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Running Legend Alberto Salazar Q&A

Coach Alberto Salazar (center) with 10,000m Olympic silver medalist Galen Rupp and 10,000m and 5,000m gold medalist Mo Farah.
Coach Alberto Salazar (center) with 10,000m Olympic silver medalist Galen Rupp and 10,000m and 5,000m gold medalist Mo Farah.
Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images

In the early 1980s Alberto Salazar dominated the U.S. distance running scene. He won the New York City Marathon three years in a row and the Boston Marathon once. He also held American records on the track in both the 5,000 and 10,000m.

Now Salazar is one of the most successful coaches in the sport as head of the Nike Oregon Project. He has coached double Olympic gold medalist Mo Farah, silver medalist Galen Rupp, Kara Goucher, Alan Webb and Dathan Ritzenhein.

He has learned throughout his career, first as an athlete and then as a coach, that nothing can sideline a career faster than an injury, which is part of the reason he’s become one of the most knowledgeable people in the sport when it comes to cutting edge injury treatment. His latest endeavor involves laser treatments that help runners get back on their feet much more quickly than ever before.

Running Examiner: First, could you tell me a little bit about the MR4 LaserStim™/LaserShower™ and the MR4 ACTIV™ cordless laser, and how you're using them with your athletes?

Alberto Salazar: We are using the units at the first sign of an injury to limit an exaggerated inflammatory response that actually delays healing and return to training. There is a certain protocol that Multi Radiance Medical is teaching us that results in faster healing and less time off.

Running Examiner: You seem to always be on the cutting-edge when it comes to injury treatment with this system and the cryotherapy I read about you using with Dathan Ritzenhein a few years ago. How far have we come since you were competing in terms of injury treatment/therapy?

Alberto Salazar: Sports medicine in general is changing rapidly as new treatments and research are being pursued. We believe in being on the cutting-edge of such innovations because it could take years for it to be accepted by the entire medical or sports community.

Running Examiner: Do you think these types of treatments would have made a huge difference for you when you were still competing?

Alberto Salazar: Yes. I believe that these treatments would have allowed me to train through injuries with a lot less damage than I ended up causing to myself.

Running Examiner: You have had a fantastic couple of years with your athletes, including Mo and Galen's performances at the 2012 Olympics. Have your coaching techniques changed a lot since you first started coaching? I would imagine it's something that's constantly evolving.

Alberto Salazar: I believe that the instant you stop trying to get better at anything in life there is a great chance that you will actually get worse and that others will surpass you if you are in a competitive environment, which sports definitely is. Besides coaching and training improvement, preserving the athlete's health is equally important.

Running Examiner: I know that a big part of success is keeping your athletes healthy and injury-free. How have your approaches to these issues changed over the years?

Alberto Salazar: The approach has changed from injury treatment to injury prevention and stopping an injury from becoming worse by treating it immediately with new innovations like the Multi Radiance Medical lasers.

Running Examiner: Is it difficult to figure out what an athlete's "breaking point" is in terms of how much mileage they can handle before it becomes over-training? Is it a fine line?

Alberto Salazar: The breaking point for each athlete is different, and it can take a couple of years for a coach and athlete to really figure it out because there are a lot of different variables, including sports medicine, that determine that breaking point.

Running Examiner: What tips can you give recreational runners about both avoiding injury and treating them once they happen?

Alberto Salazar: The sooner you can interrupt the injury process and start therapy, the faster the recovery will be. Running that one extra 400 meter interval that the athlete shouldn't have can result in several more weeks of downtime.

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