Updated: Sep 20, 2021
I started running back in 2010 when I was in college and just looking for a way to stay physically fit and exercise. I never knew at that time that I would end up falling in love with the sport and making it a passion and eventually a part time career. At the time I had recently quit smoking (something I am still in shock that I did as well) and could not even run an entire mile without gasping for air and needed walk breaks. So, when I tell my athletes that everyone starts somewhere- yes they truly do, especially me.
Fast forward to 2013 and I had completed my first half marathon and several spartan races. I was eager to take the next step and I signed up for the Marine Corps Marathon. I was way in over my head with no knowledge of pacing, how to fuel properly, etc. I had downloaded a free training program online so that was a good guide about how to time the mileage, but I found myself overdoing it, starting my runs too fast, and not eating anything or enough during rest. I ended up getting a stress fracture in my foot that I continued to run on and later became a problem that required me to take a few months off to heal. My longest run before the marathon ended up being 18 miles because I was too injured and sore to continue with my plan. I took a few weeks off and ended up showing up to the race just hoping to make it to the end.
My goal was just to finish and I did, in 5 hours 15-ish minutes. I didn't eat a single gel, drink enough, etc. My whole body hurt and I was in tears that I was able to accomplish what I set out to do, even though it was so hard. My finish time was 5 hours and 15 minutes, but I did not care I was just happy to cross the finish line and be able to say I RAN A MARATHON! I still crack up at this finish line photo- my knees were the size of softballs and I had to ice them down!
Looking back on that day, I am amazed that I made it to the finish line. As a coach, I truly believe that mental fortitude and willpower are the most important qualities an athlete needs to possess. In my training methods I focus a lot of our time training together on mindset. It all comes down to how bad you want to achieve a goal and finding a purpose in the journey.
I wish I had a coach back then. I did end up training with a few coaches over the next few years and learned so much from them, especially when it came to running my first few ultra events. I even consult with a coach when I am training now and I am a coach myself! Having someone to discuss your goals with is almost similar to therapy when you feel like you might be in over your head.
A coach takes the quesswork out of the equation. Yes, there are so many free training programs (I have used several to include Jeff Galloway and Hal Hidgdon) online, but what happens when you get sick and you need to take a week off? What do you do when you are wanting to improve your speed, but don't know how to implement track workouts, etc. These programs also do not look at your family, lifestyle, stress level, etc. Every BODY is different and your individual needs can make or break a training plan.
A coach is trained in nutrition and injury prevention. In my practice, we take a conservative approach and I often have to hold athletes back from doing too much too soon, especially if it is your first time competing in a long distance race. I continuously study the most relevant, evidence based practices so that you are met with science based training methodologies. When you start to doubt yourself and if you get burnt out with the process, I will be there helping you remain accountable and remembering the reasons why you signed up for an event in the first place.
In essence, a coach can make the difference between just finishing an event and excelling at an event. Through individualized coaching, weekly guidance, and accountability you will be able to improve your performance and knowledge so that you are prepped for your special day.