Ode to a Great Coach and Stepping Up to the Plate

I often refer to my training group, marathon clinic and “coach” and have raved about them a few times (here, here and here) although I don’t think I have ever explained what it’s all about. I train out of our local Running Room store, where I first took a half marathon clinic back in 2007. I went on to train for my first marathon in 2008 solo, while Juliana (whom I had met through the half clinic) was always telling me about the great group & coach she had been training with through the marathon clinic. J invited me to join them for a couple of long runs, but remained a lone wolf for the majority of my training. 

The following season (winter 2009), however, I decided to join this marathon clinic to train with a group for my next marathon. I recognized many familiar faces from my previous stint with the Running Room, and immediately made several new friends as well. Being formally introduced to Coach Don for the first time, it became clear very quickly that he had a lot to offer with his decades of marathoning, coaching and teaching experience. Most of all, though, it was obvious that this was his passion and he truly cared about all of us and our success.

May 2011

Coach Don is a true gem in our running community. He devotes a great deal of his time and energy to helping others succeed, always putting everyone else’s goals and needs before his own. He offers every one of us from the back of the pack to Boston qualifiers the care and attention we need to be successful, whatever that may mean for us at any given time. Don goes above and beyond the call of duty as “Running Room Clinic Instructor”, offering one-on-one coaching and support to the entire group (70+ people at times!) on a constant basis throughout our training and all the way to the finish line.And he does it with heart.

Coach Don makes every one of us believe that we can achieve big goals and gives us the tools to do so. He has coached many of us through setbacks and injuries, offered a shoulder to lean on and helped us pick up the pieces when things go awry, and celebrated every victory as if it’s his own. He always says that he doesn’t want or need gifts of thanks because he gets all the compensation he needs simply by living vicariously through all of us.

I have taken six consecutive clinics (two per year) since my first one back in 2009 and there is not a doubt in my mind that Don’s coaching and the support of this group have played a tremendous role in my own success. In particular, he helped me when I needed it most and told me exactly what I needed to hear to get through my best marathons both last year and this year. Don has given me some advice over the years that will stay with me always. When I’m having a tough run or race, I often remember what he has said to me in the past to help me hang in there: “It all comes down to how badly you want it.” …  “You didn’t come this far to give it up now.” … “What does tired have to do with it?”

May 2010

It’s going to be very difficult for many of us to let him go next year. That’s right, Don is taking a much -deserved year off (and hopefully coming back in 2013!) so somebody else needed to take over. After some discussion and a lot of thinking, I made the decision to take it on and co-coach with my buddy Kevin for the next clinic starting in January.

We have big shoes to fill – although as Don’s lovely wife said to me last night at his sort-of-retirement party: “You have your own shoes.” It will be a team effort and we’re up for the challenge.  I’m slightly nervous about the task ahead, but have already received a lot of positive feedback from my training mates. Don, of course, has been nothing but supportive and will still be involved in a lesser capacity. If I can have even a fraction of the positive influence over someone that Don has had over me, it will be a fulfilling and very worthwhile experience.

Any advice for a first-time coach? 
Have you coached or been coached in the past?
What am I getting myself into? 🙂

P.S. I am working away on moving over to WordPress and it’s taking up a lot of my “free”time. I’m trying to keep up with reading/commenting on other blogs, but it just may not happen as regularly right now. Thanks for bearing with me! I hope to have the new site up soon!
P.P.S. One of the Chickbands winners has not contacted me (and I have no contact info) – last chance for christinec1234 or I will be selecting a new winner tomorrow.

34 thoughts on “Ode to a Great Coach and Stepping Up to the Plate

  1. Oh wow. That's awesome that you stepped up. I'm sure you'll be a great coach. I actually have never been coached in the past, but I've always wanted one.

  2. Very exciting! I am sure you will do great. Just remember that everyone is different and different training, motivation, etc will work for different people! Keep an open mind and I know that you will help a lot of people as well as learn a ton more about running!and I am excited to see your wordpress unveil!!

  3. Wow, that's very exciting and I'm sure you'll do a great job. Never been coached. I think I would like it but don't think I'm too a point where it's actually worth it yet!

  4. When I started reading this post I thought: I want a couch Don too. But then I came to the end of it and read that you will be coach next year and now I want to move to Canada only to get you to coach me! You will be a great coach Marlene and the people you are going to coach are so lucky that you help them.

  5. Woman, you are going to do great! Just remember, "do as I say, not as I do". I'd hate to see your team try to keep up with you…. HA

  6. If you didn't live so far away from Minnesota, I would definitely take the clinic – you will be wonderful! And what an awesome learning experience that will be for you too.

  7. this is awesome!i work at the running room in waterloo, and i really enjoyed your comments about coach don – he sounds like a real gem. with all your experience, you'll be an awesome clinic instructor, too. i'll look forward to reading more!

  8. So cool! Just like you were awesome at pacing you will be awesome at coaching. Group run coaching is a blast. Both G and I will be coaching next year with the Marathon Training Group we are trained with for Richmond. It's going to be great. And yours will too. Good luck Coach!

  9. WOW – First of all, what an ode! No doubt that this is a person who has made a lasting impact on your running, attitude, outlook & experiences. 🙂 Amazing to have those kind of people in our lives!Secondly, Look at you! I love that you took on this challenge – ready to pay it forward. I can't wait to hear how this season goes!

  10. I love this post! It brought tears to my eyes, reading about your amazing coach!You are going to be an amazing coach! Your experience and dedication will inspire others! It already does right here on this blog!!Way to go!

  11. Awesome summary of what Coach Don means to all of us. Although I will miss Don's formal guidance next year I look forward to having you as the new sherrif in town, you will do an amazing job next year. I can't wait!!!

  12. first what an awesome tribute and I am sure you have done him proud with your amazing races.congrats on this as I know you will LOVE IT!!!

  13. That's great that you're going to try coaching! I'm sure you will be great at it and the runners will appreciate your help. good luck w/ WP. It's not easy, I know, but will be worth it!

  14. hi marlene, i've been reading your blog for a little but this is my first time commenting ;o)Just wanted to tell you this is such a nice tribute to your coach and i think you are going to be a wonderful coach! it is great that you are stepping up to the plate.i became a certified rrca coach about a year and a half ago but have only officially coached one client so far. the reason i haven't done more with it yet is because i felt there was one important element missing from my experience – and that was the experience of actually being coached by someone. in my opinion this is a really valuable perspective to have as a coach – to know what it feels like to be the the client. i just trained for a marathon under the guidance of a coaching team and it was really a wonderful experience for me. i think one of the reasons you are going to be so good at being a coach is because you have had the experience of being coached by someone who you admire and respect. you will bring that experience and perspective with you when you are guiding and helping others accomplish their running goals! you are going to be awesome! can't wait to read all about it!!!

  15. Very exciting! You definitely have the skills, history, motivation and overall awesomeness to rock at being Coach Marlene.I taught some RR clinic (just the Learn to Run) and I found the biggest things were:-keep the newbies or 'slower' runners in the loop. They tend to be the first ones to drop out or give up-keep up communication. I made it a point to make sure the weekly email went out at pretty much the same time.-make sure the routes are interesting and clear to everyone….enjoy your RR discount as well. I miss mine…

  16. I can only imagine you would be a wonderful coach! Good luck with the WordPress transition, it doesn't look easy!:)

  17. Beautiful tribute to your coach. I know you will be an inspiring coach. You have the experience to help you influence and direct anyone who is brave enough to follow your lead! congrats on accepting the challenge!!

  18. I think you will be fantastic Marlene. You have the knowledge and you're always supportive. Good luck! How great that you found such a wonderful mentor.

  19. Very cool! I'm "group leader", but I don't consider myself a "Coach." I'll be really interested to read your posts & see how it goes! 🙂

  20. I bet you will learn a lot coaching. I have never been one, much less had formal coaching myself.Between what you learned from Coach Don, and what you can find with Google, you'll do fine.

  21. What a great opportunity. I know you are going to help so any fulfill their dreams and goals. I wished I lived closer o that Running Room, I need a marathon coach !

  22. Coach Don sounds wonderful. But I'm sure he'll be there to answer questions if ever you need. And I doubt that between the two of you won't need much help. You've had so much experience now.

  23. After running for as long as you have, you have a lot of wisdom to share. You'll be great and you would be surprised all the little things you've learned (when to change chose, how to dress, what a tempo run is) will make you sound like you're a running guru.Which you are.

  24. I wish I could find a coach in my area that's as awesome as Coach Don sounds! You're lucky to have him. AND your team is not lucky to have you!!You plan on doing any long distance coaching 😉

  25. High fives from Finland. I took part in a marathon school two years ago. It lasted 9 months. We had two coaches and eventhough they were both great, still half of the newbies/slower runners did drop out. I'm not sure why but perhaps their motivation for running in rain, in snow and in freezing temperatures was lacking big time. And perhaps the idea of running a marathon/half marathon was more glorius than actually training for one. I quess my motivation was high enough because I didn't drop out eventhough I didn't fall in love in running then. Now I'll take part in a small group's running clinic in December. The coach is the same I had two years ago. I'm looking forward to his motivation skills =o)

  26. Congrats! That's awesome! I'm sure you're going to be a great coach!! I am considering doing my first Running Room training clinic when I train for my 2nd marathon in May! I trained for my first marathon alone and found it really mentally difficult to run for 3+ hours by myself! Hoping a group will help!

  27. What a big step! I've been coached by several people. I think one of the things that makes a great coach is consistency. Being there, being supportive, walking the walk. I have confidence you'll be doing all those things!

  28. Pingback: Boston Training – Week 1 | Mission to a(nother) Marathon

  29. Pingback: Three Things Thursday | Mission to a(nother) Marathon

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