What would one call taking teens with no evident running talent and challenging them with boundless hill training combined with mantras from rock 'n' roll, techniques from Kenya, philosophy from Australia, and turning them into champions? Is it revolutionary? Or a risky rebellion against running-and teenage-norms?
Coach Bill Aris has heard both, but one thing is indisputable. Everything Aris does with his runners-male and female alike-is new and extraordinary, and he has created a new American running dynasty. The cross-country runners of Fayetteville-Manlius, or F-M, in upstate New York have dominated high school running for 15 years, sweeping boys' and girls' titles at the Nike Cross Nationals championships (NXN) in 2014 in an unprecedented achievement.
The girls' team, empowered by Aris' unique, unwavering brand of gender equity, has won 11 of the last 13 NXN titles, some by margins of over 100 points. The boys' team has the best cumulative national record of NXN podium performances. F-M domination has shocked the sport for its defiance of accepted running principles and limitations. One year at NXN, the F-M girls defeated the all-star field of top teams by an average of 59 seconds per girl in the 5k race.
Another year, the girls ran faster than their teenage Kenyan counterparts, who competed in the Portland, Oregon event as an international showcase. Across the country, coaches awed by F-M and unaware of the team's methods and discoveries, whispered, "How do they do it?"
From adopting long-forgotten "Stotan" creeds-combining the rigors of a Spartan and stoic lifestyle-to delving into teenage developmental psychology and gender-blindness in training, Amazing Racers is a must read for millions of runners and the millions more who strive for better performance.
"A captivating story of a longtime coach with a unique vision. Bravo to Bloom for sharing this story of a running dynasty and the man behind the program. A must-read for cross-country runners." -- Booklist "Bloom captures all the ingredients for a magical journey into why running remains such an integral part of the American experience. Bloom brings depth and dimension to this intimate and enthralling story. If running is part of your life psyche, Amazing Racers will only enhance that treasured lifeline. " -- Neil Amdur, former NEW YORK TIMES sports editor and running corresopndent "An inspiring illumination of a sensational team. Bloom's consistent and sincerely awestruck tone drives home just how special this story is, celebrating both the dedicated young athletes and their leader. His close reading of races, often called in heart-racing play-by-plays, is supplemented by research in sports physiology and psychology, and the history of cross-country racing." -- Shelf Awareness "An engaging portrayal of an idiosyncratic coach, his stout-hearted athletes, and the wonder of powerful running. Marc effectively shows how a coach holds a mirror up to his harriers, pushing and pulling them to train with diligence, and how to find the freedom, beauty, and strength in their pursuits. Along the way, they discover truths about themselves and, best of all, a life-long love of running. " -- Lynn Jennings, three-time World Cross Country Champion and Olympic Bronze medalist "Bloom, the oracle of high school cross-country, gives Aris and the F-M team the treatment they merit given their astounding success. Bloom's attention to detail allows us to understand for the first time how Aris adapts his cherished 'Stotan' philosophy to create a culture of success. Bravo!" -- Craig Masback, former CEO, USA Track and Field, NBC-TV track and marathon commentator "Who would think that the story of an upstate New York high school coach and his young runners could be so inspiring! Marc Bloom gives us a beautiful exploration of the meaning of success in running-and in life. Amazing Racers tells us how we can perform at a higher level than we ever imagined." -- George A. Hirsch, chairman of the New York Road Runners, a founder of the New York City Marathon, and former worldwide publisher of RUNNER'S WORLD "Bloom pulls back the curtain on this wondrous team. An illuminating narrative with cultural power and unflinching love." -- Amby Burfoot