degree because they kept loose and confident instead of worrying and stressing out about the race. 

4. The Long Run: 

Personally, I believe the long run is often overlooked in its importance to becoming a better distance runner. Many coaches put a lot of emphasis on VO2 max days as being the most important training days. Don’t get me wrong VO2 max workouts are critical to improving as a runner, but I also believe the long run is just as important as a workout. A long run builds confidence. A long run improves endurance. A long run challenges the body and mind in a way repeat workouts cannot.

Long Runs should be about 25% of your weekly mileage or minutes. When doing a long run, don’t just run the same pace as an easy day, but try to be slightly faster than your typical pace. Let’s say you consistently run 7:00-7:30 pace on an easy day, then your long run should be at about 6:20-6:50 pace. After a long run, you should not feel as tired as a VO2 max day or a race, but you should definitely feel more fatigued than a regular run.

Mark Wetmore, the legendary Head Cross Country Coach at the University of Colorado, has been a firm believer in the importance of the long run for decades. In a 2014 FloTrack article, Wetmore asserts “there is no more important workout than the long run.” Under Wetmore, the Colorado cross country program has won 7 national titles between the men’s and women’s teams.

Personally, the long run has made a huge difference in my training. Four years ago, I would only be able to do a 15 mile long run at about 7:20 pace, but now, exerting the same effort, I can do a 15 mile long run at roughly 6:20 pace. That builds confidence. Over the years, the long runs I’ve done have helped me build a strong base, which has enabled me to get to this point. Make your long runs count. 

As a distance runner, you need to be diligent and intentional about all four of these things. If you do a good job at all four of these of things, you will be on your way to becoming a great distance runner.

Have fun training! I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes of all time, “Success is the sum of small efforts repeated day in and day out.” 

St. Barnabas 5k Recap


The Wolf Creek Track Club (WCTC) competed in the 25th Annual St. Barnabas 5k this morning in Gibsonia, PA. The WCTC team consisted of Rachel Martin, Brandon Wise, and Andrew Mascio. The race went off shortly after 9:00am. The weather at the start was about mid-70s and sunny. 

Brandon Wise led the Wolf Creek Track Club placing 5th overall in a time of 16:43. Andrew Mascio finished 11th with a time of 17:29 and Rachel Martin finished 29th overall and 4th among female finishers with a time of 18:58. Rachel also placed 1st in her age group of 15-19. 

The WCTC team placed 1st overall in the team competition with a total time of 53:10 and 11 total places. Rams XC #2 placed 2nd with a total time of 57:28 and 21 total places. Arcadis Team 1 placed 3rd with a total time of 1:00:51 and 32 total places. In total, 10 teams competed in the race. 

Jed Christiansen, 29, of Grove City placed 1st overall for the 3rd consecutive year in a time of 15:15, while Lisa Lucas, 50, of Pittsburgh led the women’s field in a time of 18:12. 

Overall, it was a great event. Congratulations to all the race participants! 

Keep up to date with Upcoming WCTC Events:

Fall 5k Series Registration now open! 

Group Runs: 

Wednesday, August 10th @ North Park Boathouse 7:00pm

Saturday, August 13th, @ Maurice K Goddard State Park 9:00am 



WCTC Presents Fall 5k Series

426ac330-ef9e-4e6c-ae5f-8c3816a8e9e8Fall 5k Series 

The Wolf Creek Track Club will be hosting three races as part of a new race series called the Fall 5k Series. Each of the races will be 5ks. Individuals that participate in all 3 events will receive a free Wolf Creek Track Club Social Membership (a $50 value). Also, registering online for all three races will result in a $10 discount. 

There will be a Fall 5k Series Leaderboard in which we average the results of each race to determine the overall series champion. The overall male and female champion will receive a free gold membership ($150 value) and a special commemorative award. Age group and overall awards will also be given out at each race. The age groupings will be the same for all 3 races. Awards will go to the top 5 overall male and female finishers and the top 3 finishers in the following age categories: 11 & Under, 12-15, 16-19, 20-24, 25-29, 30-34, 35-39, 40-44, 45-49, 50-54, 55-59, 60-64, 65-69, 70-74, 75-79, and 80+.

All the races will be run on closed courses, meaning there will be no traffic on race day. All three events will be chip timed by the Wolf Creek Track Club Timing Services. Participants will receive commemorative t-shirts for all three races as long as they register 2 weeks prior to the event. Refreshments will be provided after each race and prize raffles will be conducted at all 3 events. All three races will take place in Mercer County. 

The first race of the series is the Premium Outlets 5k. The second race is the Grateful Gallop 5k and the third race is the Resolution Run. 

Premium Outlets 5k

The Premium Outlets 5k, as the name suggests, is being held at the Grove City Premium Outlets. The race is being held on Saturday, October 22 at 8:00am. This race benefits the Simon Youth Foundation, which is an organization that helps at-risk teens graduate from high school. The course consists of three loops around the perimeter of the Outlets. It is a flat course. The awards ceremony will be begin at 9:00am. Special discounts to various Outlet stores will be given to all participants, so stick around after the race to do some shopping! 

Grateful Gallop 5k

The Grateful Gallop 5k is being held at Hunters Farm in Grove City, PA on Thursday, November 24 at 9:00am. The course will start on Greenwood Drive and continue onto the paved path that loops around the soccer fields. Click here to see the course preview video. The awards ceremony will start at 10:00am. This race benefits the Grove City Food Pantry. All participants are encouraged to bring food donations. 

Resolution Run 5k

The Resolution Run 5k is being held at the LindenPointe Innovative Business Campus in Hermitage, PA. This race is being held on Saturday, December 31st at 9:00am. The course will loop around the LindenPointe campus. This race benefits the LindenPointe Development Corporation (LDC), a 501c3 entity which operates the business incubator in the park and a multi-district high school entreprenuership program. Remember that running is an all weather sport. 

The Wolf Creek Track Club hopes to see you at all these great events in support of all these great causes. 

To register for the Fall 5k Series events: 

Premium Outlets 5k

Grateful Gallop 5k

Resolution Run 5k

Registration for each race will begin at $15 and the price will increase at certain cut-off dates prior to the race. Race day registration will be $30 for each event. Take advantage of the special online race bundle discount! 

Park of the Week: Hickory Run State Park


About two weeks ago, I went on a camping trip with some friends at Hickory Run State Park, located on the Eastern side of Pennsylvania near the town of White Haven. We stayed in the group tenting area, which was about 2 miles from the park office.

On the first day, after we got the campsite set up, we ran the main road through the park (State Road 534) down to park office and back. The run was all downhill on the way to the park office, but the way back was over 500 feet elevation in 2 miles. It was a nice, scenic road with trees surrounding it and numerous trail offshoots on each side. We went on another run later in the evening around some of the gravel roads through the other campgrounds and a short portion on a trail. 

On Saturday, we decided to make the 15 minute drive to the neighboring Lehigh Gorge State Park. Once there, we started our run to the Lehigh Gorge Trail. But on the way to the trail-head, we encountered a cave, which we had to go check out. After walking through the cave, we made our way back to the road and onto the Lehigh Gorge Trail. 

We ran 8 miles on the Lehigh Gorge Trail (4 out & 4 back). On the way out, there was a very slight uphill grade. The trail itself was in fantastic shape. It was a firm, fast surface that consisted of compact gravel. The trail had really good footing and was devoid of any potholes or divots. On the one side of the trail were views of the Lehigh Valley River, while on the other side were views of the rocky, mountainous terrain and a beautiful waterfall. The trail had mile markers and benches along the way. There were some offshoot paths that travel deeper into the woods, if you’re looking for a dirt trail. 

After the run, we went to a nearby stream with rushing water to take a natural ice bath. Shortly after the ice bath, we returned back to campsite and grilled some burgers. After lunch, we headed to the beach at Sand Spring Lake. The beach was quite large for a state park, but the sand was a bit rocky. Before playing some volleyball on the beach, we decided to play some disc golf. I’m not a huge disc golf fan, but this disc golf course was the best one I’ve ever played on. The course traveled through the forest, but was kept in such good shape that it would be almost impossible to lose a disc. It also had some unique features like a stonewall guarding one of the holes. 

Later in the evening, we hiked the Fireline Trail in Hickory Run State Park to the Lehigh Valley Gorge Overlook. Once at the end of the trail, we took in sweeping views of the valley and surrounding mountains. This was my favorite part of the park. 

On Sunday morning, we “ran” The Shades of Death Trail. This trail is very appropriately named. “Ran” is in quotations because we attempted to run it, but it was not really possible since some portions of the trail were so challenging and technical. Nonetheless, it was a beautiful trail that was very fun to explore.

After experiencing the Shades of Death, we checked out the Boulder Field, which is one of the main attractions in the park as it is a national landmark. The road on the way to the Boulder Field was a nice compact dirt road that would have been really great to run, but we didn’t get the chance. The Boulder Field was incredible because it is all natural. I’ve never seen anything like it.  

Hickory Run State Park provides diverse running options. It has paved, dirt, and gravel roads. It has hilly and flat terrain. It has easy and highly technical trails. This park really has everything a runner could want. I highly recommend it not only for adventurous runners, but for people just looking for a weekend in the great outdoors. 

Here’s some additional photos from the trip:


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WCTC runs in Presque Isle Half Marathon

pi 2Three Wolf Creek Track Club runners participated in the 2016 ERC Presque Isle Half Marathon this morning in Erie, Pa. The race was supposed to start at 6:45am, but after some delays it ended up starting around 7:05am. The weather for this year’s race was much better than last year’s event. It was 62 degrees and sunny at the start of the race. The course was a flat, 13.1 loop around Presque Isle State Park. There were 1,600 total registered participants, however only 1,359 finished the race.

Colton Mack (age 26) of Pittsburgh, won the race in 1:11:10. The first female finisher was Gabrielle Kennelley (age 22) of Waterford, who ran 1:23:33. The standout performance of the day, however, came from 12 year old, Matthew Puleio of Meadville, who completed the course in 1:17:04 an average of 5:53 per mile. Puleio’s performance was record-breaking as he crushed the previous half marathon World Record for a 12 year old. He broke Wesley Paul’s record of 1:19:26, which stood since 1981.

Brandon Wise led the Wolf Creek Track Club, finishing 9th overall in a time of 1:19:21. He placed 2nd in his age group of 20-24. It was Brandon’s 3rd consecutive year of finishing in the top 10 overall at the event and his 4th consecutive year of earning an award in his age group.

Brandon was followed by Andrew Mascio and Ryan Budnik who finished 13th and 14th respectively. Andrew ran a 1:20:55.6, while Ryan ran a 1:20:56.5. Andrew placed 4th in his age group of 20-24, while Ryan placed 3rd in the age category of 1-19. Andrew improved upon his 22nd place finish in the event last year, while this was Ryan’s first time participating in the event.

Overall, it was a great day for the Wolf Creek Track Club with 3 runners placing in the top 15. Congratulations to Matthew Puleio on his world record setting performance.

Click here for full race results

Recap of USATF Olympic Trials

I traveled to Eugene, Oregon this past week for the United States Track & Field Olympic Trials.  The 10 day meet took place from July 1-10. As always this highly competitive meet was very chaotic and surprising with many big names failing to make the Olympic team and many newcomers making their first team. High school students Vashti Cunningham and Sydney McLaughlin are going to Rio while veterans Sanya Richards-Ross, Trey Hardee, and Aylsia Montano are not. 41 year old Bernard Lagat won the 5,000m with a 52.8 second final 400 just days after dropping out of the 10,000m. Brenda Martinez came back and made the 1500m team after missing the 800m team due to a crash in the last turn of the final.  Favorites like Galen Rupp, Aston Eaton, Jenny Simpson, Molly Huddle, Evan Jager, and Emma Coburn were all able to win the events they were expected to win.  My favorite race of the meet was the mens 800m final where this year’s NCAA 1500m champion Clayton Murphy perfectly executed his race strategy to take the US title over the favorite Boris Berian.  I am now a Clayton Murphy fan and he is the future of US middle distance running.

Tracktown is a great place to visit especially during big meets such as the Olympic Trials, US Championships, or NCAA Championships.  In 2021 Hayward Field will be hosting the IAAF World Championships so you should think about getting tickets to that.  Eugene is all about track and offers hundreds of miles of walking and jogging paths and trails all across the city and the neighboring city of Springfield.  The most popular of these trails sits in Alton Baker Park near the University of Oregon and is made of tree bark chips.  The trail is named after the late great University of Oregon runner and 1972 Olympian Steve Prefontaine.  Eugene is a great place. If you are a real track fan you need to go to Eugene and attend a meet at Hayward Field and experience Tracktown. 

US Men Going to Rio

100: Justin Gatlin, Trayvon Bromell, Marvin Bracy
110H: Devon Allen, Ronnie Ash, Jeff Porter
200: Justin Gatlin, LaShawn Merritt, Ameer Webb

400: LaShawn Merritt, Gil Roberts, David Verburg
400H: Kerron Clement, Byron Robinson, Michael Tinsley
800: Clayton Murphy, Boris Berian, Charles Jock
1500: Matt Centrowitz, Robbie Andrews, Ben Blankenship
3K SC: Evan Jager, Hillary Bor, Donn Cabral
5K: Bernard Lagat, Hassan Mead, Paul Chelimo
10K: Galen Rupp, Shadrack Kipchirchir, Leonard Korir
Decathlon: Ashton Eaton, Jeremy Taiwo, Zach Ziemek
High Jump: Erik Kynard, Bradley Adkins, Ricky Robertson (Adkins and Robertson were third and sixth but the top two men behind Kynard with the standard)
Shot Put: Ryan Crouser, Joe Kovacs, Darrell Hill
Discus Throw: Mason Finley, Tavis Bailey, Andrew Evans
Triple Jump: Will Claye, Christian Taylor, Chris Benard
Long Jump: Jeff Henderson, Jarrion Lawson, Marquis Dendy (Will Claye was third but doesn’t have the Olympic standard)
Pole Vault: Sam Kendricks, Cale Simmons, Logan Cunningham
Javelin Throw: Cyrus Hostetler, Sam Crouser, Sean Furey (Curtis Thompson and Riley Dolezal were second and third but don’t have the Olympic standard)
Marathon: Galen Rupp, Meb Keflezighi, Jared Ward
50K Racewalk: John Nunn

US Women Going to Rio

100: English Gardner, Tori Bowie, Tianna Bartoletta
100H: Brianna Rollins, Kristi Castlin, Nia Ali
200: Tori Bowie, Deajah Stevens, Jenna Prandini
400: Allyson Felix, Phyllis Francis, Natasha Hastings
400H: Dalilah Muhammad, Ashley Spencer, Sydney McLaughlin
800: Kate Grace, Ajee Wilson, Chrishuna Williams
1500: Jenny Simpson, Shannon Rowbury, Brenda Martinez
3K SC: Emma Coburn, Colleen Quigley, Courtney Frerichs
5K: Shelby Houlihan, Kim Conley, Abbey D’Agostino (winner Molly Huddle and fourth-place finisher Emily Infeld are only running the 10K at the Olympics)
10K: Molly Huddle, Emily Infeld, Marielle Hall
Pole Vault: Jenn Suhr, Sandi Morris, Lexi Weeks
Discus Throw: Whitney Ashley, Shelbi Vaughan, Kelsey Card
Long Jump: Brittney Reese, Tianna Bartoletta, Janay DeLoach
High Jump: Chaunte Lowe, Vashti Cunningham, Inika McPherson
Hammer Throw: Amber Campbell, Gwen Berry, Deanna Price
Javelin Throw: Maggie Malone, Kara Winger, Brittany Borman (Hannah Carson was second but doesn’t have the standard)
20K Racewalk: Maria Michta-Coffey, Miranda Melville
Triple Jump: Keturah Orji, Christina Epps, Andrea Geubelle
Shot Put: Michelle Carter, Raven Saunders, Felisha Johnson
Heptathlon: Barbara Nwaba, Heather Miller-Koch, Kendell Williams
Marathon: Amy Cragg, Desi Linden, Shalane Flanagan

Complete Results

Videos of Men’s Finals

Videos of Women’s Finals

Pictures I took at the Meet

Park of the Week: Raccoon Creek State Park


Raccoon Creek State Park, located in Hookstown, is a grand park that is definitely worth a visit. The park consists of multiple trails through the forest, gravel roads around the expansive campground area, sidewalks around the beach area, and paved roads that are very well shaded. Personally, I really enjoyed running on the main road through the park because it travels by all the main attractions throughout the venue: the boat rental area, the beach, and the campground.

At the boat rental area, you can take in sweeping views of the lake and the surrounding hills. Running the gravel roads around the campgrounds was a nice way to mix things up. As for the trails through the woods, I didn’t get to check all of them out, but the ones the did run on were decent. However, the trails were not well maintained in some portions, which made for some interesting moments like jumping over fallen trees, across creeks, and over some poison ivy. Overall, it was an adventurous, scenic, and fun run. Raccoon Creek State Park is worth making the trip to see it.  

Here’s my run there from a few days ago: 

USATF National Club XC Championships

USATF Club Nationals


The Wolf Creek Track Club is looking to bring an elite team to compete at the 2016 USATF National Club Cross Country Championships, which will take place on December 10th in Tallahassee, Florida.


The race is a 10K and will be held at Apalachee State Park. We would like to bring a men’s and women’s team to compete. Each team will need at least 5 members to be eligible. In order to qualify for USATF Club Nationals, the Wolf Creek Track Club must win the USATF Three Rivers Association Championship, which will be held on November 6th. If you are interested in joining our team, please contact us.   


If you have met any of our elite standards within the past 4 years, you will receive additional benefits. It is not a requirement to have met an elite standard to be a member of our team. 


Park of the Week: Deer Lakes Park (Tarentum, PA)


Deer Lakes Park, located in Tarentum, PA, has a mixture of paved paths and dirt trails to run. The paved paths loop around the smaller lakes at the beginning of the park. It is a very scenic, flat route that consists of multiple little bridges over the lakes. You can get a little over a mile on these paths. This would be a decent place to do a threshold run. However, the paths are only wide enough to go two runners wide and there is not much shade.

The park also has a lot of dirt trails through the woods, however some them were not very well maintained and they are very narrow. I would only recommend the trails for the most adventurous runners. Overall, this park is good place to go on a lower mileage day to run the paved paths at the beginning of the park. I was not a huge fan of the condition of the dirt trails, but if you’re feeling adventurous they could be a nice way to mix things up. 

Here’s the map of my run from a few days ago: