Instructions from my (new) running Coach

“Take your shoes off and run barefoot. Then run on the balls of your feet and try to lift your legs as high as you can. And remember, the minute you want to walk, just stop, stand still and wait for the feeling to pass.” WTF! These were the instructions I received during the first session with my new running Coach, Michelle. 

Gosh, look at me go, go, go! It doesn’t look like it, but I’m sprinting my arse off here! LOL

I first met Michelle years ago when I trained with Coach Dave. She was part of what we called “The Illuminati.” The name, which was first coined by fellow Junkie Brenda, kinda says it all. 

Michelle will be the third coach to “fix” my head.

Coach Dave Coetzee taught me the ins and outs of track and how to value running friendships. Coach Neville Beeton showed me the ropes of trail running and sticking to a virtual training program.

A coach is meant to help get you through a specific problem; to get you from point A to B. And so when I heard that I was successful in bagging a Two Oceans half marathon entry, I considered chatting to Michelle. I knew immediately what I needed to get my 8th medal and one step closer to Blue Number club.

In a nutshell, I don’t want to struggle like I did this year running Two Oceans. I don’t want to be running up Union Avenue in a panic because I’m so close to the race cutoff. I want to enjoy the race. And getting old sucks because my whole body has slowed down massively since hitting my 40s. (Midlife crisis alert!)

Michelle is an old Running Junkie friend with running accolades longer than my arm. A gentle, kind person who you’ll find hanging out at Randburg Harriers coaching runners on Mondays and Saturdays, and then at RAC on Wednesdays.

It’s 10 years since I missed the cutoff gun in my 2010 Two Oceans attempt. This was what prompted me to start my blog & find a coach. And I’m back to square one. 

It feels like home. 

What my coaches taught me about running

I’ll be quite honest with you. When my CMIYC running partner (who I had only met 5 mins before the run) plugged her earphones in her ears into the 2nd kilometre of our 5km run, I was quite relieved. I was pushing myself so hard that I had started to grunt and pant like a bear and hoped her music would drown it out. I didn’t feel like chit chat.

Something else was on my mind. I had somehow managed to run the Randburg Harriers time trial route the entire way without stopping to walk once the week before. I was aiming to do it again but was already negotiating with myself that if I stopped to walk, it was okay. I mean, I had run the 10km Vitality Series road race on Sunday at Wanderers so was entitled to some rest time, right?

As we slipped into a rhythm, I started to question why the run felt so easy. Not once did I feel the need to stop or slow down. What had made the difference to previous runs? It’s then that the lessons from my previous running coaches made sense…

Coach Dave would repeat the same thing over and over: Consistency and discipline. Just go out and run, he’d say. Even if it’s 20 minutes. Do it. And yes, I have been doing that. Working from home has made it easier to close my laptop and run from home instead of sitting in traffic. The runs have been consistent and I’ve been kinder to myself for accepting that even a 3km run is still a run.

Track session with Coach Dave and his Running Junkies 2013. Best running years of my life hanging out with this bunch of amazing friends twice a week.

Coach Neville made the statement, “You can’t be training for a 21km PB until you’ve run your best 5km and 10km times. Start there.” His running programme started me out on 4km runs which is what I’ve mapped out around home. My fastest road race times have been while training with Neville.

So yes, I’ve focussed more on the shorter distances: between 4 – 7km runs during the week, running regularly, and only running the 10km races on weekends. Mentally, it’s felt a whole lot easier to commit to and I’ve bravely stepped it up along the way knowing that 10kms is pretty manageable.

Both coaches taught me valuable lessons and I was pretty thrilled when my Strava showed that I was trending faster. That’s always a good sign. I’ve also found another CMIYC group where the girls run closer to my pace – meaning I can still see most of them in front of me along the route.

As a runner, as in life, it’s not about giving up. It’s about finding what works for you and sticking to it. Only then will you see the results…

Catch Me If You Can (CMIYC) Randburg group

Spring has arrived! Yesss! New beginnings. New goals. New running races. It also means shaving legs. Happy running everyone!

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.

Two words. Let’s begin.

I’m not known for my patience and I wore this like a flashing neon sign around my neck on Saturday morning. It was only my second training session and my new running coach mentioned that he would email me my training schedule sometime in the next week. Without hesitation I said, “And the training will make me run faster, right?” Fail… I could see it in his eyes.

Structure. Consistency. Those are the two words he used in his reply to me. He first wants to set some structure into my running routine and start with the basics. He wants to assess where I am at the moment and what I want to run, and what my goals are. Then I need to get some consistency into my routine and we’ll work from there.

One step at a time and one day at a time. 

consistency

I must admit, this gives me a chance to gauge where I am too. Here’s what we’re working with:

  • My 5km PB – 37 minutes : Dischem 5km race
  • My 10km PB – 74 minutes : Vaal 10km race
  • My 21km PB – 2h48 : Two Oceans half marathon
  • My fastest km – 6:01 minutes

My average pace for majority of my runs is 8 minutes per km. This is the part I want to change. I’m not aiming to run Comrades, I’m not even aiming to run any specific race. I just need to see whether or not I can run faster. That’s all.

Structure and consistency. One step at a time. One day at a time. Oh, and to learn to be more patient. Can I throw that one in as well?

*Image from http://www.rockcreekrunner.com, a great new site I happened to stumble upon*