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In part 2 of our conversation with coaching legend Bob Larsenwe follow-up on some of the key aspects of Bob’s success at UCLA before diving deep on his work with Meb, and what ultimately set him apart from his competition..

This is part two of our Bobcast, where we interview legendary track and field coach Bob Larsen about his life and career. Part 1 came out on Tuesday. We discussed his early years coaching, his success at UCLA, and why threshold training is the foundation of distance running success.

In this episode Bob returns to answer some follow-up questions about his UCLA years, to discuss the importance of preparing athletes mentally to achieve their best, and we do a deep dive on some of the key moments in Meb’s career, including his American Record 10k, his silver medal in Athens, and his emotional victory at the Boston Marathon. On the way, Bob reveals the secret of what truly set Meb apart versus his competition.

If you enjoyed our first conversation, I think this one is even better. I can’t wait for you to hear it.


Jon and Bryan continue their discussion of Bob Larsen’s amazing coaching career, including:

– How he found and hired his coaching staff at UCLA, including John Smith (sprints), Art Vanegas (throws), Anthony Curran (pole vault), Steve Lang (jumps), Russ Hodge (decathlon), and Tommie Lee White (hurdles)
– Why he wanted to hire people with different personalities
– The pre-meet dinners before the UCLA-USC dual meet, and coach Larsen’s strategic phone calls to key athletes to make sure they were mentally ready to get the points the team needed
– How coach started preparing athletes mentally for their big meet as early as the fall each year, and how he used specific races and workouts to accomplish that
– Some memories of Jon’s performances at the dual meet, including UCLA’s first loss after a 21-year win streak and his amazing triple his senior year
– The influence that Bruce Ogilvie and Thomas Tutko had on how Bob thought about sport psychology and the coach/athlete relationship

Mammoth, Meb, and Mastering the Marathon
– How they decided on Mammoth as their location for altitude training
– A detailed overview of Meb’s initial three weeks of training at altitude prior to his American Record 10,000 meter performance, and the clear sign Bob looks for to know when Meb is really working hard
– Why Meb is a coach’s dream athlete, and how Bob still had to be careful with what he said because Meb was going to do it
– Stories about how they prepared for the Athens Olympics, and why Bob thinks Meb and Deena Kastor (who won bronze) were the two most prepared athletes in those races
– How they came to use specialized ice vests to keep their core temperature down, and what Bob had to do to get them ready
– Why some events are more coachable than others and the pleasure Bob takes in finding every legal way to make sure his athletes are ready to go
– Why Bob knew Stefano Baldini (who won gold) was one of the two people Meb had to watch out for
– Bob’s thoughts on Eliud Kipchoge’s sub-2 effort, the pros and cons of how he did it, and why he was ultimately the right guy to do it
– The threshold-based logic for why Bob has always believed sub-2 was possible, and the race conditions that would be required to pull it off
– What future fans won’t understand when they see Meb’s personal best times relative to the success he had
– Why nobody has ever been better than Meb at making the right decisions in races, and the one time Bob can remember when Meb didn’t stick to the plan and it cost him
– Meb’s efficiency–gained from doing countless drills–that allowed him to conserve energy in races and their strategy to exploit other athletes’ inefficiencies in the middle of races
– The last 5k of Boston and what it exemplified about both Meb’s efficiency and mental mastery when it came to racing
– And finally, some quick hitting questions about Bob, and a quote from Ernst van Aaken

If you liked this episode, check out Part 1 with Bob Larsen and our interview with Merhawi Keflezighi (Meb’s brother).

Recorded July 8, 2020.


City Slickers Can’t Stay With Me – Amazon Prime Video

Running to the Edge by Matthew Futterman – Amazon

Bruce Ogilvie – Wikipedia

Make the Leap by Bryan Green –


Bob Larsen


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