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What Today’s High School Runners Like

We surveyed 50 top high school runners and discovered a wealth of individuality.

PodiumRunner sent a survey to every participant in the June 15 Brooks PR Invitational meet, and got back 50 responses, creating a fairly rich picture of these stellar young athletes.

What it revealed, more than anything, was that today’s youth are independent and widely diverse. On every question— from favorite workout to favorite musical artist—we got back nearly as many unique answers as responders. What they have in common is a love for running and an appreciation for going hard, in training and on race day.

Here are some of the survey results.

Favorite Race

Not surprisingly, runners like what they are good at, from 100 meter to 3200 meters. Among distance runners—who often range from the 800 to the 2-mile—the large majority prefer to race the mile (13), followed by the 800m (6). Only two mileage monsters said they prefer the longest high school track race, the 3200m.

Two runners expanded beyond the box of the track, one saying their favorite race was the Bolder Boulder 10K and another citing cross country.

800m Brooks PR Invite
photo: 101 Degrees West

Favorite Workout

We knew these were dedicated runners, but that didn’t prepare us for the intense workouts they reported as their favorite thing to do on a school afternoon.

The most popular was some form of 400m repeats (11): 6 x 400, 8 x 400, 10 x 400, even 16 x 400. Several added complexity and intensity: “with decreasing rest,” or “progressively getting faster through out.”

Descending ladders of various kinds came in second (5), either longer ladders like “1k, 800, 600, 400, 200 X 2” or shorter, faster ones like, “4 X 400, 300, 200, 150—with 1 minute rest in between, 5 minutes after each set.”

Workouts at lactate threshold (4) also got some love, be they tempo runs or cruise intervals such mile repeats or “5 x 1000m at threshold with 1 minute recovery.”

Only two mentioned long runs as their favorite—although a few more listed going long as their favorite recovery activity. One made us smile: “Long runs with mom or dad biking alongside me.”

The one we’d most like to try? “Broken 400s (running a 300, 30 seconds later run the last 100)”

Pre-race Drills
photo: 101 Degrees West

Favorite “Active recovery” Activity

Swimming was the only standout for favorite active recovery, with 11 of the responses claiming the pool is their favorite place to work out sore muscles. One listed it as a favorite, but added this caveat, “I swim once a week and keep trying to convince myself that I like it (hasn’t happened yet).”

Four responders listed ice baths as their favorite. This is a tough group.

The rest of the favorites were unique, ranging from “Dance Dance Revolution” to “Shoes off, taking a lap around the football field,” to “Reading a good book.” Other sports served as recovery for some: Volleyball, Spikeball, Skiing, Hiking, Biking, Yoga.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Favorite Snack

Even though the survey was anonymous, these runners mostly listed relatively healthy snacks as their favorites. Myriad granola or energy bars were cited: Nature Valley, Belvita, NuGo, Cliff bars, Larabars, and several more generic “mint chocolate,” “chocolate chip chewy” or “protein bar.”

Fruit made a small appearance—2 prefer grapes for snacks, 1 pineapple—but the majority of fruit reference were in the form of “fruit snacks.”

A few that stood out from the long list of other snacks: Apples with peanut butter, Scooby snacks, Hot tamales, hummus with pita chips, Cheez-Its, Superhero muffins, ice cream.

Resting pre-race Brooks PR
photo: 101 Degrees West

Favorite Elite Runner

These young runners know their elites: Nearly all had favorites, and the list was extensive and diverse. Matt Centrowitz (often called simply “Centro”) topped the list with 6 votes. Colleen Quigley was close behind with 5, while Jenny Simpson (3), Sydney McLaughlin (2), Allyson Felix (2), Daniel Roberts (2) and Devon Allen (2) were the only others with more than one nomination as favorite.

The others? Galen Rupp, Shelly-Ann Frasier-Price, Michael Norman, Akeem Wilson, Mel and Collier Lawrence, Aisha Praught-Leer, Allie Ostrander, Sean Burrell, David Ribich, Christian Coleman, Sebastion Coe, Mo Farah, Kathrine Switzer, Andrew Bumbalough, Shelby Houlihan, Micheal Norman, Aries Merritt, Andrew Wheating, Jacarri Richardson, Rye Benjamin, Dez Bryant, Omar McLeod, Craig Engels, Victor Palumbo, Nafi Thiam

Our favorite response: (Fellow high-schooler) “Katelynne Hart (but don’t tell her I said that)!”

Matthew Centrowitz
Photo: Jeff Cohen

Favorite Psych-Up Movie

 Even pop culture is diverse these days, with 26 unique movies cited as a favorite for getting the adrenaline pumping.

The most popular was the cross country saga McFarland, USA, with 5 runners choosing it. Two each preferred Creed, Unbroken, The Dark Knight and She’s the Man.

The others were not only unique but often surprising: Black Panther, Without Limits, The Sandlot “(of course),” Salt, Miracle, Hotel Transylvania 3, Spirit of the Marathon, Seabiscuit, I am Bolt, Adam Sandler: That’s My Boy, Forrest Gump, Cool Runnings, The Long Green Line, Facing the Giants, Prefontaine, Rudy, Leap, Race, The Harry Potter series, Saving Private Ryan, Rocky, The Greatest Showman

young runner with headphones Brooks PR
photo: 101 Degrees West

Favorite Song or Artist

Whoever programs pre-meet music better have a vast library, as the style preferences showed no convergence. The only consensus were six who prefer Drake and five who would choose to program Beyoncé.

Here’s what today’s young runners are listening to: Khalid, Bad Boys (theme from COPS), Gunna, Elton John – Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Tyler, the creator, Kenny Chesney – Song for the Saints, Sia/ Katy Perry, High Hopes by Panic At The Disco, YBN Cordae, Roddy Ricch, A$AP Rocky, Polo G, The Eagles, Dababy-Suge (Yea Yeah), Mr. Blue Sky, Maroon 5, Lewis Capaldi, Mumford and sons, Travis Scott, any type of oldies, Pop out, Migos, Black Keys, Eminem, Bryson Tiller, Lil Keed or Lil Baby, Anderson.Paak, Grateful Dead, kanye, Playboi Carti, J Cole, 21 Savage, Billie Eilish, EastSide by Benny Blanco, “Any pop music from 2012 like Black Eyed Peas, I got a feeling—and occasionally music from 80s and 90s,” and the generic: “hip-hop and rap.”

Have you noticed? Our “Well” of related stories now load continuously, one after the other. Do you like it or hate it? Let us know what you think (about this, or anything about PodiumRunner). —Jonathan Beverly, Editor