Why running coaches rock

  • This was printed in September of 2014 in The Madera Tribune, a newspaper in Madera, California. This was the 69th installment of my weekly column, Mind Over Miles.

My running coach rocks. (No, I’m not just saying that to gain favoritism!)

I recently read an article on Active.com called “Why you need a running coach.” Every word of it rang true. I don’t know where I’d be if I didn’t have a coach, but I’m sure I would not be a Boston marathon qualifier training to run her first ultramarathon.

“The Wascally” coach Brad Castillo coaches dozens of runners, and has probably coached hundreds over the years, to run half and full marathons. I haven’t seen anyone who hasn’t improved under his guidance.

There are two categories of runners who need coaches, according to the Active article: those who need to be pushed and those who need to be reigned in. Personally, I feel I’ve moved from category one to two.

When I joined my running group, Brad provided accountability and encouraging words. Now he provides a training schedule based on my pace goals, and personalized advice to keep me from overtraining and injuring myself.

Anyone can download a marathon training plan from the internet or tear one out of a runners’ magazine. But who, other than yourself and your calendar, will help you stick to the schedule? What if you get injured, skip a training day, or have other questions about training and racing? Who could you turn to for one-on-one advice?

Coaches are priceless for runners who are fast or slow, who aim for a certain pace or just want to finish a race.

A good coach will tailor a workout plan, including pace goals and weekly mileage, to your current fitness level and aspirations. A good coach can also help you figure out what your goals should be, realistically.

I want to (eventually) run a sub-3-hour marathon, but I’m also a “category 2” runner who needs to be reigned in. So, of course, Brad said I should focus on a 3:15 to 3:20 for my next marathon. I’m crazy; he’s wise and realistic.

A good coach — and good athletes — keep the lines of communication open. At every training run I see at least one runner talk with Brad about a recent ache, pain or feeling of tiredness, asking what they should do to treat it and if they should take time off from running. Brad is always quick with advice because of his years of experience as a coach and also because he takes the time to learn about each runner in the group.

The Wascally Wabbit Half Marathon (check out thewascally.com) in Fresno’s Woodward Park is nine days away. Since June 21 I have watched dozens of runners train for the race under Brad’s supervision. For some, this will be their first half marathon. Others are aiming for personal records and some may have just signed up for Brad’s training program because they heard how tight-knit and encouraging our little family of runners is.

Brad is the most encouraging of all. Just take a look at the list of Wascallys’ favorite “Brad-isms,” or things that he yells at us while we’re training and racing:

  1. “Leave it all on the course!”
  2. “Whether you run the race fast or slow, it hurts the same,” followed sometimes by, “The faster you run, the sooner you’re done!”
  3. “If running was easy, there would be no cyclists!”
  4. “Run like you’re chasing a cute guy and being chased by an ugly guy!”
  5. “Pain is temporary, bragging rights are forever!”
  6. (and my personal favorite) “We’re not out here to learn how to walk! We already know how to do that. We’re out here to run!”
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