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Monday, April 26, 2021

The Return of Racing, but as Coach

This past weekend, two of my runners ran the Glass City Marathon half and full marathons.  It's the first time any of my athletes have raced, in person, since the start of the pandemic over a year ago.  I'm always proud of and excited for my athletes when they race, but these two were really special.

Stephen was supposed to run the Detroit Free Press Marathon in fall of 2019, but injuries kept him from that starting line.  He set his sights on Glass City in April of 2020; we all know what happened to that.  He deferred to Glass City 2021.  We revised, we communicated.  We kept training relevant.  And, in the end, having more time to accumulate mileage and become a stronger runner, physically and mentally, likely left him better prepared than had he run that marathon in 2019.  He had more time to practice fueling, more time to practice what happens when a run doesn't go the way you'd hoped it would, more time to learn what it feels like to be out there, running, for hours.  And he continued to trust me and stick with the plan.  Come race day, he executed every detail like a pro.  I'm actually jealous of his execution!  I wish I'd paced and fueled as well as he did in my first marathon!  Negative splits.  Final mile was the fastest.  Pace was exactly where it should have been; no ridiculously fast first miles.  Took his fuel.  Hydrated.  And finished his first marathon strong.  I'm so proud of him.  More proud than I ever realized I'd be, because I know every little detail that went into making this happen.  Every injury, doubt, success, question.  Every mile.  Lows and highs.  Really, we've been working on this since October of 2018.  To have someone trust you enough to get you to the finish line of their first marathon is an honor, but to watch him continue to show dedication and discipline during a pandemic, when a lot of people weren't mentally or emotionally able to leave the house, let alone train for a marathon, was even more inspiring.

Stefanie isn't one of my runners in the traditional sense.  She's actually an amazing running Coach, as well as a Physical Therapist who writes awesome strength workouts for runners.  She's also a friend.  When she asked me to write a training plan for her to get her ready for her upcoming trail 50k I was frankly honored.  She usually writes her own training plans, but needed me to take this off her plate or her right now since she's so busy.  The fact that someone I really respect trusted me with her training for such a big goal made me feel really great.  It's really easy for me to fall victim to imposter syndrome.  "Why would anyone want to work with me when they could work with (fill in the blank with someone who's resume is shinier than mine)?"  So when Stef asked for my help she threw some really solid support my way.  There have been a lot of conversations about the lack of women in distance run coaching roles lately.  It's getting better, but it's so easy feel like you're surrounded, primarily, by men.  I mean, my own coach is a man!  (And he's wonderful, but hello, irony.)  So women, vocally support other women!  Let them know you think they're badass.  Let them know they inspire you.  Many of us are so used to being quiet.  Not taking up space.  Less is more.  More flies with honey.  And that's me.  I'm not loud.  I'm not interested in attracting attention.  And this means that sometimes I'm overlooked.  The power of Stef's reaching out showed me that we need to do more to support and elevate each other.

Stef ran the half marathon at Glass City as a workout.  No taper.  She was in the middle of ultra marathon training.  The most tapering she did was to cut back on strength work that week.  She's in the middle of clinical rotations.  And she ran her fastest time since an injury a few years ago!  I was impressed with her finish time, but equally so with her positive attitude and focus on process and progress.  All I ever want for any runner is for them to enjoy the process, work hard, and find joy in the sport.

I miss racing.  I can't wait to toe the line.  We've been extremely cautious throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, and I feel optimistic that I'll feel comfortable for my June race.  Maybe a little race-rusty, but it's a trail 50k, so I'll have plenty of time to shake off the cobwebs.  In the meantime, I'm pretty happy to live vicariously through my athletes and their hard-earned successes.