Adrenaline rushing throughout his body, fingers twitching, the gun to goes off. In his head he begins the mental battle, “Pace yourself. Push through. Run. Pass him. PR’s always hurt.” When there is nothing left, he pushes harder into a sprint, and collapses at the end. Team Captain Noah Forougi is shocked to discover he has achieved another PR (personal record) of not just seconds, but minutes. The secret? The coaching strategy of Tyler Underwood, an Olympic Trails hopeful who is focusing on teaching SFC runners technique and seeing results.

Coach Tyler Underwood ran casually as a kid and through high school. After pursuing other sports, he returned to running for fitness in college and made his first attempt at a marathon distance. Eight years and many marathons later, he improved from his first marathon of over four hours to a 2:23 in Berlin this fall. He expects to continue to improve as he trains alongside his high school athletes. Coach Underwood’s desire is to eventually compete in all six major world marathons and is vying for a spot in the Olympic Trials marathon in 2016 and/or 2020. At the Olympic Trials, 150 of the nation’s top distance runners compete for a chance to represent the U.S. in the Olympics.

“This year has been drastically different than what I have experienced in my first three years of running,” explains Noah. “Our coach is pushing us to our very limits this year.” And the entire team is breaking PR’s by minutes. “This year, we are working on upping the duration of speed workouts and holding extremely fast paces and we are seeing our race times drastically improve.”

“Performance on race day depends so much on the consistency and hard work put in, not just in practice, but in the off-season and spring track season,” emphasizes Coach Underwood. “My goals are mainly long-term. I want to develop a program that has kids running year-round because they love it and they want to realize the gifts God gave them. These gifts can only be realized through persistent training of the mind, heart, and body,” he continues, “I want athletes to find the true joy in running; only then can they begin to make the comparisons themselves between running and a life pursuing Jesus. Both take lots of work and thoughtfulness, but both are really really worth it and bring joy and peace and help us discover who we really are.”

It seems as if one of Underwood’s long-term goals is already being realized. “Coach has really helped my growth as a runner,” says Noah, “and his stress on fellowship and connecting with God through our running has helped me grow as a person, Christian and friend.”

Tyler has a bachelor’s degree in Exercise Science from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. He started leading YoungLife in college and God gave him a heart to share the gospel and life with high schoolers. Upon graduating, he moved to California and currently lives in Encinitas. He spent two years as assistant coach at SFC before accepting the role of head coach. Read more about his race to the Olympic Trials on his blog

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