Two weeks ago I mentioned that I had signed up for the 2018 New Jersey Marathon. It’s Sunday, April 29th. Although that is still almost 34 weeks away, it’s not too early to start some training (and between now and then I will include in the blog a little of what I’m doing to prepare in case you want to join me in this next challenge).
I actually started preparing months ago. Most importantly, I had to be healthy. Some first steps included making sure I had core strength to support the increased effort, had developed a consistent warm-up and post run stretching routine to minimize risk of injury, and finally, was consistently running 20 miles or more a week (note the repetition of the word “consistent”).
So I’m healthy, feel fairly strong, and have developed good habits that will support my goal. I am now going to start another macrocycle to build on that with a small race goal of a fast 5k in mid December. If you need to brush up on training cycles, read this post (Fall Training) from a year ago, which also talks about post-Labor Day/Back to School being a great time to start a new cycle.
Now I have a choice. I can train myself or hire a coach. I trained myself to more than half of my 7 marathon finishes, including my 2nd and 3rd fastest. Did coaching make a difference in the fastest time? Probably. Although I learned a lot from my coach and I learned some from becoming a certified running coach myself since then. So yeah, I could coach myself.
I wouldn’t be much of a coach if I didn’t promote the benefits of having a coach now though, would I? Honestly, the only reason why I wouldn’t work with a coach is cost. The running coaches I researched charge a monthly fee ranging from $50 to $175. That might be cost-prohibitive for some. For me, the higher end of that scale certainly is, and the lower end will require a realignment of some small financial priorities and perhaps a few less trips to Starbucks.
In my opinion, the benefits of having a coach* far outweigh small sacrifices that might need to be made if you are serious about achieving a goal and that goal is very important and meaningful to you. These are the reasons I am hiring a running coach:
- Training plan. A coach will put together the weekly or monthly training plan. Having this task taken care of, I have found, elevates stress and allows me to better manage everything else I have going on.
- Reality checks and feedback. A coach will analyze my current fitness level and past performance to confirm my goal is realistic. They are also someone I can speak with and work through any issues I may experience during training.
- Accountability. While I can usually be very disciplined and focused when I have clear goals, knowing that a coach is going to have an eye on what I’m doing, keeps me honest. Plus the monthly financial investment makes me even more accountable to myself.
So once I did my research including talking to some runners who could provide testimonials or warnings, I got together with the one I thought I was most likely to hire. I wanted to make sure we clicked. We did. He invited me to the track workouts he coaches. And that’s where I came up with the fourth reason I’m hiring a coach:
4. Motivation. I get to the track thinking that 4×800 would be a good workout and the coach announces the planned workout is 3×1600. I start out with his other runners and a plan to do 2, not 3. The coach even suggested that. But by the time I completed 2, I was pushed by the other runners. Motivated by competition. Peer pressure. Sure I could get that from a simple group workout, but a coached group more so.
This week I’m focusing on my 40th Half Marathon scheduled for Sunday (September 10). Training has been slow and steady. 12 weeks of 20 miles or more. Three 12 milers and a bunch of 10 milers for endurance, several 5k and 10k races thrown in for speed, and I’m ready to run an evenly paced race with a goal of finishing strong and healthy. My race time will serve as a benchmark for training moving forward.
Moving forward means continuing to participate in the weekly speed session and officially begin coaching at the beginning of November; six months out. I run 4 days a week. For me, high mileage and consecutive workouts simply don’t work. To make up for some of the mileage, I add cross-training like swimming and hiking whenever I can. So here’s to healthy marathon training and achieving our goals. Happy September.
Glen Rock High School. Glen Rock, New Jersey. August 2017
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* The benefits of having a life/career/transitional coach are a little different. For more information, read this post: Six things I achieved by having a life coach.