Monday, October 17, 2011

The makings of a marathoner (and a 1/2 marathoner)

Don't quote me on the exact words, but I believe the conversation started something like this:

Sara: Jason, how'd you like to be my first trainee - you can be my guinea pig to see if I'm any good at this coaching thing. What do you say?
Jason: Sounds great!!

A month before getting certified as a running coach, I knew I needed a project to test my skills. Never one to charge someone for something before I'd perfected the craft, I would need an eager running looking for help in achieving their goals. Lucky for me I knew a few, and was able to convince my friend Jason to let me coach him to the finish line of his first marathon and to meet his later goal of finishing the goofy challenge (running the Disney half marathon on Saturday, and the Disney full marathon on Sunday).

And then a few months ago I started training Ralph for the Philadelphia Half Marathon in November. I stared a weekly ritual of sitting down with my coaching manual, reading, thinking, planning, making notes in my notebook and sending out weekly training plans. The more plans I made, the easier it felt, and the more I thought about things, the more I enjoyed really planning out the schedule, adding up the numbers, making everything work in j
ust the right way.

Over the past seven or eight months I have learned A LOT.

Ralph - First race since being injured last fall

Jason and his first EVER full marathon race bib at the expo

I have had to learn to explain myself, explain my reasons, motivate, inspire, encourage, become flexible in my approach, figure out what to do when others don't want to listen to what you have to say, and change the way you say things to better help others understand and hear what you are saying. My goals are not always others goals. I don't always agree with others goals and the struggle for me is to give the best advice I can even if its something I don't agree with.

But this is something I'd like to do for the rest of my life, and something I'd like to keep working at and keep making better. There were plenty of days where I just felt like nothing I said was getting through, and there were plenty of days where I was incredibly proud of the progress these athletes were making. When someone runs a given distance for a first time, it brings me back to my first years of running and how every week was a new achievement, a new something to be proud of. Finishing the race distance for the first time was always so emotional, all the days and weeks and months of training leading up to one day that you hope all goes to plan. I love being able to help runners see a new way of training, or when they hit a pace they didn't think they could achieve. I love when I figure out a way of explaining things so it hits home and I love when people are proud of their accomplishments, because at the end of the day I make up the plan but they do all the work themselves.

Despite all the ups and downs, I was an incredibly proud coach on Saturday watching Ralph give a great performance at his first race since injury, and watching Jason finish his first marathon. It's one thing to train and depend on yourself for the results. It's something else entirely to give someone all the right tools and hope they listen and use them to succeed.

Proud marathon finished and proud coach!

Have you ever given someone advise that they were slow to accept or follow? How did you change their minds? How do you inspire/motivate others when they are struggling.

xx Sara


Rachel said...

very cool that you got to see things from the other side as a coach! i coached my mom to run her first 5k and really enjoyed the experience. it's a great feeling to see someone accomplish a goal and know that you played a small, but important, role in getting them there.

Katie @ Will Race for Carbs said...

I think it would be a lot of fun to coach someone. I think it would feel just as good to see them cross the finish line as it would to cross it yourself.