December 25, 2018 – Christmas Day but also the beginning of my half marathon training cycle for my target race on March 31st, the Carmel Half Marathon. I had thought a lot about what plan I would follow this time around after coming off of a disappointing racing year in 2017. I had come within 45 seconds of my half marathon PR (1:41:44) but just wasn’t able to get under that number in the three attempts I made last year (1:42, 1:43, 1:45; ugh). After much debate, I decided to create a hybrid of the Nike Half Marathon training plan (LINK) and the Hal Higdon Advanced Half Marathon program (LINK) and began my training. My training cycle was going well, but I finished every workout feeling like I could’ve pushed a little harder, gone a little farther, and wondering if I was training to my full potential. The thought of hiring a running coach had crossed my mind after the Chicago Marathon in 2017 (another disappointing performance), and I started looking into coaches in the area before deciding I could tackle it on my own once again.
Fast forward to January 15, 2018, 3 weeks into my half marathon training cycle. I had been following Jessica Rinehart on Instagram for the past 6 months and had seen many of her athlete’s and her own success in running, including achieving Boston Marathon qualifying times. I started perusing her website and took a leap of faith and contacted her to learn more about her coaching philosophy, share my personal running goals and running history, and see if it would be a good match for a potential coach. I talked to Jessica on the phone for 30 minutes and after the conversation there was no doubt in my mind that it would be a good fit and a good next step for me in my training. Her training philosophy was similar to mine (wanting to run 6 days/week, adding in some strength training which I had been lacking but knew was important, and continuing to build my base mileage to be a stronger athlete by the time I start marathon training again in the Fall). I was ready to pull the trigger and sign up for coaching, but needed the approval from my husband first as we make financial decisions together.
I should not have been surprised at how supportive Ross would be of the idea of hiring a running coach. He has been my biggest supporter since the day we started dating and he’s seen me through the highest highs (setting race PRs) and lowest lows (training my butt off the months leading up to a race and then falling apart the day of) of running. Fortunately, we were able to make the financial commitment to hire a coach and he encouraged me to go for it and see how things went. While it’s only been about 4 weeks since I started training with Jessica, something feels different about this training cycle. I hit 46 miles of running last week and felt like I could have run more; I hadn’t hit 46 miles since marathon training last Fall and here I am running a race half the distance and running more than most of my marathon training weeks last year. I think this is also part of my “success” problem from last year, but I just followed free training plans I could find online, not realizing that every runner is different and responds to mileage differently. Based on how my body is responding to higher mileage weeks and how good I’m feeling physically and mentally, I think I need more mileage in my training to get my body to respond on race day how I want it to.
I’m running different workouts than I had been in my prior training (a lot more fartleks and tempos and less intervals) and training smarter. Jessica has assigned weekly strength workouts for me and I’m completely dedicated to following the roadmap she’s set up for me to achieve my goal of running a 1:39 half marathon on March 31st. Being able to have someone else decide what workout I’ll run on what day and at what pace has taken a lot of the “thinking” out of my running and allows me to focus on hitting each workout and the parts I love about running.
While my husband was very supportive of me hiring a running coach to try something new in my training, the rest of my family was a little skeptical. And I understand that. They are supportive of my running but I think that unless you’re a runner yourself you don’t truly understand what goes through the mind of one. We’re an extremely dedicated group, always pushing to be our best and achieve new levels. I would go as far to say I’m obsessed with running; it’s a huge part of who I am and I often plan my days around it. I tried to explain that because I have a free gym at work, I don’t have to pay a monthly membership fee for a gym so this is like my replacement to that. But then I realized I really don’t need to rationalize this. Qualifying for the Boston Marathon is a goal I’ve been laser-focused on for the past few years. I came incredibly close in 2016’s Chicago Marathon when I ran a 3:38 (my qualifying time is 3:35) but I know in my heart I can not only get that 3:35 but I can run even further below it. And I’m going to need to. This year’s Boston qualifiers had to run 3:30 below their qualifying time to even get to run Boston so I will need at least a 3:30 to be safe. I know the first step is getting that half marathon time down and I’m excited to see what Jessica and I can do together to make that happen. I realized that I will never have as much time or energy as I do now at 25 so now is the time to try something new and make things happen.
If you’re considering hiring a running coach, I encourage you to do your homework. Find someone whose philosophy in training resonates with you so that you’re committed to the training process and someone who is willing to push you/readjust when things don’t go according to plan. Not everyone will understand why you’re doing this or why you’re so invested in your running (both financially and with the time-commitment) but that doesn’t matter. What matters is that you’re doing this for you and enjoying the journey to get where you’re going.
Since writing this post I have run two half marathons, both far surpassing my goal of sub 1:40. The first was the Carmel Half Marathon on March 31st which I ran in 1:37:09. 4 weeks later I ran the Illinois Half Marathon on April 28th and finished in 1:36:39 which will stand as my current PR. In this latest training cycle, I dropped 5:05 off of my half marathon PR time, only 3 months after starting working with Jessica. Hiring a coach was one of the best decisions I’ve made for myself and my running and I can’t wait to take on another 26.2 after working with Jessica this summer!