If you are signed up for the 2017 New York City Marathon, you probably know that you need to start training fairly soon, if you haven’t already started. If you don’t, well, here’s your heads up: it’s time to start running!
The marathon is an entirely different beast of a race than a local 5k or 10k — or even a half marathon. So when it comes to tackling the 26.2-mile distance, it’s not uncommon to question whether or not you need to hire a running coach to get yourself to the finish line.
I’ll be the first person to tell you that you probably don’t.
That’s right — Road Runners Club of America Certification and all, I’ll tell you right now that you don’t need a coach to get yourself to the end of a marathon course. In fact, if you’re in decent enough shape, you could probably walk or jog the course to completion right now.
However, having said that, if you did attempt to conquer the course right now, it would most likely be a horrible experience. It wouldn’t be enjoyable, and you’d probably suffer through it — maybe even injuring yourself along the way.
That’s why I’ll be the first person to tell you that you don’t need a coach to get yourself through a marathon … but it’s a pretty good idea.
Having a running coach or mentor to guide you through 18, or 16, or 12 weeks of marathon training is helpful for a number of reasons, whether you’re a novice runner or a seasoned athlete. While I didn’t hire a coach for my first marathon, I sought out the guidance of coach Chris Baker for my first ironman and am confident that my experience was infinitely better because of it.
How, exactly, can a run coach help get you to the finish line? Let me count the ways.
Making The Plan Itself
If you’re a newbie runner, or it’s your first time training for a marathon, you likely need help just getting started. A running coach can help you figure out a plan for how to SAFELY approach ramping up your mileage for those very necessary long runs that are inevitably in your future. I’ve seen far too many people blindly follow a plan that requires more mileage than a runner can handle right away. By following a generic plan, you could progress too quickly and end up injuring yourself.
Experienced runners can benefit from a custom-made training plan for three main reasons (and many other reasons I won’t get into here).
- The first one is that since runners are competitive in nature, they often want to do everything at 100 percent — with the exception of rest days. Having an expert tell you when and how often you should be resting, as well as what days should be easy runs vs. high effort speed workouts or paced runs, will not only save your sanity, but will help keep your body injury-free.
- Coaches also take the guesswork out of training so you can focus on the workout ahead of you rather than spend time trying to figure out the best course of action.
- Lastly, an experienced coach will customize your workouts according to your goals and will pay attention to your true potential to assign the more difficult workouts you may not have the courage to assign yourself. A coach can help turn your weaknesses into strengths, and get you comfortable feeling uncomfortable — a feeling you are bound to feel at some point during your 26.2-mile journey.
Unfortunately, I have a bad habit of procrastinating. Many runners share this quality, or are quick to come up with excuses as to why they can’t run on a specific day. That’s why having someone hold you accountable for your workouts is necessary. A coach will check in on your training on the reg — and unlike your BFF or partner, they’ll actually be disappointed when you don’t complete your runs — providing that accountability factor most athletes need.
Do you know proper running technique? Do you know what striders are, and why they’re so important in your training? Are you doing an adequate amount of strength training? Curious as to why hill repeats are so damn essential?
A coach is great for many things, but having a history of running knowledge and expertise at an arm’s length (or via a quick text) will certainly be helpful during your training. A coach can make sure you are doing the appropriate workouts (from speed work, to long runs, to bodyweight exercises, to post-run yoga), help you avoid common training errors, and keep you from straying from the path to success.
Some things can’t be learned in a classroom, but must be experienced. Since I’ve run 12 marathons and many smaller, shorter races including triathlons, obstacle course races and trail races, it’s easy to draw upon my own experiences in order to help runners excel. Not everything is about running technique! An experienced coach who has been through it all can help you with anything from fueling advice, to what to wear the morning of a marathon (extra throwaway layers, for sure!), to what to expect on race day.
Reassurance and Motivation
There will be times during your training that you will think, ‘I can’t do this.’ That voice is wrong — but it’s not an easy voice to squash yourself. A coach can help you gain confidence in running, as well as be your personal cheerleader (er, inspirational leader!) when you start to doubt yourself. A coach knows your training better than anyone else, so if they think you can do it, you most certainly can.
Personally, the best coaches in my life have not only been important in my athletic endeavors, but they’ve become soundboards and mentors for my everyday life as well. They have become people I respect and admire, and people I want to perform my best for.
That means that I don’t want to disappoint them by skipping a workout. Instead, I put more effort into my training runs because I want them to be proud of me. I perform better when I have a good coach because they don’t just hold me accountable — they give me another reason to push myself and perform well.
If you are concerned about money — which you should be! — a good coach is just another investment in your marathon experience, like buying that Dri-Fit t-shirt or that fancy GPS watch. And if you spend money on it, you’re more likely to use it — right?
Investing financially in your running can help you be more accountable in your training, and your finances. Plus, by investing financially in a coach, you’ll gain someone who’s invested in your well-being.
Learn more about my coaching services here.