As I mentioned in??my last post, I am a 50-year-old first-time marathon runner. I???m keeping the word ???attempt??? out of my vocabulary so that my brain knows there isn???t a choice. This race will be run and completed. My only goal for this race it to get across the finish line, upright with a smile on my face (arms raised in a ???victory??? pose is still negotiable). Failure is not an option. Which leads me to HOW I think I???ll manage to run this race without dying.
The??cure for a lazy runner
I was pushing my limits running??half marathons. In every half I???ve ever run, mile 8 was the end, the place where I hit the inevitable wall. I was done and just negotiating with my body to finish. And yet, I’ve always managed to finish in a time that was respectable for me, so I didn’t have much??incentive to do more than the basic training.??I knew this pattern had to change if I was going to run not just 13.1 miles, but TWICE that.??What had I gotten myself into???
When I finally wrapped my head around running a full marathon, I frankly had a panic moment.?? How was I going to get through all of this training when I???m basically a lazy runner, doing only the minimum??to survive. I really needed someone who would make me accountable for my actions (or lack thereof). I knew it couldn’t??be a friend or spouse, as that would be the end of our relationship! ??And if I paid this person lots of money, it would be more incentive for me to follow through.
Back??when I entered the Chicago Marathon lottery, I made a bargain with the running Universe: if I got in, I was going to hire a running coach.??Once again, the running Universe called my bluff.
How I??found a running coach
After the euphoria of getting into the Chicago Marathon turned to??panic, common sense (which, I have found, is all relative) started to kick in. I had no idea HOW to find a running coach. I??combed the Internet, asked friends, listened to podcasts and generally read everything I could about finding the right coach.
There were so many questions that needed to be answered before I could commit.?? This is the list I worked from to find my running coach.
1. Do our personalities complement each other?
I???m a bit introverted and I???ve been told I have very??a dry sense of humor. ??I???m not able or willing to work with someone who has zero sense of humor and??is all business. Think about who you get along with the best, who you are willing to share the good, bad and frustratingly ugly with for the next four or five months of your life with. That???s the type of person you want to hire to be your coach, mentor and cheerleader.
2. Do you have the same ???vision?”??
This one should be obvious, but in the excitement of interviewing and hiring a running coach it’s easy to forget. I???m training for my first marathon and I need someone to walk??me through that. I???m not out for a Boston qualifying time or to break a previous PR; finishing is my PR. I wanted someone who could dial down a bit from other clients and see that, although in the grand scheme of things my goal was relatively small, it was MY goal and that needed to be important to them.
3. What is their coaching??style???
I had previously worked with a running coach in a training group who was former military and ran his training sessions like we were all in the Air Force. He was very focused on a time goal, no idle chatting during his pep talks, you went out, ran, came back and left. I ran twice a week with him for 11 weeks and to this day, when he sees me at a race he??still doesn???t know my name. His training method got me to where I needed to be but it wasn???t a ton of fun. I don???t run because I???m ever going to make money from it, I run because it???s fun and??17 weeks of Marathon training with someone like him wouldn???t be fun.
4. Do you coach in person, on the phone or via email?
I??know quite a few people who subscribe to e-coaching and it works very well for them. They get a plan that walks them through week-by-week and depending on the running coach, communication is limited to weekly emails.????Again, if that works for you then go for it but it bears repeating, I am a LAZY RUNNER.
So??I opted to go for someone local. ??The running coach I found??works in the building next to mine and we often see each other on lunch or walk breaks. How???s that for not being able to get out of lying about miles???????I received??a custom??plan based not only on my experience level but how many days I am willing to run (we went with four).???? We also??check in with each??other??a couple of times a week via email and text but if I need one-on-one time I have the ability to schedule it with her.
5. How long have you been coaching regularly?
We all started someplace, right? So why not give a new running coach a try??? Well,??I can be high maintenance when I???m stressed and I need someone who knows how to deal with a stressed runner. I wanted the confidence that comes with experience; I wanted that person to tell me that they know where I???m coming from because they???ve had other clients going through the same thing. I need a parental??figure who can calm me down and tell me to ???suck it up??? all at the same time.
6. How much do you charge?
Yes the ???ouch??? question has to be answered and you really need to dig deep inside and think about what you want and how much you are willing to pay. ??Thankfully, my running coach had everything in writing and it wasn???t so hard to ask the question.??There was a sliding scale based on how long you plan to train??and how much interaction you wanted to have.?? Everything from e-coaching all the way up to the ???I???m at your beck and call just pay me now??? plans were offered.
I chose??the ???beck and call??? 17-week plan, and we discussed downshifting to a less expensive option once Chicago??is over. Don???t forget that Chicago is the first in a season of craziness for me, ending with the Goofy challenge in January 2016.????Needless to say, some psychotherapy??and??an??occasional butt??kicking will be needed to get me through this.
I was fortunate in that I found a running coach I liked on the first try. I found her on a podcast last fall and for whatever reason that podcast stayed in the back of my mind and when the running Universe knocked (maybe expecting me to fall down), I had her??in my ???if this happens, I???m definitely going to do that??? file.
I???m not quite halfway through??my training cycle and I???m still alive. My coach has only had to pick me up off of the floor once or twice because of really bad runs, but I???m glad I could text her and ask her what I did wrong and how do I never do it again. She also has a blog with great nutrition advice and cross training exercises on it that I can reference anytime I???d like. Oh yes, and she???s training another person for Chicago and has every intention of being there to see us cross the finish line. If that???s not pressure to finish I don???t know what is!
What do you look for in a running coach??? Can you add to my list?
Click here to read Laura’s entire??Journey from 50 to 26.2.