What being a Junkie has taught me

Last year August I signed up with a running coach. I secretly hoped that he would in some miraculous way make me a faster runner.

I remember that first afternoon track session well. A couple of runners gathered on the grass field, then we started with a 2.3km warm up (which almost killed me) followed by more warming up, and finally running around and around a grass track, ending off with another cool down on the same 2.3km warm up route (ok, this time I did die). After my first session, I remember asking the coach, “So this will make me fast, right?” I was so naive!

Track session

A year later, here’s what I’ve learnt about track training and coaching:

  • The pace I run does not define me as a runner. *repeat*
  • Even those running at 4 mins/km want to run faster. It’s a runner’s thing.
  • There’s a difference between a quality run and an easy run. You need to do both.
  • Nobody forces you to do anything. Progress is entirely in your hands.
  • Injuries happen.
  • When it comes to track, everyone is equal and gets treated the same way. Everyone does the same track session. Slow runner? Pffft, *suck it up Junkie*
  • I’ve made the most incredible friends with some of the most extraordinary people from all walks of life. At track, we find that common bond.
  • Track has taught me to put things into perspective. The lessons around consistency and discipline can be applied to all things in my life.

I guess the biggest thing I’ve gained is not just one coach, I’ve scored over 20 different coaches! Yes, so Dave is the main kahuna, but each person that I train with at track has made a difference to my running and taught me something in their own way.

It’s the odd word during the warm up about the best PB races; it’s the encouragement as each one of them laps me. It’s the tips offered about my running form & reminders not to slouch; it’s the books loaned to me; the caring Whatsapp messages, those that run that last lap with me and help me push my limits. It’s the LSD’s on Sunday, the jokes we share, the ones that look out for me at races and those who sacrifice their track session to pace me.

It’s been the most incredible year. I can truly say that track training with the Running Junkies has changed the way I think about running, changed the way I judge my pace and has made me understand what matters most about why I run. There’s so much more to love about running than my pace!Track 11

Getting to grips with grass

Since committing to training with a running coach just over a month ago, I’m already seeing certain benefits. If I promise to pitch up at training and work hard, he pretty much takes care of everything else. In a way, it’s actually a relief.

For starters, my coach decides on how much running I do in the week. It’s such a weight off my shoulders knowing that someone else is watching my mileage. For a change, I’m not stressing over not having run really long LSDs on a Sundays. And it’s okay just to do 5kms twice a week. It’s in his hands. He has a plan.

Another thing I’m learning is what he means by consistency. It’s not about quantity, it’s about quality and learning to read my body.

Ironically, my coach is making sure I slow down a bit. *Wait a minute, I’m in this to speed up aren’t I?*. At the last track session, I felt strong. I’ve noticed that I’m doing a lot more running than walking. Just as he promised, I’m building that strong base foundation first. Speed work can only start once this is in place.

Being better

I must mention though that perhaps the biggest benefit is that I’ve learnt to run on grass! For me, the finish of any race is always the worst because it always feels like after running on the road, the grass on the field slows me down and sucks me in. Quite funny that where we train, the track is grass and it’s not that bad. Not that bad at all.

A tale of two coaches

Whilst enjoying a breakfast with my girlfriends, I was listening how one of them explained how she goes about managing her team at work. She told us that she manages all of them very differently. Some thrive on praise, whilst others need to be pushed and challenged. She concluded that it’s about finding that ‘something’ that motivates them because not all of them respond in the same way. *good manager Mich*

The same can be said about the training techniques of running coaches. Lately, I’ve been exposed to two very different training techniques. The one coach drives me harder than I’ve ever been pushed in my life and has me setting goals that give me serious goosies. The other expresses concern about my love of running and tells me to slow down.

The training methods of these two trainers are so extreme that what it has taught me is that as in life, with running, there needs to be a balance.

You see, while I “get” what each of them is teaching me, I have settled for the middle ground. I’ve decided that while I like to be pushed hard and be motivated to believe that I am capable of so much more, I do understand that there is a time and place for everything.

Yes, so I do need to push myself and reach those running goals, but at the same time, if it causes me to stop enjoying running, those goals are empty. Pointless.

Thanks coach! Both of you….

I found a coach! (or rather, he found me!)

My Christmas present arrived early this year.


In early December, I received a Twitter DM (direct message) from one of my followers informing me that he was a running coach and asked if I would be interested in some coaching. Are you kidding me? Of course I was interested! However, being the sceptic that I am, I didn’t take it too seriously. In fact, I told no one.


Reason being is that I don’t have the best of luck when it comes to finding coaches. After missing the cut-off for a Two Oceans half marathon medal by a mere 6 minutes in 2010, I decided my only hope was to find myself a running coach. However, finding a coach proved to be quite challenging. I was either met with the excuse that it was too close to Comrades for anyone to take on my cause or that my running pace was so slow (8 mins/km) that I would slow the other runners down.


I Googled for names, searched local running sites, phoned running clubs with no luck. In the end, I landed up with a personal trainer at the gym who specialises in sports science and who was willing to work with me.


That was May 2010 and it’s now December 2011 and even though I managed to do a PB and get my Two Oceans medal in April this year, I still run at the same pace.


Yes, I feel much stronger and my core muscles are strong. And don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love my gym workouts. But I am still slow. The ‘walkers’ are still able to finish races well before me.


So yes, you bet I am interested in any running coaching!


As a typical Information Scientist librarian, I did my homework and discovered that this man came highly recommended, was known in running circles and knows his stuff.


But his credential was not what impressed me and got me hooked. It’s his motivation and belief in me.


From day one, he has spoken to me as if I am the New York marathon champion. He believes in me and makes me believe in myself. He has mapped out a training schedule and a planned goal of where I can be in the next four months. All he expects is dedication and hard work. Trust me, he’s a no-nonsense kinda guys too!


I secretly think the name of my blog “Keeping up with the walkers” bugs him. One of the first things he told me is that running at my pace is for old tannies. *ahem*


Anyhow, so I’m going in to 2012 not only with a renewed dedication to running but with butterflies in my stomach. My head is telling me that I am capable. My legs already feel like jelly after two days of training (mainly because I haven’t done squat for weeks and my belly is full of gammon) but what an awesome goal to work towards. I’m so excited!

Thanks Eldi!