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.
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?”
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.