Inside Lane is a new semi-monthly column by Johanna Grestchel covering elite track and cross country. Read her thoughts on current events, trending news, upcoming races and everything in between every second and fourth Thursday of the month.

I once asked Frank Shorter if it was okay to drink beer during training.

He—the 1972 Olympic gold medalist in the marathon, friend to the infamously hard-partying Steve Prefontaine—looked at me (a fresh out of college, star struck fan who desperately wanted to be faster than I was) dead in the eye and said, “Yes!”

A friend said later that the only difference between himself and guys like Shorter and Pre was that they could still get in a 20-miler the morning after pounding a dozen or more beers. And that is basically true—those guys, as well as the Olympians and national champions of today, are flat-out talented. Hard work can go a long way, but there is no amount of miles that will turn just anybody into a somebody.

Photo Credit: Johanna Gretschel

I met Shorter at a press event for the Rock ‘n’ Roll New Orleans Marathon in 2013 when I sold shoes for Louisiana Running Company and I often revisit that brief conversation. In college and even later, my own periods of focused, intense training made me question every calorie that went into my body. Could a night out with friends cost a few seconds in a race two months away? Will a beer tonight make it tougher to hit my interval splits in four days? We’re all just looking for that next PR, right?

Since then, I’ve interviewed my running heroes—people like Jenny Simpson and Shalane Flanagan—for outlets like Competitor Running, Runner’s World, FloTrack and MileSplit. I ran a beer mile with world record holder Corey Bellemore; went back to high school for a day with Sydney McLaughlin; and hung out with Vashti Cunningham and her former NFL quarterback dad, Randall, at their Las Vegas home-turned-training center. I’ve logged countless frequent flier miles by covering events from the NCAA Championships to the IAAF World Championships and every race you’ve never heard of in between.

Photo Credit: Johanna Gretschel

And now, in 2019, I’ll be taking all of that experience reporting on everything cross country and track and field and putting it into this new column. Whether you know who the American record holder is in the 5K, or if you’ve already made your own ‘top three’ predictions for the 2020 U.S. Olympic Trials—I’m here to bring the elites to you, one meter at a time. Here, you’ll find discussions on current events, trending news and elite interviews that go beyond the rainbows and butterflies and get into the nitty gritty of the sport, its top players and its bylaws.

I invite you to play along and get to know the side of running that helped create your favorite pros. Don’t really get track and cross country? Don’t worry, you will.

Got a topic you’d like to see covered in this space? Contact Johanna Gretschel with comments and ideas at johannagretschel@gmail.com or follow her on Twitter and Instagram.