Monday Runday: On Getting a Coach

FB memories reminded me that three years ago today I was in Orlando, preparing to run the Disney Marathon. (Here’s the recap, Every &*#@! Mile Is Magic.)

It’s something I never thought I’d do when I started running.

Last month I did something else I never thought I’d do: I hired a coach.

I’ll be working with Lena from TRF Coaching at least for the next few months, through the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon here in DC. I met Lena through Moms RUN This Town and love her energy and positivity. She is a running rockstar, but celebrates and supports runners who come from a variety of experiences and fitness levels. When I was injured and she was pregnant, we did a lot of pool running together.

This will be my third time running RnR. I’ve improved my half marathon time gradually over the years, but I’d like to see what I can do with a customized training plan and a bit of a push from someone who knows what she’s doing.

I’m a big believer in coaching in general. I had a ministry coach when I first started a call in a new church. I’ve coached or mentored people informally over the years, and will be getting my coaching certification through the International Coaching Federation this spring.

So why is working with a running coach something I thought I’d never do? Well, there’s the expense. I’m a Presbyterian, and typically we’re frugal folk. Running is theoretically a cheap sport–all you need is a decent pair of shoes. And yet… things easily snowball:

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There are tons of running resources available online, to say nothing of books, and I love doing my own reading and research. So this isn’t something I need. But I’m considering this stint of coaching to be an investment in myself and in something I love to do. I’ve already learned valuable stuff about good form and proper training. And my physical and mental health are not extravagances. So, we’ll see where this takes me.

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I’ve realized, though, that the cost thing is only a small part of a larger dynamic: the feeling that coaches are for other runners. Better runners. Faster ones. Not middle-aged, middle of the pack runners.

Indulge me as I drill down on this a little.

One of the ways we protect ourselves from feeling vulnerable is by pretending we don’t care that much: “That thing I love? I don’t really love it. I could take it or leave it.” We apply a thin veneer of “cool” to our lives, because to throw ourselves in with our whole heart means to risk disappointment, failure or embarrassment.

As Brene Brown reminds us in her work, wholeheartedness constantly fights against two twin messages, constantly whispering in our ear:

  1. Not good enough.
  2. Who do you think you are?

I hear these messages in my head from time to time when I run. Thankfully the running community is pretty good about affirming runners’ bodies in all their many shapes and sizes and speeds. (Check out I Have a Runners’ Body on Instagram.) But I’ve also heard snide comments at races, directed toward us slow-but-enthusiastic turtles. Not good enough. Who do you think you are?

So I’ve hired a coach–to support and encourage me in my running, sure. But also as an act of wholeheartedness–as a way of committing my entire self to something.

My personal goals are modest–they’ll never get me to Boston, for example. But this matters to me.

What matters to you? And how do you affirm that wholeheartedly in your own life?

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