This training season, October-January races have been quite exciting for me. I have had the opportunity to prepare runners coming off surgery, first time marathon runners, and those that have not run a marathon in years. You can’t always have your best race and this is probably why so many run race after race chasing their elusive personal best. My runners are no different, but along with those folks, I have had first time Boston Marathon qualifiers, marathon bests up to 21-minutes, and those that met process goals such as not cramping up or hitting the wall. Other programs and coaches can probably and rightfully make the same claims.
A few months ago, a runner messaged me and asked how my program was different than a group training program she belonged to. My first thought was, “We are talking apples and oranges”. Then I had a hard time explaining it…go figure. Running is running, right? But coaching is either there or not there. Who exactly is a coach? A mentor is not the same thing as a coach. An idol is not the same thing as a coach. Someone that has been there, done that is not a coach. He/she is simply someone that has been there, done that and more importantly, had the ability to do it, not necessarily understanding the science; physiology and biomechanics that went into it.
There are two types of athletes. Those that are ego-involved and those that are task-involved. Before I go on, lets define “ego-involved”. It doesn’t mean that they have a big “ego”. An ego-involved athlete is occupied by their adequacy of ability and competence compared to others (Duda & Treasure, 2010). There are a lot of positive aspects to group training, but ego-involvement of some runners preoccupies them from their ability. You only need to compare yourself as a runner to yourself, but if you get wrapped up in what others are doing and try to run out of your ability to keep up, it won’t be long before burnout sets in.
A task-involved athlete is just that, someone that completes tasks as they are given to them. The run training tasks or workouts (I prescribe) help create a mastery climate. I help create an environment in which you can experience improvement through your rate of perceived effort, paces, or in your heart rate, if it is all done within your current ability. Everyone’s ceiling of ability is different, and it doesn’t matter how hard or long you train, ability and goals may not be on the same page. That is just the way the cannon ball bounces.
The coaching software I utilize provides a platform for me to distribute training to my runners and I do it 2-3 weeks at a time. I decide what is best for them and plug it in. If they use a Garmin GPS watch, they link it up, so I can view all the details of their run or there is a place for them to log what they have completed. This allows me to provide feedback and more importantly, a way for me to see if they are completing the tasks and if the tasks are out of their ability or if they are ready to be progressed during the season or over multiple seasons. This all fosters a mastery climate until ability is reached.
That is what a coach does. A coach has the tools; knowledge, ability, and passion to create a mastery climate. This builds confidence in the runner as well as a personal relationship between coach and runner. Super cool stuff and I’m proud to be the creator of the environment in which a task-involved runner can evolve to his/her full potential! Are you viewing this blog post from the Run With Gina Facebook page? When was the last time you visited the runwithgina.com website? The Services page has been updated and explains the other things that make my program different than others. Apples and oranges!
Runner Image: Darryl & Tricia Sol, Joey & Maryanne Jamias, Nellie Klein, and Art Santos
Duda, J.L., & Treasure, D.C. (2010). Motivational processes and the facilitation of quality engagement in sport. In J.M. Williams (Ed.), Applied sport psychology: Personal growth to peak performance (6th ed.) (pp. 59-80). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.
Last week I put up a few thoughts regarding Shalane Flanagan’s win at the 2017 TCS New York City Marathon. I mentioned that Shalane was considering retirement from marathon racing, one of the reasons being that she believes her days of setting personal records are behind her. Running a smart race in New York allowed her a big victory, despite being more than 5-minues slower than her personal record.
Often when we set out to run in a race we set a time goal. Time goals are referred to as outcome goals. How to properly set (because it cannot be an arbitrary time) outcome goals and achieve them is a completely different future blog, maybe even two blogs. But one thing that happens to runners is that they don’t want to say out loud what their time goal is. Primarily because if they don’t say it out loud, they will not feel pressure to perform or have the feeling of failure if the goal isn’t met. Which really is kind of silly if you think about it, because how many people actually have the courage and make sacrifices to take on training and competing in a marathon? Less than 1% of the population is the statistic I’m sure we have all heard here or there, so there should be great pride in completing a marathon or any endurance event for that matter, goal met or not. No shame in that game!
Additionally, for some runners to express an actual time goal, it feels like a challenge too great, especially if I tell one of my runners, “I think you can run x:xx in the marathon”. The time may be scary if they come up with it themselves or even scarier if I suggest it. My time suggestion would always be based on what they have accomplished in training, of course, but a time goal may seem like they are just staring at an enormous mountain, doubting how they could conquer such a conquest.
This weekend I ran in the Avengers Half Marathon at Disneyland Resort. Like Shalane Flanagan (not that we compare as runners), I have come to accept that my days of personal bests are behind me for various reasons, including a shift in my focus (on others, not myself). This is something I am happy with. That doesn’t mean I will stop running in races, but my race focus is running smart and I did just that during the Avengers race by setting process goals. Again, a time goal is an outcome goal and process goals are goals that you achieve throughout a process towards the outcome, I know, I know: self-explanatory. So, I lined up at the starting line and told myself, “Your process goals are; first mile somewhere in the 9:00-9:30 min/mi range, first 5k the slowest segment, five miles sub-8:00 min/mi (preferably in a row), overall race pace to be sub 8:12 min/mi”.
So how did I do? First mile 9:07 min/mi, first 5k was the slowest, five miles sub 8:00 min/mi, not in a row though due to slowing up to take a GU gel and again through Angel Stadium and overall race pace at 8:11 min/mi (per my Garmin). As far as I’m concerned, I think I get about a B+ on process goal execution…maybe even an A-, as I’m feeling generous and I did have the five sub 8:00 min/miles just interrupted by a few seconds.
What can you do with this information? You can run race after race and still have that awesome feeling of victory even though a personal best wasn’t met by setting and achieving smaller process goals during a race that doesn’t feel quite as overwhelming as going after an outcome goal. My example is only one example, but should really be formulated before getting to the starting line. Other examples of process goals would be; shooting for a specific negative split, slowing your running pace down instead of walking when you feel tired, taking in nutrition at a specific time or distance frequency, walking every other aid station instead of every aid station, or maybe even executing a very specific walk/jog plan if in the past you have always walked unplanned and feel disappointed in yourself, but you wouldn’t if it is incorporated into a plan, or my other personal favorite process goal is planning to run x amount of miles at a designated pace and then dropping the pace every so often in segments. The possibilities are endless for process goals!
The Avengers Half Marathon was slower than my personal best half marathon time by 14 minutes!!!! More than a minute per mile slower, yikes! I am currently nowhere near my peak level of fitness and haven't been since starting graduate school in 2012. But you know what? I felt like I ran a personal best because I ran smart, stuck to the plan, and was able to stroll to the finish the last two miles because I accomplished what I set out to accomplish and my work was done. Be smart, race smart!
Hello Run With Gina blog readers! I want to acknowledge the fact that it has been a long time since I last composed a blog. Life just gets busy sometimes. In addition to working full time, commuting to and from work two hours a day, family commitments around the house, emailing/texting my runners, and training for an early December marathon, our daughter gave birth to a baby boy one month ago and last week, another daughter got married! There has been little to no time between the hours in a day and just plain old exhaustion to sit down and compose a blog post. I am proud of myself for getting all my run miles in through it all!
Last Sunday I watched the television coverage of the TCS New York City Marathon. I’m not going to lie, I cried as Shalane Flanagan crossed the finish line first for the women in 2:26:53. While watching the live race coverage and in the days after the race, a few thoughts have come to mind that I want to share with my readers.
Can you imagine running a 2:26:53 marathon? Can you believe that time is more than 5-minutes slower than Shalane’s fastest marathon and almost 10-minutes slower than second place finisher Mary Keitany’s personal best? Before the race Shalane mentioned that the 2017 NY marathon may be her last. One of the reasons is that she believes her days of personal best times are behind her. This time will come for all of us, the only difference is that professionals have an easier time accepting it, because there is no question of their ability and know when that ship has sailed off into the sunset. A lot of recreational runners try and try to chase after their personal best, but fall short over and over, for way too many reasons. One reason is because runners are impatient. To be the best you can be takes time and years of work, but also requires patience in a race situation.
Shalane didn’t run a personal best, but didn’t need one to win the race. She needed to be patient and race smart, which is what she did. At mile 23 when the pace had been slow-modest for elite female marathon runners, Shalane knew she was a much faster runner at the 5k distance than the other two women within striking distance. There is a lot of power in past experiences. Hanging tough with the best in the world at mile 23 and knowing you are the reigning American record holder at the indoor 5000 meters is a mental boost like no other. Shalane went on to win the race by 1:01. That is a huge time difference in an elite race and more so for elites that spent most of the race running stride for stride with each other.
After crossing the finish line, I heard Shalane say, “We did it”! Later in a Facebook post Shalane shared her finish line picture with the comment, “It takes a village”. Coincidentally, the day before I wrote #ittakesavillage when congratulating one of my runners in her 21-minute personal best time in the marathon. My graduate school professor, former Olympian, Olympic running coach, and exercise physiologist, Dr. Jack Daniels believes there are four ingredients to athletic success; ability, motivation, opportunity, and direction. Opportunity is described as the environment, while direction is described as leadership from coaches. The opportunity/environment is the people you surround yourself with. Similarly, goal-minded individuals, such as running friends and groups. What about the direction, the role of the coach? Probably the most misunderstood and underutilized opportunity available to recreational runners, but the most valuable asset to elite runners.
In her post-race interview, Shalane said she knew she could win because her coaches told her she could win. Her coaches told her that the longer she hung onto the leaders, the greater her chances of winning would be given her speed advantage at shorter distances. She had the power of her past experiences at shorter/faster races and the training load applied to her by her coaches would have continued to foster that ability. Also, when asked post-race if the 2017 NY Marathon was her last marathon, her reply included needing to discuss it with her coaches to determine what is still possible for her.
It takes a village folks to help you be the best you can be and to find out if what you want is what matches your ability and determining if your ability can even be improved. Training isn’t just about being consistent, but about being patient with a process and remaining honest through it all.