RnR Philly Half + Benefits of Using a Running Coach

Tomorrow, all of my boys will be staying at home as I make the short trip for the RnR Philly Half. I’m a little excited, a bit nervous, but surprisingly, mostly calm about the race.  There is a HUGE part of me that would love to PR on Sunday. My PR stands at 1:32:23 from this year’s NYC Half and while I know that I have a faster half marathon time in me, I’m not quite convinced the time is now.

Mile 12 of 2013 NYC Half Marathon

Mile 12 of 2013 NYC Half Marathon


My coach and I have decided to use this race a gauge of where I am in my training and to help set more concrete goals for the marathon in two months.  There was very little taper for this (I did an 8x800m workout on Tuesday and a 17 miler last weekend) since we are not using it as a target race. Eyes and focus on the prize (Philly Marathon). Which I think is why I’m so calm about the race.  This is my first real road race since the Ironman and Ironman training last spring. I have virtually no expectations, other than knowing I am going to run as smart and as hard as I can for 13.1 miles. Whether than means a 6:55 pace, 7:05 pace, or 7:25 pace.  I have a race plan that I am going to stick to as best as I can (read: not starting too fast) and hope for the best =)


So as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I have a running coach!!!

Before I go into details, let me back up a moment. After the Ironman, I had a kind-of revelation one morning: I wanted someone to coach me to a marathon PR. It was partially that I’ve been reading and seeing some speedy friends of mine succeed at using a running coach.  Partially that I still have this nagging feeling of being a failure after the NJ Marathon in May.  And partially that after coaching myself in the spring for the NJ marathon and again in the summer for the Ironman, I felt coached out.

I was sitting at my computer with a shell of a training plan and realized I didn’t have the desire to create my own.  My heart was completely and utterly excited about training for a marathon, but I realized that I wanted someone to point me in the right direction.

I was entering new territory.  I’ve always coached myself. From my very first marathon almost 11 years ago. I love coaching. I like to be in control of training decisions and consequently, my performance on race day.  So it had always felt counter-intuitive to give that control to somebody else.  Plus, I felt like how could I claim to be a running coach if I were being coached by somebody else. Part of me felt like I would be a fraud.

I realized how silly I was being that morning back in August. None of those reasons outweighed the benefits to having a coach:

  • Change the routine: I developed a schedule that I liked and that worked for me. Speed on Mondays, Tempos on Wednesday, Long Run on Saturdays and easy runs in between (+ day off on Friday). I followed this schedule for years. Week in. Week out. The more reading I’ve done, the more I’ve learned that it’s better to change things up. To keep your body guessing. What better way to do that then with a coach who does things a bit differently than I do.
  • Accountability: During the last year, I’ve learned many things about myself. One of the most glaring is that I very, very, very rarely skip a hard training day. Seriously, can’t remember the last interval or long run I skipped because I wasn’t up to it.  But easy or recovery runs? ALL the time. It was not uncommon for me in the spring to run only 3-4 days/week despite “my plan” calling for 6.  I would feel a bit fatigued and would put off the run until it was bedtime.  And then it was clearly not happening. I didn’t have anyone to report back to, so it was easy to make an excuse and not get those miles in.  Sure, they were recovery miles.  Not the miles that stand out when you look at a plan. But they are important miles.  And I was slacking.
  • Try new workouts: I was pretty set in my mile repeats and 3-4 mile tempo runs in the spring.  This training cycle, I’m doing things like 600m repeats, tempo intervals, and marathon goal pace miles in the middle of my long runs – all things that I had shied away from when creating my own plan.
  • Expertise: It’s nice to have somebody smart about running to bounce ideas off of.  Like should I run this half marathon? Or What should my goal be for the upcoming race? Or What should my fueling be for the race?
  • No second guessing yourself: When I am in the middle of a tough workout, I am finding I am pushing harder than before. In my mind, my coach believes enough in me to give me this workout at this pace because she knows I can do it.  If it were a workout I created, I would be much more likely to quit or ease up on the pace and convince myself I was a bit too ambitious.
  • Having a cheerleader: It’s been so refreshing to have someone kind of pat me on the back after a good week of training, calm me down about worries, and just be a supportive and positive influence in my daily/weekly routine.

So after deciding that I wanted a coach, I needed to decide on one.  I wanted someone who:

  • Trains the way I want to train: It doesn’t necessarily have to be the fastest person you can find.  Don’t get me wrong. Katie is incredibly fast (she is training to qualify for the Olympic trials). But, the reason I felt drawn to her was her hard work and dedication to improving. Seeing her push her limits on a regular basis was a huge inspiration for me.  She is evidence that proper training and hard work pay off.  That’s the kind of influence I want pushing me to my limits on a daily basis.
  • Had the same idea of what a training cycle should look like: I like doing 20+ milers in preparation for a marathon.  There are runners who follow plans that max out at 16 miles.  And that’s great. But, I need a coach who gives me those long runs. 
  • Cost/Amount of communication/On-line or virtual: I wanted a coach that I could communicate with as frequently as I needed.  Right now, it’s mostly a summary of workouts once a week with an update on workouts for the coming week.  This works for me right now.  If you are looking for someone with daily communication, find a coach that offers that.  If you want to meet in person, then you will need to narrow your search to your local area.

Honestly, this was the easiest part for me. I knew who I wanted without giving it a second thought.  I reached out to Katie hoping she had availability to take me on so late in the fall marathon training game (and she did!).  

{Shameless plug} There is still room if you are interested in joining the 10k Training Club! Registration is open and you would get all of the benefits listed above + MORE! Additionally, Champion wants to help support this effort and are providing the new Dazzle seamless sports bra {super quick to dry, high support, and sooo comfy!} to the first 25 that register.

Do you use (have you used/would you use) a running coach?

What was something you looked for in him/her?


I don’t post here every day, but I post all of my workouts (and other happenings) on Instagram on a daily basis {NYCRunningMama}.

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    17 thoughts on “RnR Philly Half + Benefits of Using a Running Coach

    1. Pingback: Find a Mentor - RunToTheFinish

    2. I love that you’re using a coach. I think that you’re gonna see huge improvements. I’ve never had a coach, other than the one who runs our run clubs track workouts. He doesn’t create my training plan but he does coach me at the track sessions and he’s the one who believed I could run a sub 20 5k. It helps to have a coach.
      Sarah @RunFarGirl recently posted..St. Katharine Drexel Parish 10K RecapMy Profile

    3. What a great recap of why you chose to hire a coach. I completely agree with everything you said! The benefits of others hiring you is the same, an objective person is often better than yourself. I say this having been both coached & self-coached — it depends on how i’m doing with my training & sometimes you just know it’s time for the 2nd opinion to guide you! :) Good luck this weekend!
      Heather @ Better With Veggies recently posted..Pumpkin Cupcakes with Spiced Protein Frosting {Recipe}My Profile

    4. Best Wishes for your half Marathon!!

      I Love LOVE love having my running coach. I was lucky enough to go through physical therapy with my to-be coach, three months after ending PT, we forged out an agreement and it has SO improved my running. I’ve run a PR in every distance since connecting with him. In addition, I have not had one significant injury. The one thing that I do find disconcerting is that his actual job has a window that looks out over the gym, so it’s kind of like having a constant constant eye on my form when I am lifting weights etc. Very hard to cheat or skimp on workouts as well. I highly recommend working with a coach…worth every penny.
      Holly recently posted..Ugh Thursday.My Profile

    5. I’d love to have a coach but haven’t looked into it too much assuming it’d be more than I would want to spend (ie I am super cheap). One day I might take the plunge and do it though bc I’d love to have something new adn challenging rather than my same ol’ runs.
      Runner Girl Eats recently posted..Sport SuperstitionsMy Profile

    6. Yay!!!! I am so excited for your half. I have the same half PR. This will be a great race to gear up for the target race!
      I must admit…I am slightly jealous of the coach!!!!! I would love to have a coach and I think even coaches need coaches for sure! I have really thought about using a running coach…and actually I was looking at either you or Mark Hadley (who is Katie’s coach)! I really really really thought about it, but just decided financially it wouldn’t be the best idea. I have been using Mark Hadley’s workouts and pace chart though and that has helped me have some structure.
      One thing that is so nice I am sure is having someone telling you what workout to do that day. The encouragement of a coach is always a plus too!!!!! I have looked into getting certified to be a running coach! It is something I really want to do!
      Jen @ milesandblessings recently posted..“Heroes work in schools”My Profile

    7. Your running posts on Instagram have totally inspired me to take a look at my running and make sure to have “easy” days. I think it would be super awesome to have a running coach. I still consider myself a beginner in terms of running and I always love the help of others to help me reach a goal!

      As far as what I would look for in a coach:
      1. compatibility (making sure we have the same ideas about running/goals)
      2. support (i need lots email, phone calls, etc. I’m just a communicative person 3. flexibility (i like my runs to be fun even when they are hard, so I NEED to have a program that changes things up)

      Great post and good luck in your 1/2!
      Danielle recently posted..Another FUN day around hereMy Profile

    8. YOu hit the nail on the head with all these reasons for why I just signed on a coach, too. I have to say especially the part of just being tired of doing it myself, plus I like having someone shake things up for me. I hope you have a great coaching relationship with Katie and that it leads to a big ole PR for you at Phila! Good luck this weekend, too, and so sorry I won’t be there with you!
      misszippy1 recently posted..A new running coach?My Profile

    9. I’m sure you’ll do great in Philly!!! GOOD LUCK!!!

      I’m part of a running team and we have two coaches that provide us with a weekly workout which includes easy/recovery runs, a long run, a track workout, and a speed workout/tempo run, depending on the race we’re training for (currently we’re all marathon training). It’s great to be part of a team because whatever doubt you might have, you can always count on the coaches and on your teammates. Moreover, I love running with other people-it makes long runs go by much faster and the support we give to each other during those tough speed workouts is incredible! I know you’re a “solitary runner” but I, on the other hand, could never imagine running without my team 😉
      MartinaNYC@runtomakeadifference recently posted..Racing and marathon trainingMy Profile

    10. I have the best running coach! Seriously, you helped me so much this spring, pushing me outside of my comfort zone. While I feel good training for the NYC marathon right now, I know I’m not pushing myself enough (partially because I’m afraid of getting injured). I’m pretty sure after this I’m going to stick with half marathons so hopefully we can work together to get me a brand new PR come next spring!

    11. Honestly I used my husband as my running coach. He is a 2:33 marathon runner aiming for sub-2:30 in the Chicago Marathon in a few weeks and has pretty much gotten to where he is from lots of research and training. He is training me to BQ next spring and I can’t wait to see how all this hard training is paying off! Good luck in the half!!
      Sara @ LovingOnTheRun recently posted..My Recovery SecretMy Profile

    12. Good luck this weekend! You will rock it. I loved the Philly marathon when I did it. If I’m not mistaken, I think the half this weekend is on a good portion of the marathon course.

      As far as a coach, I totally get what you are saying here. I’m a triathlon & running coach and I have a coach. So, I understand what you mean by feeling like a fraud – at least at first. But, I don’t think that having a coach means you can’t coach others. There is a definite difference between coaching yourself (and all of the emotion that goes with that) and being a coach for someone else – at least that’s the case for me.

      Additionally, my coach is a wonderful mentor not just for me as an athlete, but also for me as a coach. It sounds like your coach will be the same for you.

      Good luck and rock that run, sister!!!
      Maria Simone recently posted..Oh, baby, I got the post Ironman bluesMy Profile