Nico Young is the fastest 5000m runner in the college ranks. Move over Graham Blanks. On Friday, January 26, the Northern Arizona University junior shattered Blanks’ record time of 13:03.72 by running 12:57.14 at the John Thomas Terrier Classic at Boston University.

Nico Young’s Pre-Meet Training

Okay. Nico is definitely a stud. He’s just run a 5K at a blistering pace of 4:10.1 per mile. That’s a little hard for me to wrap my head around, so I then considered that he just ran roughly 12.5x400m @62s with zero recovery. Yeah… still hard to grasp.

Northern Arizona University Head Coach Mike Smith is one of coolest coaches out there. Smith’s calm and collected demeanor with the athletes and his empathy for their efforts is obvious. We were given a rare look at his coaching style two weeks prior to Young’s record 5K race in Boston. See for yourself in the video below.

A few things became obvious right away as I watched this video. There is mutual respect between athlete and coach, there is a team culture established where athletes help each other, and this coach knows exactly how to fine tune training to help his athletes perform. Also, Nico is insanely fit and mentally locked in. Did I mention this was done at 7,000 ft in Flagstaff, AZ?

What Can We Apply?

Those splits are insane! But the workout itself is not so unreal when compared to a similar workout done by mere mortals. Let’s compare a runner with a 5K PR of 21:00 doing the same workout. Forget about the fact that there are years of endurance and training that give Nico unbelievable reserves of strength and stamina. Let’s just consider pacing- which seems remarkably close to Jack Daniels‘ Repetition and Interval pacing. So, I’ll use that as a standard.

Nico Young – 12:57 5K (4:10)Average HS Runner – 21:00 5K (6:45)
400@Rep :57 Actual 54 Rest: 8:30400@Rep 1:33
2K@Interval 5:14 Actual 5:17 Rest: 8:002K@Interval 8:14
4×400@Rep :57 Actual :58 Rest: 2:004×400@Rep 1:33
800@Rep 1:53 Actual 1:55 800@Rep 3:06

It’s still a hard effort that you likely wouldn’t do more than once or twice a season on an off week. But, it is doable and it is definitely a confidence building workout. Mike Smith’s ability to downplay things and act as if it’s simply expected is great coaching. He also keeps a tight reign on things and is ready to call it when and if it starts to go sideways.

It’s really a pleasure to observe great training and racing. We can’t always do what these coaches do with their athletes, but we can still take away some important lessons. Great stuff.





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