April 13, 2021
It was about 5-6 years ago that I really wanted to get better at running but had no idea how. I was simply a recreational runner who tried to run, take pictures during runs and races. In fact, was having so much fun that I was even taken to the sweeper bus with several marathon runners during the San Diego Rock 'n' Roll Marathon in 2014. We were simply very slow to complete the marathon on time before the traffic opens up to public. I sure did not have a runner body either, but it was fun the whole time. I did not care about PRs, time, or anything. I had several friends in a local group that I could admire, seeing how fast they ran, improved day by day. I had no idea that those were the signs of my competitive drive from childhood and were coming out as I wanted to get better. Then on my journey to Abbott Six World Major Marathons’ Boston race in 2017, I saw these fantastic runners of various ages. They were fast, trained hard, and determined. On the other hand, I was a charity runner who fundraised to get a race spot. While some call it a pay-to-run, it is much more complicated than it sounds. After seeing the marathoners in Boston, I tried to find a coach and messaged them as a recommendation from a friend. Thanks to the technology that enables us to see when the message read, I anxiously waited to hear back from the coach but got no response. My friend said he would reach out to the coach in person, but nothing came out of it. Just remember, I did not have the ideal runner form nor the pace at the time. Over 6-hour marathon runner, kidding me! I continued training and running as best as I could and got outstanding support from most of my friends, who supported me by trying to run with me, even always at the back of the pack. During interval trainings, my friends could do two laps while I could barely finish one. However, I still made progress and was headed in the right direction, especially after watching Shalane Flanagan, Meb Keflezighi, and Desiree Linden’s inspiring stories and races. I was completely intrigued by the endurance running, especially marathons and testing human capacity over time with right trainings and tools.
Even though I was making progress training with my friends, it wasn’t enough to help me achieve my goal in running. It was until three years ago that I finally found my first coaching friend, and the journey started getting more exciting. In the 2018 Chicago Marathon, I had only one dream: "to run a 4:29 marathon to beat Oprah!” The race ended at 4:20, nine minutes faster than my dream, and the beginning of a fantastic new chapter of progress. The impact of a coach in an athlete's adventure is not to be taken lightly. It's very crucial for you to achieve your goal. The numbers, the training modules, data are pretty much the same. An authentic coach is the one who sees and unearths the potential in you as an athlete. Otherwise, many cookie cutters online or in-person coaches will help you improve regardless of whether you follow through. But, if you have that hidden drive to improve as you age, you need a pretty good coach who believes in you and guides you through 100%. In that sense, I have been fortunate that all my coaches took me successfully to the next stage of my running journey through proper planning with a current 3:41 personal best at Revel Mt. Charleston Limited Edition Marathon in 2020. As I write this today, working with a coach who not only gives me the most challenging but inspirational mentorship for the upcoming London Marathon race target of 3:39. With consistent running, endurance, and the right coaching, anybody can progress from a 6-hour marathon to a 3's! The coach has to be someone you take as the highest role model in your sport and keep you dedicated, disciplined, and inspired. In all my performance races, the only person I think about first during the race is my coach. I also think of making my coach proud that he/she did a good job, and I will be a testament to their dedication in helping me achieve my goal. Yet, the path to success is not only one way but two since it took me, the athlete, and my coach in planning for this goal. As a runner, the coach's plan must be followed through and adjusted based on challenges that come along the way.
What are the key things you need to look into a coach?
- Expertise. The coach's sports success is the #1. Would you ever have brain surgery from a surgeon who has never operated on a patient but only wrote famous books? Hopefully not! So, while distances might vary, you do not want to get marathon coaching from a person who has never run one. The reason is that only a marathon runner knows how tough the mental experience after mile 20, and no book can ever depict that toughness well.
- Credentials and coaching levels. If you are a new runner, you do not need the top credential coach yet as their program will also be much harder to your level, and you might want to start the progress slowly.
- Planning. Are you getting your program ahead of time or the day of your training? Having a weekly or ideally bi-weekly training schedule will allow you to plan your schedules and your mental approach to more demanding training days. Getting a last-minute interval exercise will not produce a good workout but only stress the morning of your work shift.
- Cost factor. There are so many levels of coaching that a coaching program is not necessarily a costly investment on yourself but very worthwhile as you will see the benefit in your overall lifestyle and sport performances. Try to choose a program that you will gradually evaluate the effectiveness, do not just invest in the most expensive one, but find the most suitable one for your level and needs.
- Availability. Does your potential coach have enough time or overbooked? In a typical 16-20 weeks of marathon training schedule, you are sure you will have moments to interact with your coach, schedule changes, program conflicts, etc. Thanks to technology, we should all be getting somewhat timely responses to our coaching needs despite today's hectic world. Like the very first coach that never responded to my request, even as a courtesy, after several attempts, don't let others prevent your true potential. In today’s social media world, there are some amazing coaches and programs available; be persistent and consistent in your running and the right one will sure find you at the very right time.
- Desire. Is the coach genuinely interested in bringing the best out of you? Or are you just a monthly client? If the goal is only financial, you will not be able to establish a strong coach-athlete relationship that will produce effective performance results. Your coach will be your mentor in various aspects of your life especially at times when you have zero desire to go on a run.
Every sport, every profession has its experts. Once you find the right coach, the right inspiration, and have a spirit for endurance, with your inner voice screaming "Please Coach Me!" the sky will be your limit.