Coaches have helped many runners progress and excel at the sport, and a lot of runners really like having one. This post is NOT meant to discourage anyone from exploring that option. It is about why I will never have one again.
Since I never did track or cross-country, I had never had a running coach before. After my first couple of marathons I started reading a lot on my own and for the next several years built my own plan. One of the first things I realized after doing some research is that I had had some success doing the “wrong” things. Also, it didn’t take long to find conflicting information on how to train and all the different methods and ideas out there. So I took what made sense to me and ran with it (pun intended). As I kept progressing, a coach was suggested to me more and more. I started to accept that I would get a coach – one day…after I break 3 hours.
Some of you know, breaking 3 hours in the marathon took me a little while. But when I finally did, it was an 11-minute personal best and my 18th marathon. I broke a lot of the “running rules” in the training process. Plus, it was my 4th marathon of the year along with racing a bunch of shorter distances. I went out “too fast” and ran a huge positive split. However, I had already convinced myself that I would start looking for a run coach after getting that goal. I dragged my feet a little and in the next few months I PR-ed in the 5k, 10k, and 15k while training for my next marathon. Still, I was set on trying this coach thing. I found one and decided to start working with him a month before that next marathon. Since my training cycle was almost done I convinced him to let me do my thing until after the race. My goal was to PR again. I came close, but I was about 90 seconds slower than my marathon five months prior. It was on a harder course and at 4200 feet (versus sea-level), so I still felt good about it and like I was headed in the right direction.
Being coached was a nightmare. I didn’t feel good about it at all. I dropped out of the next marathon and fired him. I told myself I wasn’t ready for a coach, but in the future, I would be. I still held on to the idea that I would need a coach. And subconsciously, I still held on to a lot of other running rules that made their way into my head. The rest of the racing year went poorly. I dropped out of an OTQ (Olympic Trials Qualifier) attempt at Chicago and then tried another coach. I gave a poor performance at a last ditch effort for the trials at a marathon in January. My mindset was all screwed up, and I knew that – the passion was gone. I didn’t know why or how to shake it off. I kept working with the coach, until I got too frustrated for it. The coaching side of the relationship was gone, but he was able to bring up what was bothering me mentally. Fast forward until the Logan marathon that I recently dropped out of, and it finally clicked. I was too concerned with what others thought of me in the running world. I was seeking out validation from doing all the “right” things, training and racing the way I’m supposed to – all while also knowing that a lot of what’s out there isn’t true. It created quite the conflict inside.
So now, I’m working on being more confident in what I’m doing. I enjoy making my own plans and trying new ideas. I glean knowledge from all kinds of sources and test out what I want. I throw out what doesn’t work and use what does until it doesn’t and start with something else. It’s not that I don’t know rules – it’s that I reject them. How I train and how often I race is up to me and my goals. Nacho Libre said it best: