by Mary Claire Walker
Spring racing season is upon us! We at the Pace Setter felt that one of the best ways to celebrate this would be to highlight some of our awesome coaches in the Capital Region! I have been running for over 12 years and initially did not think I needed a coach. I would use cookie-cutter plans off the internet but was not improving and continued to be plagued by injuries. Four years ago, after running my first 50 mile race, I decided to hire a coach. It was a huge breath of relief to have my running plan tailored to me. I also started running consistent workouts and noticed my speed improved quickly. My recurrent injuries disappeared, which was another big improvement to be able to train consistently without having to take any time off. I have consistently had a coach since then and made incredible improvements in my running. I went from being a middle of the pack runner to consistently placing in the top 3 at all my races in the last 2 years, aside from one 50 mile race where I was 7th. I feel that without a coach by my side, I would not have been able to make this dramatic of an improvement.
After speaking with the best of the best in the Capital Region and doing some personal research, I am currently working on becoming a coach. I currently coach a couple of my friends. The gold standard to begin coaching is to obtain the USATF Level I certificate along with having years of solid experience as a runner. It is also very helpful to have experience and training in medicine to have a deeper understanding of how the runner will respond to training and stress. I have a bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry and Math and work in the medical field. Many of the coaches I had the pleasure of speaking with have background in science and work in the medical field, as well as having extensive running backgrounds.
When I selected my current coach I looked critically at her background as a runner and what distances she excels at. I focus mainly on ultra distances and my coach is a professional ultramarathoner who also has competed at the Olympic Marathon Trials multiple times and set multiple marathon course records, so I felt confident in her experience at my distances. I also was confident she had the knowledge and experience to increase my speed to reach my full potential. My biggest suggestion when selecting a coach is to think about what you want out of the relationship and make sure the coach you select has the experience that will help you attain your wildest dreams. Another important factor when selecting a coach is to ensure that you will be able to communicate with them. Life happens, injuries and niggles come up and it is important that you will be able to talk freely so that your plan can be adjusted accordingly.
I hope that you take some time and read through this survey of the top coaches in our region and consider working with one to improve your running. I know it was the best thing I have done.